Receiving recipients of the 2016 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) at the State House, Abuja, he said he met the country in a terrible shape with oil prices falling to as low as $37 per barrel, from peak periods of over $100 in previous years.
‘‘There was no money in the treasury,’’ he added. ‘‘We were producing less than one million barrels of oil per day, from the 2.2 million barrels we used to do. The country was in a terrible shape, but luckily, the people understand, and are cooperating with us,’’ he said.
Buhari said corruption ranked the ‘‘very worst” of all the major problems confronting Nigeria, noting that the ruling political party, All Progressives Congress, had identified three major challenges facing the nation as insecurity, poor economy, and corruption, noting that corruption was the most debilitating of all the ills.
He added: ‘‘Nobody disputed the fact that they were the major problems of Nigeria, and we campaigned on those three planks. As a government, we believe you cannot administer a country you have not secured, so we focused on security.
‘‘The economy is also down, therefore, we are not sparing any effort to revive and diversify it, so that our people, particularly the youths, can get jobs. The third problem, and the worst of them all, is corruption.”
Commending the 2016 merit award winners, Prof. Omowunmi Sadik for distinguishing herself in the Sciences, and Prof. Tanure Ojaide, in the Humanities, President Buhari described their contributions to the academia and national development as ‘‘quite fundamental.’
In separate remarks, the award recipients, who had their investiture last year, December 1, 2016, commended the government on the anti-corruption war, noting, however, that more enlightenment campaign needed to be done on how corruption slows down development.
Prof. Sadik and Prof. Ojaide also canvassed more funding for research, and appreciated the Federal Government for the National Order of Merit, ‘‘as nothing can be compared to being honoured by your own country.”
The Chairman of the Nigerian National Merit Award, Prof. Moses Essien Etim, who led the team, said 73 awards had been given out since 1979, when the desire to identify and reward creative excellence among Nigerians was instituted into the NNOM.