By TOM CHIAHEMEN, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday proposed the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium after the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 president elections, Late Bashorun MKO Abiola.
In an address at the 2019 National Democracy Day at the Eagle Square, Abuja, President Buhari announced that henceforth, the gigantic complex, conceived and completed by the Obasanjo Administration in 2003 at the cost of N5billion (about360 million USD then), would be called MOSHOOD ABIOLA NATIONAL STADIUM.
It is a multipurpose national sports stadium located in Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. The stadium serves as a home to the Nigerian national football team, the Super Eagles, as well as a center for various social, cultural, and religious events. The main bowl of the stadium has a sitting capacity for 60,491 (football).
The late MKO Abiola, who died in detention on July 7, 1998 at the age of 61, was during his lifetime a renowned sports philanthropist popularly known and referred to as “Pillar of Sports in Africa.”
Buhari, who described “correcting injustice” as a pre-requisite for peace and unity, noted that as part of the process of healing and reconciliation, “I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with National Honours, as I did with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.”
According to him, “the purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the Presidential elections of that year.”
In apparent response to criticisms in some quarters that he was favouring particular sets of people in his policies and programmes, Buhari pledged that “by the Grace of God, I intend to keep the oath I have made today and to serve as President for all Nigerians.”
He disclosed that for the next four years, his administration would remain committed to improving the lives of people by consolidating efforts to address these key issues as well as emerging challenges of climate change, resettling displaced communities and dealing decisively with the new flashes of insecurity across the country, and the impacts on food scarcity and regional stability.
He regretted that despite the enormous resources pledged to infrastructure development these past four years, there remained the urgent need to modernize our roads and bridges, electricity grid, ports and rail systems.
“Whilst agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession, we are more committed than ever to work with the private sector to improve productivity and accelerate economic growth,” he said.
“The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index which is the gauge of manufacturing activity in the country has also risen for 26 consecutive months since March 2017 indicating continuous growth and expansion in our manufacturing sector. It still takes too long for goods to clear at our seaports and the roads leading to them are congested. It still takes too long for routine and regulatory approvals to be secured. These issues affect our productivity and we are committed to addressing them permanently,” he added.
He promised that the Government would continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programs, education, technology and improved information.
Presidet Buhari said: “Our social intervention programs are a model for other nations. Together with state governments, we provide millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and of course, conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
“A database of poor and vulnerable households is being carefully built based on age, gender, disability, educational levels for proper planning in this Administration’s war against poverty.
“A database of unemployed but qualified youth has also been developed under the National Social Investment Programme which can be used by the public and private sectors for recruitment purposes. Cumulatively, nearly 2 million beneficiaries have received aid under this Programme apart from Anchors Borrowers Programme and School Feeding initiative each reaching 2 million recipients. And we will do more. Much more.
On the worsening security situation across the country, President Buhari observed that when economic inequality rises, insecurity rises. “But when we actively reduce inequality through investments in social and hard infrastructure, insecurity reduces.”
“The disturbing increase in rates of kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities can be attributed to the decades of neglect and corruption in social investment, infrastructure development, education and healthcare. This issue is further compounded by the impact of our changing climate and ecology,” he said.
The ECOWAS and Sahel regions, starting from Chad all the way to Mali, are also experiencing adverse impacts of drought and desertification, which have triggered waves of human displacement; conflicts between farmers and herdsmen; terrorism; and a fundamental socio-economic change to our way of life.
These issues are regional and not unique to Nigeria alone. The problems call for increased regional and international cooperation in developing a sustainable solution.
As Chairman of ECOWAS, I will be hosting a regional security summit of heads of states in the Sahel to develop a Joint Strategy to continue our efforts in addressing these issues.
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Source: National accord