Jonathan: Nigeria is not poor, problem is wealth distribution
President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday again dissed the World Bank report, which placed Nigeria among the countries with the highest level of poverty in the world.
For the President, Nigeria's challenge is not a case of poverty but wealth distribution.
In his words, 'The challenges of the country is not poverty, but redistribution of wealth.'
He spoke at the May Day rally held at the Eagle Square, Abuja on Thursday.
Jonathan, however, promised that his administration would work assiduously to put in place policies and programmes to ensure that Nigerians have access to financial resources to create wealth for themselves.
He said, 'Nigeria is not a poor country. Nigerians are the most travelled people. There is no country you go that you will not see Nigerians. The GDP of Nigeria is over half a trillion dollars and the economy is growing at close to 7 per cent.
'Aliko Dangote was recently classified among the 25 richest people in the world. I visited Kenya recently on a state visit and there was a programme for Nigerian and Kenyan businessmen to interact and the number of private jets that landed in Nairobi that day was the subject of discussion in Kenyan media for over a week.
'If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries.
'Some of you would have observed that there is an amount of money you will give to a Nigerian who needs help and he will not even regard it and thank you. But if you travel to other countries and give the same amount, the person will celebrate.
'But the World Bank statistics shows that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries. Our problem is not poverty, our problem is redistribution of wealth,' he said.
According to the president, the problem is wealth in the country is concentrated in a few hands and a number of Nigerians do not have access to it.
'That is why my administration is committed in terms of financial inclusiveness and we are working very hard to achieve this,' he said
Jonathan pointed to the agriculture sector, in which the government had introduced electronic wallets for farmers in rural areas so they could access funds through bank facilities.
He said government was also moving agriculture from just a rural activity to wealth creation and a major business activity, adding that government had taken proactive steps and policies to stabilise power so that small and medium scale enterprises would thrive. 'The key commitment of government is to make sure that so many Nigerians have access to finance so that they will be able to create wealth for themselves,' he said.
The president also accused multilateral donor institutions and international ratings agencies of being political in their assessment and ratings of certain countries.
He said: 'So many countries were downgraded economically in the past few past months, including some African countries. They looked at Nigeria and we gave explanations and they could not see any convincing reason but to downgrade our economy, they left us at BB minus.
'They said elections are coming, politicians are shouting at themselves, it may affect their economy, so we will no longer give you a stable outlook but give you negative outlook, which is the same BB minus. 'When so many countries had been downgraded, they now said Nigeria is one of the five poorest countries.'
Jonathan assured that with the support of Nigerians and in particular organised labour, the nation would overcome its challenges and take its pride of place in the global community.
'We must collectively move this country to where we want to go. Government is working with labour leaders and workers of this country to create wealth. We will surely move this country to where we want to be,' he told the workers at the rally.
The president also stressed that the ongoing National Conference was not personal but meant to evolve a roadmap that would redefine Nigeria.
He said he had no personal agenda for initiating the conference, adding that it was convened for the common good and progress of the country.
He said: 'A number of people came to me to say that any president that set up this kind of conference must have a roadmap set for him. But I said to them the roadmap is the roadmap for Nigeria.
'Jonathan has no personal roadmap for the conference. You can go and ask the over 500 people that are there whether I have sent any emissary to anybody to define anything for my own interest. I repeat, the issue is not Jonathan, I have spent three quarters of my life on earth.
'What we want is a Nigeria for our future generation. We will lead our country to where we want to be.' The president said it was the overall interest of the country that informed the nomination of many representatives of organised labour, civil society organisations and youths to the conference.
'This is the first time that the government is having a national conference and labour has such a number of representatives,' he pointed out. He said civil society groups were also robustly represented at the conference and for the first time that youths were well represented, adding: 'There are 18 youth representatives at the conference which has never happen. We believe that as elders, we must prepare a country for the young generation and build a nation for our children and grandchildren. The conference is to redefine Nigeria.'
Durin the rally, Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, in his remarks said that the theme of the 2014 Workers' Day, 'Building Enduring Peace and Unity'' was impressive, apt and relevant.
He urged labour unions to have faith in the Jonathan administration as it continues to implement policies and plans for national emancipation.
He said the administration had ensured and would continue to ensure that the voice of labour is heard. Wogu further pledged that the Labour Bill drafted to improve the lot of workers, pending before the National Assembly, would soon be passed into law and urged the unions to be considerate in their demands. On their part the labour unions identified conflicting political interests, an ambiguous operational order and primordial sentiments as some of the factors undermining the counter-terrorism efforts in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwahed Omar, speaking at the Eagle Square, lamented that despite the efforts of the government in the area of security, the situation seemed to be deteriorating particularly in the North-east.
The initial gains of the emergency rule have been lost, he said, adding that Boko Haram had evolved into a full blown terror group, striking with devastating effects.
The Nyanya blast, Omar said, had erased any doubts about the universality of terrorism, as the choice of targets of Boko Haram, the regularity of strikes, weapons and sophistication of operations made the sect one to dread. 'It is immoral to play politics with the lives of people… In spite of the relative huge security votes in the past few years, the nation's security infrastructure remains weak and inadequate,' he said.
The NLC president, however, called on all Nigerians to rise in unity against terrorism, and called on the government to deal with the root causes of the violence, which includes functional education, unemployment and poverty.