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Town hall meeting to assess Buhari’s 1st year

thFive federal ministers are participating at today’s inaugural town hall meeting, they include: Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture), Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works, and Housing), Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture and Rural Development), Amina Mohammed (Environment), and Udo Udoma (Budget and National Planning) would represent the government delegation.
Lai Mohammed says when their government came into power, 14 local governments out of 20 in Borno State alone. “They were installing their own emirs, collecting their own taxes

. We have been able to liberate about 16,000 captors from Boko Haram enclaves. About 6 weeks ago, for first time in five years, a football match was played in Maiduguri. Children are now attending schools. We are replacing military authorities with civilian authorities.” Nigerians should in the next few weeks start feeling the impact of our achievements

. In the next few days, the portal for employment will be opened and Nigerians can apply. Nigerians in the next couple of months will start to see the change they voted.” Idayat Hassan, CDD’s Director, gives the closing remarks With that we come to the end of the town hall meeting.

14:02PM Babatunde Fashola says Nigeria’s housing policies had been clearly not sustained. “Ideally, the housing policies should be driven by state governments What kind of houses do we want? Some people don’t even want houses, they want land to build. We are seeing cultural differences. At the Shelter Afrique last week, some of the feedback we got was that in some places, in laws are forbidden from using the same toilets. There is still a long discussion to be had. What is affordable housing? The jury is still out.

Because there is no low cost cement, no low cost iron, no low cost labour.” He insists the government is prioritizing sustainable results over rapid results. “There is a committee working on transfer of titles, moving people to boot camps before they are moved into houses… We are working out the fine details and very soon we will roll out. The transmission capacity is increasing. Power shortage is the reason for the blackouts. Once there is a sudden drop in energy, the system shuts down to protect the whole system. That is what is happening. Fashola says he is not overwhelmed by the three ministries under him.

“I have handled bigger tasks. 30 ministries, 57 local councils and I was involved in the day to day running. The only challenge is that I am working with a team I have just met. It’s like playing football and saying ol’boy pass the ball. But with time you get to know your team mates by name.” He says he can’t build a power plant now, except to complete the existing ones, Premium Times reports. He says government has started ranking the Discos in areas of safety, collection, customer service feedback, etc.

13:30PM Amina Mohammed says social media is an effective means of communication but not for everyone. She also says the great green walls were moved from Abuja to Kano where “it ought to be.”

Lai Mohammed insists there is effective communication between government and citizens. “If my memory serves me right, this is the first time five ministers will be gathered in one room to communicate with citizens. In our town hall meetings, we do not just invite members of the APC. We invite civil societies, business people, traders, students, etc. If you say we are not doing enough, then we can do more.” Udo Udoma says it wouldn’t be practical for budgets for people with disabilities to be in a single line item

. On the issue of exchange rates, he says the government wants to achieve an appropriate foreign exchange regime that would reduce arbitrary charges and speculation. “The CBN is aware of our aims and they are working on it. Please just exercise a little patience.”

12:58PM Lai Mohammed says the country failed to address the real cause of insecurity. Boko Haram has been able to thrive because of ignorance and poverty, he said. He said the shrinking size of the Lake Chad is also a cause of the rise in terrorism. “The Lake Chad supports about 20 million people in seven countries, for agriculture and fishing. 20 million people have been dislodged. And it’s sad that the Lake Chad crisis is the most under reported in the world. “We must address the issue of Lake Chad seriously. “On the bringbackourgirls, the president said there would be no closure on Boko Haram until these girls are returned. We must not forget that the trail had gone cold when this government came onto power.”

12:50PM Fashola says the Ajaokuta steel plant is caught up in legal entanglements and there is little the government can do for now. “Yes, there is no power. But it does not mean there is no capacity to produce power. In February, we were able to meet 5,000 megawatts. When you have an idea how extensive the pipeline network is and how they must pass through land… I don’t know any country that wants to have electricity that destroys its electricity infrastructure.

People have even begun to remove bolts and nuts from tracks that had been laid for rail.” He says there is a strategy going forward. “There will be a time when we can not rely on gas solely.” We think that methods, planning and coordination will take us to the society we want to live in. “As far as security is concerned, there is a new wave of global criminality going on. The existing security machinery put in place after the second world war takes care of conventional warfare. It’s a new global learning curve for everybody.”

12:20PM Mr Ogbeh indicates he has another function to attend, and so the first round of questions goes to his ministry. The minister says the government informed him the ministry won’t get much in the budget because of the challenges of infrastructure. 2016 has 92 percent of the budget on recurrent and overheads, leaving eight percent for capital. But this year, we have 30 percent on capital and 70 percent on recurrent. On land use act, he says it is a complex matter and there would is a bill coming in the National Assembly where the public would debate where some of the issues.

Reacting to extension workers, he says the ministry is about to train 15,000 workers with an average of one per local government. Regarding climate change, he says the government is looking at climate-smart agriculture. Irrigation is the only other way of responding to climate change. About the Water hyacinths, he says there are companies now developing fertilisers from water hyacinths in Lagos and Bayelsa. He says the structural adjustment programme remains our biggest mistake. We are very cautious about economic theories. Some may be useful but until we cut down importation, we are going nowhere.

11:56AM Amina Mohammed (Environment) says it is important to plan well with the abundant human resources. “The budget is insufficient for the protection of the environment, so we have to look outwards. We signed into law the 2016 environmental regulations that gives power to states to enforce them. Last week, we launched the Ogoni clean-up. It was something that had been on the table for years and one promise we had brought to fruition. On erosion partnership with the World Bank, we have increased the number of states benefitting from six to 17.”

11:50AM Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture and Rural Development) says Kebbi is now the single largest producer of rice in the country. He says 350,000 tons of wheat were harvested in Kano and Jigawa. He says high cost of food stuff is because over the past 30 years we migrated completely from a culture of food production to food importation. “We will launch our road map next week

. The summary is that we hope to achieve self sufficiency in the production of rice, wheat, soya beans, maize, and millet. The federal government has no land and has no farm. The Minister only designs policies and seeks the support of the states and local governments. We Are now number three in cashew production, we want to move to the number one position. We want to end the herdsmen clashes. States have donated lands for ranches. Our target is to lend to farmers at five per cent interest. No country planning for meaningful agriculture lends to farmers at 18 percent. I want to appeal to the young people to think of what to do in the agricultural sector. Years ago I went back to my village to go into farming. Today, I’m a cashew farmer with 14,000 trees in the village.”

11:40AM Udo Udoma (Budget and National Planning) says last year’s election was fought against a difficult economic trend, and that significant decline in revenue began in 2014, . “In recent weeks we’ve had a lot of oil installations distractions. When we came in, we had to take a strong action to slow down that tide. We did that by the singular action of fighting corruption. Even if we stop all corruption in Nigeria, we will not solve our economic problems

. He says solvingthe economic problem is a difficult challenge. The 2016 budget was crafted as an expansionate budget, moving the capital budget from N500 billion last year to N1.8 trillion. It was clear to us that one of the main things you need is to create an enabling infrastructure for the private sector. How do we do that? Anticorruption campaign has helped us, so also has the TSA as the Minister mentioned. How do we expand revenues? And diversify the economy? We came out with a citizen’s guide for the 2016 budget. It’s on our website and it explains all these things I’m talking about.

We listed 34 key actions and we are on the way of achieving a number of them. We want to ensure that we narrow the gap between the parallel market and the official and the CBN is looking at that. There is a big scheme going on in Kebbi state and we are giving out interest rates at nine percent to farmers. We are also looking at solid minerals. The Minister has already launched a road map to plug leakages in that sector. We want to diversify into solid minerals, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Our main thrust is that government alone cannot turn this economy around, but it must be able to provide an enabling environment.”  11:26AM Lai Mohammed says his only “sin” was speaking too much before the election (laughter erupts in the hall). He describes the Buharimeter idea as a “very good idea” for the government to engage directly with Nigerians. “Long before the first year anniversary we had embarked on our own town hall meeting to give the citizens feedbacks on our achievements. “The first one was held in Lagos. “Any meaningful assessment must be situated within the right context. “We campaigned on three broad areas, corruption, revamp the economy and security.” Have we met our targets? If you ask me, I will say we are on track.

Insecurity:“The most daunting security challenge we faced when we came in was the Boko Haram challenge. Today it had receded and it is not by accident. A lhaji Mohammed goes on to list the president’s strategy in scaling back Boko Haram attacks, including relocation of the command office to Maiduguri.” Corruption: “It was corruption that prolonged the war against Boko Haram. It was corruption that gave nigerians darkness instead of light, despite sinking millions of dollars into the sector. The money recovered so far is a tip of the iceberg. Economy: He says oil price had crashed from over $100 per barrel to about $28.

Funds that would have found their way into private pockets are now accruing to government courtesy of the TSA. “This administration neither lacks the political will or discipline to fulfill its electoral promises. In the coming weeks, the conditional cash transfer will commence, the free meal, vocational training and so on would also begin,” he says. 11:06AM While the representatives of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) was delivering her opening speech, Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, arrived.

 The anchor announces that each minister would give a brief presentation of their promises and achievements, followed by resources persons analysing their presentations, followed by the audiences’ questions. Mr Mohammed will the first to speak. 10:53AM Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, kicks off the session with her opening remarks. “That all invited government officials are here today represents a shift from the past. “We believe that the quality of citizenship determines the quality of governance. “The Muhammadu Buhari campaign made 221 distinct promises across security, corruption and economy. “Buharimeter does policy monitoring and analysis to give feedback to the community.”

10:18AM The programme has begun. So far, four ministers have arrived – Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture), Babatunde Fashola (Works, Power, and Housing), Udo Udoma (Budget and National Planning) and Amina Mohammed (Environment). Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture and Rural Development) is still being expected.

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