President-elect Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said he would end fuel subsidies and the oil and gas sector would be reformed as a matter of priority in order to attract new investments. Unveiling his economic policies at a Lagos Business School breakfast meeting, he added that he would run a very lean government, which would involve rationalising overlapping and redundant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in line with the Steve Oronsaye presidential committee report. Buhari, who was represented by former Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, at the meeting however disclosed that there would be very little action from his administration until October, partly due to what he ascribed to t the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan is the author of the 2015 budget. He said the federal government under the All Progressives Congress (APC) would seek “to align the electoral and fiscal calendars to avoid this type of problem in future”. He informed his audience that the cardinal agenda of the government and their over-arching themes would be security, fighting corruption and unemployment. “We believe that corruption has a very strong negative link to both security and unemployment,” he said. He said there would be no real action until October partly because the 2015 budget “is Jonathan’s and may be fully approved in April. A very lean government is the focus, largely in line with the Steve Oronsaye presidential committee report. This report was available to the Jonathan government, but the will to implement it was absent”. He promised that a cabinet would be announced very quickly within one week of inauguration. “Anyone with a whiff of corruption or any kind of taint will not be in the cabinet. Our manifesto will reflect zero tolerance for corruption,” he said. He acknowledged that the APC “is not a conclave of cardinals, as it includes the good, the bad and the ugly,” noting that in Nigeria, the bad and the ugly could be the biggest electoral assets, though the new government “will not interfere with law enforcement agencies or the judiciary even if APC members are involved in corrupt practises”. He added that the Vice-President-elect, Prof. Oluyemi Osinbajo, did a lot of work as the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, assuring Nigerians that he would bring his experience to revamp and strengthen the judiciary to complement the anti-corruption drive and the rule of law. “He will also anchor the economic committee,” he said. He promised that his government would continue with some of the programmes in the Jonathan administration, which were successful. “For example, agriculture, though there would be a stronger collaboration between the federal and state governments,” he said. He also spoke on his plan to consolidate such anti-corruption agencies as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), among others. According to him, rather than strengthen key anti-corruption agencies like EFCC, ICPC and SFI, they are likely to be consolidated and a single entity would be made more effective. “We believe Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is getting over-burdened by developmental finance issues at the expense of its core objectives; this will be changed,” he said. He said the subsidy on petroleum products would certainly go and the industry would be reformed as a matter of priority in order to attract new investments. “While power reform has been commendable and will continue, the approach will change,” Buhari said. He explained that power transmission would be deregulated, regionalised and privatised in order “to break down centralised transmission, while the issues of gas supply to Gencos will be addressed. “But the new government believes that Discos are the biggest bottlenecks presently. The government plans to add on 4,000 MW of power every year and expect that output will reach a minimum of 12,000 MW at the end of his tenure”. He said the party’s groundwork showed that N3 trillion in savings could come out of plugged leakages, noting that the employment drive would be private sector led. “The government will allow market forces to prevail, including in the foreign exchange regime,” he said. The president-elect debunked speculations that he would use fiat to fix the foreign exchange, adding, however, that the government would keenly seek to protect the more economically vulnerable segments of the society. He added that there would be a tightening of the tax noose, though there would be no tax increase. “The Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) will be strengthened and the LASG IGR template will be adopted at the national level,” he stated. Buhari acknowledged that the country’s infrastructure gap required huge capital outlay, which the government does not have, but promised to develop a master plan for infrastructure development.
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