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Saturday, 27 February 2016

Budget padding: Buhari furious

President: Culprits’ll be punished severely...
From Juliana Taiwo- Obalonye, Abuja
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to severe­ly punish all those involved in the “padding” of the 2016 budget, describing their ac­tions as disappointing and embarrassing.
He spoke in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tues­day while addressing the Ni­gerian community.
The President, who de­scribed those behind the distortion as those with “en­trenched interests,” said the unauthorised alterations had completely changed the document from the one he presented to the National As­sembly.
He said: “The culprits will not go unpunished. I have been a military governor, petroleum minister, military Head of State and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund.
“Never had I heard the words “budget padding”. Our Minister of Budget and National Planning did a great job with his team. The min­ister became almost half his size during the time, working night and day to get the bud­get ready, only for some peo­ple to pad it. What he gave us was not what was finally being debated. It is very em­barrassing and disappointing. We will not allow those who did it to go unpunished,” Bu­hari vowed.
The President also assured members of the Nigerian community that his admin­istration was working dili­gently to fulfil its campaign promises, particularly on security, unemployment, and corruption.
Buhari, while reaffirming his government’s zero toler­ance for corruption, said the war against graft is a monu­mental task that he was deter­mined to tackle successfully.
“We have zero tolerance for corruption and other un­ethical practices. We will deal decisively with anybody found wanting,” he said..
President Buhari also briefed his audience on his administration’s efforts to end the Boko Haram insur­gency.
“Our Armed Forces have done a great job of dealing decisively with Boko Haram. We are collaborating with our neighbours in the operations of the Multinational Joint Task Force to handle secu­rity threats in the West Afri­can sub-region and we have significantly destroyed the capacity of the insurgents,” he said.
He also spoke on efforts to diversify the economy, stressing that more opportu­nities are now open for local and foreign investors.
Meanwhile, the President has said his administration was fully committed to in­creasing productivity in ag­riculture and solid minerals sectors to save the nation from the harsh effects of lower crude oil prices.
He disclosed this in Ri­yadh during a meeting with leading members of the Council of Saudi Arabian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
According to him, with de­clining revenues from crude oil exports, Nigeria’s hopes of economic resurgence now lie in the rapid development of its immense agricultural and solid mineral resources.
Buhari, who invited the Saudi Arabian business­men to invest in both sec­tors, said his administration welcomes greater foreign investment in support of its efforts to rapidly diversify the economy.
President Buhari regretted that Nigeria depended too much on crude oil exports while neglecting other re­sources.
“With the downturn in the global prices of oil, we now have to prospect our solid minerals. We have to return to agriculture. Mining and agriculture are our hopes now. We will welcome in­vestments in these areas. We will appreciate an in-flow of more resources and exper­tise to help us achieve our ob­jective of economic diversifi­cation,” the President said.
The governors of Osun, Ogun, Katsina, Borno, and Zamfara states, who were part of the President’s del­egation, also addressed the Saudi investors, assuring them of good returns.
Chairman of the Council of the Saudi Arabian Cham­bers of Commerce and In­dustry, Dr Abdulrahman Al Zamil, said agriculture is a very important area of invest­ment for its members, adding that they were already in Brazil, the United States of America and Sudan, “where we have huge farms.”
Declaring that they will invest in Nigeria, Al Zamil said his colleagues were the leading investors in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

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