Electoral Act will ensure free, fair elections – Buhari says in new year message

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South South leaders assured me IPOB won't have access to the sea, we'll encircle them - Buhari

My Fellow Countrymen and Women.

I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

First, I would like to thank and honour the Almighty who saw us through the year 2022 and has given us the opportunity to see another year. Each New Year is an opportunity to reflect on the past year, reposition, and move forward with the New.

As we celebrate the opportunity to be alive in this year 2023, we must also acknowledge the passing away of our brothers and sisters who didn’t make it into this new year. May their souls rest in perfect peace.

This year is particularly important to me because this message is in essence valedictory. After having the honour of serving you, my compatriots, for the last seven plus years, my tenure as your President in the most revered tradition of our ongoing and maturing democracy must necessarily come to an end. In the next five months we would have gone to the polls and elected a new president along with new governors and a host of other elected officials at both the national and state levels.

These democratic principles are working in concert because of the belief, beyond partisan politics, of you the great citizens of Nigeria. In addition is my personal commitment and executive promise to see to the letter that the 2023 elections being diligently conducted by INEC will be free and fair. The collective electoral will and votes of Nigerians will be fulfilled, even in the twilight moments of my watch.

Reflecting on year 2022 allows us as a government to examine our legacies of successes and challenges. As we celebrate our wins and review obstacles, we all must understand that governance is a continuum, which still places a transitional responsibility on this administration to provide for the incoming government a non-partisan and objective roadmap for 2023. We are Nigeria; one country united under the will of God and actively growing as an indivisible entity, we have been enabled year after year, decade after decade, to weather many stormy waters and emerge stronger and better where other countries have fallen and disintegrated. This has made us a unique nation across the globe and our continent.

In year 2023, Nigerians go to the polls to exercise our right to vote and elect a new Administration. It is an important year for our country. We must ensure that we have another smooth transition of government, to whomever the people have chosen. This Administration’s landmark Amended Electoral Act will ensure that we have free and fair elections across the Nation. We as Nigerians must also take responsibility to ensure that we participate in ensuring that the 2023 elections are free and fair by not engaging in anti-state activities and other criminal acts that may affect the run of the polls. We must also resist every attempt to be used by politicians to create unrest in any form to disrupt the elections. We, as government will ensure such activities are met with the full force of the law.

As our security agencies continue to make the country proud, we must continue to assist our patriotic forces by providing much needed community intelligence. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that Nigeria remains safe and peaceful for us all. Therefore, we have a duty and obligation to support our troops and intelligence agencies by being alert and reporting anything suspicious. The fight against insurgency in the North East region has recorded very clear wins in the past year. The Federal Government, and the Borno State government, have started the journey of returning internally displaced persons to their homes earlier taken by the insurgents. Furthermore, over 82,000 insurgents with their families have surrendered to the Nigerian military. A number of surrendered insurgents are currently being processed by the rehabilitation (Operation Safe Corridor) program. The fight against banditry, kidnapping and other crimes in the North West and other regions is strong and unrelenting and showing very clear results. One of which is the resumption of Train Service along the Kaduna to Abuja corridor.

In the aftermath of the EndSars, our administration took heed and instituted the ongoing police reform program based on a new Presidential Vision for Policing in Nigeria. This new vision is framed in a clear road map that transcends the tenure of this administration and it is predicated on six principles:

a. Building Trust and Legitimacy;

b. Leadership, Accountability and Oversight;

c. Technology and Digital Media;

d. Community Policing and Crime Reduction;

e. Officers Training and Education;

f. Funding, Officers’ Welfare, Wellness and Safety.

This reform program is very much in its foundation phase but has recorded noteworthy successes in improving police welfare and their emoluments. Other gains have been the ongoing training of 500 police cadet trainers to enable a better training regimen for the 2022 first batch of the 10,000 new cadets with an additional 10,000 set for 2023. In support of these reforms has been the provisioning of new material for the Nigeria Police to steadily improve on its constitutional responsibility to enforce law and order, protect lives and property as well as keep street level peace and security.

Despite the ongoing global economic crisis, we have been able to weather the storms. Inflation across the globe is at its highest, the Federal Government has been resolute through its economic interventions to remain above water during this period. 2022 brought a combined impact from ongoing wars and aftereffects of COVID-19. Though creating its own fiscal challenges, we have continued to subsidize our energy costs to buffer households from inflationary pressure of high energy costs. In 2023, we are focused on building on our GDP and sustain the huge surge in the non-oil GDP growth.

The Nigerian Start up Bill has been passed as an Act. This is a huge step in lowering our unemployment figures by boosting job creation and supporting the entrepreneurial drive of our youths. If you recall in my 2021 New Year speech, I had mentioned the need to secure the future of our youth recognizing that our young people are our most valuable natural resource. In this regard, we worked with the legislature to develop an enabling law to turn their passions into ideas that can be supported, groomed and scaled across regions. 2023 will see the implementation of the Nigerian Start Up Act nationwide.

The year 2023 would, indeed, be a time when we would work to solidify on delivering key strategic priorities under our “SEA” – (Security, Economy and Anti-Corruption) Agenda. Some of the key priority areas we would direct our attention and strengths to include:

a. Focus on SECURITY: we will continue to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities in parts of the country. We will also focus on ensuring that free and fair elections would be held come February 2023. Our security forces are working in partnership to ensure the wins we have got in war against insurgency, banditry, secession and other crimes are sustained and improved upon.

b. On the ECONOMY: our focus would be on maintaining and building economic growth through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the goal of national food self-sufficiency and growth in non-oil sources. The ongoing infrastructure revolution by our administration will see us deliver the key projects across the Nation in power, rail, roads, ports and technology.

c. On ANTI-CORRUPTION: we have created new records in this fight, growing from 117 convictions in 2017 to 3,615 convictions as at December 2022. We as a government are committed to ridding our nation of all forms of corruption, through the collaboration with all the arms of Government to effectively prosecute this fight.

As we welcome the New Year, let us look with hope to 2023, a year to move forward as a Nation towards unity, progress and prosperity. I offer my own personal felicitations as your outgoing President, mindful of the various opinions and interpretations of our executive legacies. I welcome and accept both the accolades and criticisms in equal measure, secure in the conviction that I did my best to serve our dear country Nigeria and I pray that the incoming President will also pick up the baton and continue the long race to make Nigeria one of the leading countries of the world by the end of this century.

Long Live the Nigerian spirit of oneness, togetherness, and unity. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

A Happy and prosperous New year to you all.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Muhammadu Buhari