President Muhammadu Buhari

The presidency yesterday said President Muhammadu Buhari inherited N600 billion debt owed fuel marketers by the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. 

This is contained in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, wherein he announced new measures put in place by the presidency to roll back poverty. 

Among these measures are the directive by Buhari for the release of 10,000 tonnes of grains from the national strategic grains reserves for national distribution to counter food price increases and the intolerably high exploitation of common people by the trader-class.

Buhari has also directed the Minister of Agriculture to ensure that all the able-bodied men and women in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps be assisted to return to farming immediately. 

This is coming as a reaction to calls for government measures to ease hardship associated with food inflation. 

Shehu said: “At the time the Buhari government came to power, about N600 billion was owed to fuel marketers in subsidy payments. Strategic fuel reserves were depleted and local refineries were not functioning. 

“One of the president’s first steps was to pay off the marketers, leaving an outstanding of about N150 billion which was captured in the 2016 budget. 

“The Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries are being brought back to life. In a matter of time, Nigeria will resume refining its own fuel rather than depending on imports. 

“As part of the permanent solution of recurring cycle of petroleum products shortages, government is working on a plan to ensure that some of the newly-licenced independent refineries start coming on stream from 2018.”

Shehu said the government would also turn its attention to the sabotage of the oil and gas infrastructure that had taken so much away from the generation and distribution of electricity.

The presidency also reiterated its earlier position that the devastation of the economy was caused by the Boko Haram insurgency, corruption and the lack of planning by the past administrations and one that should not be blamed on the ‘Change Agenda’ of the Buhari administration. The statement read: “The presidency firmly rejects the insinuations that poverty and lack are products of the change mantra. This should be dismissed as an erroneous and misplaced opposition criticism. 

“The president understands the pain and the cries of the citizens of this country and he is spending sleepless nights over how he can make life better for everyone. 

Shehu said contrary to assertions by a faction of the opposition Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), the president’s energy and focus were on changing the life of Nigerians, with a view to making it better than he met it. 

“Change is a process. Change does not happen overnight. Change can be inconvenient. Change sometimes comes with pain. Over the past year, the government has been working night and day to deliver on its promise of change to Nigerians, and the painful process is still ongoing,” the statement added.

According to him, As life gradually returns to normal in the country and the North-east in particular, agriculture will resume and traders from neighbouring African countries will once again feel safe to do business with Nigeria yet another boost for our economy. 

He stated that it was only when the people appreciated where the country was coming from that they would grasp the full meaning and essence of what the ongoing journey entailed 

Shehu estimated that three North-east states of Nigeria alone had so far lost about N3 trillion ($9 billion) to the Boko Haram insurgency.