Kaduna (NAN) Laolu Akande, the Senor Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice President, Laolu Akande, has described the Buhari administration as a government of reforms.
He said this while addressing the State House Press Corps during its three-day retreat hosted by the Kaduna Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.
The theme of the programme is "Journalism and the Change Mantra, State House in Focus’’.
Akande said that the direction of the administration was the destiny of the country, noting that the country had not lacked ideas nor serious technocrats but lacked leadership.
"One of the things that I believe that majority of Nigerians are convinced about this government is that the government has started taking the country in the right direction."
It is our view that the country never lacked ideas; it is our view that the country never lacked brilliant technocrats but there has been a very severe problem of real true leadership,’’ he said.
He said that moving the nation in the right direction was the essence of the reforms of the administration noting that ``the way Nigeria was going was the wrong way but now we have made a U-turn’’.
He buttressed the point with the issue of infrastructure which had gulped so much money for so many years without commensurate provision of the facilities, saying it was a clear indication that a lot had gone wrong.
"But this administration is saying that it is time for us to focus on infrastructural development and one of the things the government is doing is setting up a 25-billion dollar infrastructural fund which is getting quite a lot of support.’’
He said the government would not be the only contributor to the fund as it would attract institutional investors who would identify bankable projects to deliver the goods to the people in many sectors of the economy.
The Vice Presidential Spokesman said the essence was to quit the scenarios of the past where government was unable to raise enough funds to complete infrastructural projects.
``As I am speaking with you right now we are beginning to get a lot of very positive response,’’ he said.
Akande further mentioned the diversification of the economy as another area of reform.
According to him, because of the uncertainties in the price of crude oil, the Buhari administration is trying to truly and consistently develop other sectors, especially the agricultural sector by expanding the value chain.
He said the reform was being done in collaboration with states in areas where they had comparative advantage to see how a comprehensive and progressive agricultural diversification could be attained.
He added that the oil sector was not being left out as reforms were being done in the way the business of oil production and marketing were being carried out to deal with the problem of scarcity of petroleum products.
He explained that the country had the scarcity of petroleum products recently because the provision made for fuel subsidy by the past administration was inadequate for the year.
Akande observed that previous administration failed to link budgeting with planning, adding that such informed the integration of the ministries.
He added that previous administration abandoned long term economic planning.
"We are not just planning for one year; we are planning for three years and we are making direct connection between the objectives of government policy and expenditure.’’
Akandesaid the shift to zero-based budgeting against the former envelope or incremental system was part of the reform so that every cost in the budget for any Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) must be justified.
"We discovered that some projects were done year in year out and the zero budgeting will cut costs and stop corruption,’’ he said.
The spokesman added that the Treasury Single Account (TSA) introduced was a reform programme to make every agency submit to an account that could be collated to determine the wealth of the country.
He said the policy of the administration to spread the resources of the country directly to the vast majority of the country through the social investment programmes was exemplary.
"We cannot be developing an economic policy that does not address more than 110 million extremely poor Nigerians,’’ he said.
He added that this informed the direct intervention of government on the plight of the poor.
"It we run the economy purely based on market forces, many people will not be allowed to be part of the prosperity that a free market will deliver when it is delivered.
''Five thousand naira can make the difference between life and death to some of the extreme poor.’’
"This is the logic that is driving the social investment programme, the conditional transfer, the school feeding programme and other indirect interventions such as the hiring of massive number of teachers,’’ he said.
He said about N600 billion was proposed for the intervention in the 2016 budget, constituting about 10 per cent of the proposal.
Akande noted the move to promote the MSMEs by ensuring that the over N200 billion fund earmarked for them, which had been in the CBN for years, got to the investors.
"We want to create a way to provide soft loans or "affordable borrowing’ so that the poor can access the loan without collaterals but using a cooperative model which has been successful in the country over time.’’
On corruption, Akande said the administration was not relenting but called for the support of Nigerians and the media to better the country.
He said the media should shun ethnic, religious or party slants in their reportage of anti-corruption but do it in a way that promotes the general good.
He cautioned that the intention of the administration was not to bring people down but to ensure that the resources meant for development which were pillaged by a few individuals were accounted for according to the rule of law.
According to Akande, the Buhari we are seeing today is not the military Head of State of 1984 and he wants the rule of law to take precedence.
``The media have a role to clean up the mess in the system. The anti-corruption war has nothing to do with party of personality but the future of the country,’’ he added.
In a lecture on ethics in journalism, the U.S. Counsellor for Public Affairs in Nigeria, Victoria Sloan, urged the participants to seek the truth and report it accurately, minimise harm, act independently and be accountable and transparent.
Former Chairman of the Press Corps, Mr Paul Odenyi, in a paper on "Balancing State House Reporting and National Interest’’, urged caution in reporting the seat of government, to protect the integrity of the nation and its rulers. (NAN)