[color=#990000][/color]Now I believe that, Yaradua and his advisers are mental.
No plan to prune seven-point agenda, says Presidency
From Madu Onuorah, Abuja
WHETHER now or in the future, the Presidency says it has no intention to trim the seven-point agenda upon which the socio-economic pillars of the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua administration are built.
In its defence of the agenda and the need to go ahead with it, the Presidency said yesterday that the items in the economic blueprint are well articulated, interrelated and inter-independent with the capacity to revive the economy.
The Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, who spoke on the position of the Federal Government on the matter, said since the agenda is not an ad-hoc measure, any attempt to prune it would amount to economic suicide.
The Presidency is also not deeming the comment of the new Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that the agenda be reduced to two or three items as an attack on the government but a suggestion with the best of intention.
Adeniyi told journalists yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that the implementation of the seven-point agenda is very crucial to the survival of the Nigerian economy because Vision 20-2020 is anchored on it.
The government said Nigerians should see Sanusi's views during his screening by the Senate that the seven-point agenda be pruned to two as a "suggestion and not an attack on the government focal policy."
He insisted that there was no way the government would concentrate only on power and infrastructure without gas, "which is the Niger Delta element in the seven-point agenda, as the power sector requires adequate gas supply from the Niger Delta to function."
The presidential aide said without peace in the Niger Delta, gas could not be sourced.
Adeniyi said: "Fortunately, I watched the Senate proceedings of the confirmation of the CBN Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi. And I didn't see any area where he attacked President Yar'Adua's seven-point agenda as was imputed. All the items on the seven-point agenda are inter-related. But if you check the 2009 budget, those two areas highlighted account for more than 90 per cent of the spending. But even at that, paying more attention to power and infrastructure does not mean you have to neglect the Niger Delta because if you do that, the power agenda would be dead on arrival.
"One of the critical challenges facing government today is gas and pipeline vandalism. And the Niger Delta is crucial to this. You can also not ignore food security or even physical security. So, basically, the President and Mr. Sanusi are on the same page. I know that power is central to everything. And so does the President. That is why he is taking the Niger Delta situation very seriously because without tackling that problem, we will not have power, after we have made so much investment in turbines. With what is going on today, you cannot conclude that President Yar'Adua does not understand the importance of power and infrastructure. But my own interpretation of what Mr. Sanusi said on the need to pay more attention to two items on the seven-point agenda would be that he was only expressing the mind of the President with whom he had had extensive discussions in the last couple of weeks."
Adeniyi added that the need for critical infrastructure led to the recent award of contracts worth N140 billion for the rehabilitation and construction of several key roads across the country.
He said: "I am also aware that once the current negotiations with trailer owners, who have about 3,000 trailers along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway are concluded, hopefully within the next few weeks, the company which won the concession of the highway will begin work. And many other roads are also lined up for concessioning."
The presidential mouthpiece cited the ongoing reconstruction of the Airport Road in Abuja to where thousands of trees planted along the present four-lane highway are giving way to the originally planned 10 lanes illustrates the need for thorough planning.
He said the President would not allow such; he is a methodical person. "I think Nigerians will ultimately appreciate his approach. The President said at the time those trees were being planted many years ago and with probably billions of naira spent to nurture them, someone must have known that the road was designed for 10 lanes. Yet they erected Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) poles and planted trees very close to the four-lane road such that to extend the road now, you have to cut those beautiful trees and the power poles will have to be relocated. That episode alone tells a story about our nation."
Noting that in whatever the President does, there is much thought to it, "not only in terms of current challenges and prospects but also with regards to the future", Adeniyi said: "Take the story of railways, for instance. What government is doing now is to work on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model with General Electric and African Development Bank (ADB) to ensure that by early 2011, we will have railway services across the nation."
Adeniyi said in addition to the dredging of River Niger, which has been in the offing since independence, will also be undertaken this year. The contractors, he said, have been mobilised to site and are only waiting for the water level to rise. The dredging will start next month with expectation that it will be completed before December.
Last Tuesday, the President held a meeting with the governors of the eight states along the over 500 kilometres River Niger channel, that is Niger, Kogi, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Imo, Rivers and Bayelsa to explain the benefits of the project to these states, the entire nation and the West African sub-region.