President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday boasted his economic policies have moved Nigeria forward, with foreign reserves rising from $30 billion in 2015 to $47.5 billion in the first three years of his administration. He stated that the nation’s economy has remained in a growth trajectory despite experiencing the worst recession in a quarter of a century.
The President also noted that the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy has brought about greater accountability having saved the country over N200 billion, an amount that would have been frittered away paying ghost workers.
This was even as he has warned that he would not tolerate mediocrity from any public or private citizen, promising he would go out of his way to reward excellence.
Buhari said this at the 17th National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Awards held in Abuja, where he presented awards to the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, and other distinguished Nigerians drawn from the corporate and public sectors.
Speaking on the theme, “Productivity for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth”, Buhari said no nation can attain prosperity without vibrant and productive citizens.
For the umpteenth time, the president condemned the effect of corruption on the nation’s economy, warning that his government would not compromise on policies that would ultimately help to sustain the productive capacity of the country.
According to the President, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.95 per cent at the end of the first quarter of 2018, a feat he said his predecessors could hardly boast of even with buoyant economy and huge capital inflow from oil resources.
He said: “The goal of this administration is to move Nigeria forward to become a strong, strategic and proactive state through a deliberate, pragmatic and productivity conscious programme of action. We want to build Nigeria into a competitive, virile, strong and productive economy; a state whose citizens are creative, innovative, responsive, accountable, incorruptible, patriotic and diligent.”
While underscoring the importance of the public service, he noted that, “it is the vehicle through which governmental policies are transmitted,” adding, “it is my intention to hold the public servants collectively and individually responsible for the planning and implementation of the programmes of this administration.
“From now on, it will no longer be business as usual. Excellence will be rewarded and mediocrity will not be tolerated. In this regard, I am directing all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to drive the Change Agenda in the public sector,” he added.
He said the National Productivity Centre should be encouraged to carry out its mandate so as to ensure a productive nation. According to him, corruption is an anathema to productivity growth of any economy.
He said, “we must leave no stone unturned in tackling the monster. Corruption is dangerous and cancerous to the nation; we are therefore resolute in our commitment to fight it in all facets of our national life.”
Buhari stated that his administration was committed to rewarding hard work and excellence, saying it was in line with this that his administration had placed great premium on the National Productivity Order of Merit Award as an award of honour and dignity.
“We have therefore been consistent in the yearly conferment of the award on deserving Nigerians and organisations,” he said.
Buhari maintained that the government had approved the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award for 2018 on few individuals and organisations who had been adjudged to have performed exceedingly well in their various endeavours.
He congratulated the awardees for their remarkable feats and expressed the hope that the awards would propel and motivate them for greater achievements.
In his remarks, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, revealed that 327 Nigerians and 800 organisations had so far benefited from the award.
According to him, the National Productivity Order of Merit Award is not a “cash and carry” award as only deserving citizens and productive organisations with track records benefit from it.
Ngige also siezed the occasion to take a swipe at former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government can never be perturbed with letters of criticism coming from the former president.
The Chairperson, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, delivered the award lecture at the event, where 15 persons and five organisations received the NPOM award.
She identified gaps in Nigeria’s bilateral policies, which are militating against the nation’s growth, saying more often than not, Nigeria signs bilateral deals with foreign multinational firms but feign ignorance of the need to leverage on such deals to provide jobs for its teeming population.
Awosika also noted that the nation’s leadership ought to device means of harnessing potential in the youth population, adding that ideas that boost productivity should be made to trickle down from the central government to the federating states.
Meanwhile, President Buhari in a surprise twist, bestowed the prestigious National Productivity Order of Merit award on Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Ms. Winifred Oyo-Ita, whom he called “one of the most patriotic Nigerians.”
She was recognised for her productivity and commitment towards nation building, and for the growth and development of the country.
“I am totally taken unawares. To God alone be all the glory,” Oyo-Ita said on receiving the award.
Since her appointment as the HoCSF in January 2016, she has pushed to refocus the civil service, enthroning an Efficient, Productive, Incorruptible and Citizen-centred (EPIC) culture.