In what appears to be a major U-turn from the campaign promise of the All Progressives Congress (APC) before the 2015 presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that payment of the N5,000 stipend to unemployed youths in the country, which was a major plank of his campaign, is no longer his priority.
The president made the remark at the weekend in Saudi Arabia before his departure for Qatar.
He said it was wise to use federal government funds to invest in infrastructure that would empower unemployed youths through agriculture rather than direct cash transfers.
He said: “This N5,000 largesse for the unemployed, I have got a slightly different priority. I would rather do the infrastructure, the schools and correct them and empower agriculture and mining so that every able bodied person can go and get work instead of giving 5,000 to those who don’t work.”
APC had during its election campaigns pledged to pay N5,000 as monthly stipend to the most vulnerable in the country.
The sum of N500 billion was also set aside in this year’s budget for the social intervention programme, of which a certain portion was targeted at direct cash transfers to unemployed youths.
Buhari, also in Doha, Qatar, called on member states of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers to join hands in finding a common ground on oil price stability.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari spoke yesterday at a bilateral meeting with Sheikh Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar.
Buhari described the current situation, which has seen oil prices plummet by 70 per cent since mid-2014 as “totally unacceptable”.
The president, who was on the second day of his state visit to Qatar, said: “As members of OPEC and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), our relations in the area of oil and gas, which our two nations heavily rely on, need to be enhanced and coordinated for the benefit of our people.
“The current market situation in the oil industry is unsustainable and totally unacceptable.
“We must cooperate both within and outside our respective organisations to find a common ground to stabilise the market, which will be beneficial to our nations.”
Buhari used the occasion of his address to the emir to commend the cordial bilateral relations between both countries and invited prospective Qatari investors to take advantage of the abundant opportunities in Nigeria and invest in the key areas of energy, agriculture, real estate development, banking and finance.
He assured prospective investors of government’s protection of their investments, noting that in the course of his visit, the delegations from Nigeria and Qatar would formalise at least two bilateral agreements to boost economic cooperation between both countries.
Buhari also weighed in on the situation in the Middle East, commending the role Qatar was playing in resolving the present Syrian crisis, the Palestinian cause and efforts in reconstructing Gaza.
“The conflicts in Yemen and Syria with their attendant humanitarian crises need genuine international efforts to solve. Nigeria as a peace loving country identifies with the State of Qatar in all her peace efforts in the world to end terrorist activities.
“Nigeria is a victim of terrorism. It is with a heavy heart that I stand before you and say activities of Boko Haram have led to the loss of many lives and displacement of innocent people in our dear nation.
“We however take pride in informing you that since our coming to power, Boko Haram has been systematically decimated and are in no position to cause a serious threat to our development programmes.
“I wish to reiterate that Nigeria rejects violence and extremism in all their ramifications, and assure your highness that we are with the State of Qatar in your efforts to fight terrorism and injustice in your region and in the world at large,” he said.
The president also called for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying: “We in Nigeria, like the State of Qatar, favour a Two State solution, with the State of Palestine living side by side with the State of Israel.
“I want to assure you that we will stand side by side with you, until our brothers and sisters in Palestine achieve their desired objectives.
“Our support for various UN Security Council resolutions restoring and respecting 1967 boundaries with Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine is firm and unshaken,” he said.
During the president’s visit, Nigeria and Qatar yesterday also signed a Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) to pave the way for direct flights between major cities of both countries.
In addition, both countries signed an agreement to avoid double taxation and tax evasion.
Another statement by Adesina said the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, representing Buhari, signed the air services agreement on behalf of the country, while Qatar’s Minister of Transportation and Communications, Jassim Bin Saif Alsulaiti, signed on behalf the Emir of Qatar.
The agreement, which was signed in the presence of both leaders, is expected to operate on the principle of reciprocity by the designated airlines on behalf of the countries.
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, also signed the agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to tax income with her Qatari counterpart, Ali Shareef Al Emadi.
Adesina said it was expected that the agreement on bilateral air services would promote trade, commerce and tourism between the two countries, adding that the federal government had also commenced discussions on partnerships towards establishing a national airline for Nigeria.
She said: “The agreement on the avoidance of double taxation which had been negotiated since February 2015 will no doubt pave the way for more investments and businesses between Qatar and Nigeria.” (Thisday)