President Muhammed Buhari has said that it is indeed a very difficult time for Nigerians especially those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 pandemic and those whose sources of livelihood have been severely constrained by the stringent measures introduced at every level of government to contain the virus and save lives.
While addressing the nation on June 12, Democracy Day, he said 2020 celebration of Democracy Day marks 21 years of uninterrupted civil administration in the country as this day provides Nigerians an opportunity to reflect on the journey as a nation, the achievements and struggles.
He said sustaining the democracy thus far has been a collective struggle, and “I congratulate all Nigerians and particularly leaders of our democratic institutions on their resilience and determination to ensure that Nigeria remains a shining example of democracy.
“In my 2019 Democracy Day address, I promised to frontally address the nation’s daunting challenges, especially insecurity, economy and corruption. I therefore find it necessary to give an account of my stewardship on this day. We have recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing our nine priority objectives and are establishing a solid foundation for future success” he said.
He added that on the economic front, the objectives have remained to stabilize the macroeconomy, achieve agricultural and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, develop infrastructure, fight corruption and improve governance. “We have witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019 but declined to 1.87% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every single economy in the world has suffered a decline. Ours has been relatively moderate. In order to stabilize the economy, the Monetary Authority took steps to build the external reserves which resulted in improved liquidity in the foreign exchange market. The external reserves grew from $33.42 billion on April 29th 2020 to about $36.00 billion in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments”, he said.
He further said that every single economy in the world has suffered a decline. “Ours has been relatively moderate. In order to stabilize the economy, the Monetary Authority took steps to build the external reserves which resulted in improved liquidity in the foreign exchange market. The external reserves grew from $33.42 billion on April 29th 2020 to about $36.00 billion in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments.
“Agriculture remains the key to our economic diversification strategy. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme continues to deliver significant quantities of affordable and high-quality fertilizers to our farmers. This initiative has also revived 31 blending plants and created a significant number of direct and indirect jobs across the value chain. Government is also revamping the cotton, textile and garment sector via a CBN Textile Revival Intervention Fund that would considerably reduce foreign exchange spent on cotton and other textile imports.
“To protect our farming investments, we have deployed 5,000 Agro-Rangers and employed 30,289 in our para-military agencies. We are also integrating rural communities to the formal economy by extending access to credit and inputs to rural farmers and building feeder roads. 18. Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from Cocoa and Sesame Seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million”, he added.
He noted that Africa presents a huge opportunity for export base diversification and Nigeria is developing strategy to grow intra-Africa trade through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. “Nigeria has risen by 25 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking from 146th to 131st and is now rated as one of the top ten reforming countries.
“This development is due to the Visa on Arrival policy, consistent promotion of initiatives that expand facilities available to Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, robust electronic registration and payment system, seamless processing of business registration and reduction of cost of registering business by 50%. We are confident that on-going efforts would result in further improvement of this rating”, he said.