.Why we can’t release Dasuki, Kanu
.Hijab will be banned if bombings persist
.I will meet senators, Reps over exotic cars
.Why I’m silent on Army, Shiites clash
.No intelligence report on Chibok girls
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday dismissed allegations of lopsidedness in his administration’s fight against corruption, saying he would sack any minister found to be corrupt.
The president said in a media chat at the Presidential Villa in Abuja that if any of his ministers was found culpable of corruption, he would sack him or her.
“I have been a democrat since 2002. I don’t think I tolerate corruption. I don’t think I have picked anybody that I know will embarrass my government. But if you have got evidence on any of my ministers, it is your right as a Nigerian citizen to tell them that you don’t want a, b or c in the cabinet because they have got a case in court. I don’t think I picked anybody as a minister who has a case of corruption in court”, he said.
Asked how the country is doing in the fight against corruption, Buhari said: “I think we are doing quite well, considering the circumstances. First, this will be best illustrated by my personal experience. 30 years ago when I was in uniform as Head of State of Nigeria, we arrested people who were perceived to be corrupt and put them in protective custody and we told them they were guilty until they could prove themselves innocent.
Now I am here in a different form, in a multi-party democratic system and the nations we are looking forward to for cooperation, under the circumstances we found ourselves in security wise and economy wise. The only acceptable decision to them is those suspected to be corrupt are innocent until they are proven guilty.
“Having said that, we have been lucky to find some documents where public funds were diverted to personal pockets. We have some documents where Nigerian crude oil was lifted illegally and the proceeds were put into personal accounts instead of the federal government account and of course, we have started going to court. We got evidence and we are taking the people to court and whatever is in the court, we will not comment until we see what they do with the documents we presented. There are terrible cases of corruption and we can only appeal to Nigerians to be patient”, he said.
National Assembly members can’t buy N40bn cars
The president said members of the National Assembly cannot spend over N40 billion to buy cars after their N100 billion allowances. He said he had to revisit the story of the plan by the National Assembly to purchase the vehicles.
Buhari said if he could turn down the proposal to buy him N400 million cars, he would not accept that members of the National Assembly would spend over N40 billion buying cars for themselves.
According to the president, there is no need for new cars and the old ones can be managed because of the state of the economy.
“For all I know, the first time I turned down a N400 million bill for cars for the Presidency. I said the vehicles I’m using are good enough for the next 10 years. But I understand there is a pool for the protocol when Heads of States and governments visit, they have to buy vehicles.
“As for the National Assembly, we are having problems with them on the TSA, everybody has to subject himself to the TSA as long as federal money is involved…I think I have to hold a close door meeting with them and I think they have not bought them yet.
“N47.5billion for vehicles for National Assembly members? I think I will explore the possibility of that power. If I can turn down N400million for vehicles in the Presidency, I think we don’t need new cars, we can manage the old ones because of the economy. I can’t see the National Assembly spending more than N40 billion to buy cars on top of transport allowances they collected. I have to revisit this story. They got N100billion for their allowances”, Buhari said.
Igbos not marginalised
The president also dismissed allegations that he marginalised the Igbo in his appointments.
He said his appointments were not based on ethnicity but that he was constrained by the constitution, saying he had a lot of Igbos as ministers in his cabinet.
“Some say they are Nigerians, but they have not been able to tell who is marginalising them”, the president said.
On how much loot has been recovered, he said: “Our main constraints, eventually, the persons have to find themselves in court and under any circumstances we cannot pre-judge what the court will do, but the documents we are going to submit and how the government will add to it through the Minister of Justice, are what we have to develop the patience to do because once we go to court, we shall keep our mouths shut. We cannot determine issues when they are still in court.
“Money has been recovered, but the fact that whatever we recovered we have to end up in court because Nigerians are entitled to know the truth and the truth will be what the court has discovered by submissions made to them in terms of documentation including the bank statements where it was lodged, how it was lodged whether it is petrol, money from NNPC or money from customs, or money directly from central bank, when we do that, Nigeria will be better.
“It’s an ugly situation we find ourselves, we have to be very sure of the documents we get, cross-check with the banks, sometimes across the countries, cross-check records for example in the NNPC, which ship loaded, where or records in terms of amount of crude lifted, what is the destination, the form of payment, is there an agreement or is just an order from the top? We have to be sure because when we go to the courts, those that are taken before the courts are people of substance and they can get the best lawyers to defend themselves because they can afford to pay and it is work that we have done.
“I think by the end of first quarter of next year, I think we will be informing Nigerians on what progress has been made”.
Buhari said by the first quarter of next year, there would be no mention of fuel subsidy anymore because of the low pricing of the product. “
“The cost of petrol is so low. You don’t have to subsidise it”, the president stated. He added that his administration would rather focus on getting the refineries back in shape.
No intelligence report on Chibok girls
Buhari said so far, there had been no intelligence report on the whereabouts of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents in April 2014. “That’s what I’m looking for. We’re looking for a credible Boko Haram leadership that will convince us that the girls are there and alive. If any of Boko Haram can come out to say he’s the leader and that he knows where Chibok girls are, we cannot automatically believe him.
“The kind of information I’m working with Niger, Chad and the Cameroon and I assure you that the question of Chibok girls is only on our minds for even humanitarian reasons. But there is no such intelligence report of where those girls physically are and in what condition they are in, but what we believe in from our intelligence, is that they (Boko Haram) keep shifting them around so that they’re not taken by surprise until the girls are freed, and they are not kept in one place”, he said.
Govt ready to negotiate with Boko Haram on girls
The president government would be ready to open negotiations with an identifiable credible Boko Haram leadership, adding: “I could recall that so many leaderships of the Boko Haram existed, but we insisted on establishing the bonafide leadership of the so-called Boko Haram before we can agree to negotiate with them on what terms will be of interest to us before we can take them to their schools. Secondly, we want to ensure that they’re complete, 209 (abducted schoolgirls) and they’re safe and sound. But what we also found talking to a lot of sources is that no Chibok girl has been recovered. They must have dispersed them all over the place, and wanted as far as humanly possible, although some of their parents are desperate they would rather see their graves or the conditions some of them should be in.
“We are still keeping our options open that if a credible leadership of Boko Haram can be established and they tell us where those girls are, we are prepared to negotiate with them without any pre-condition. This we’ve made it absolutely clear, but where they’re keeping the Chibok girls, they must not get away with the idea that we will not attempt to secure the rest of Nigeria”.
No one is above the law
On whether he would stop the anti-corruption war at the former NSA and other former ministers, he said nobody would be put above the law as he had sworn by the Holy Quran to defend the constitution.
He said Nigeria could not recover the stolen funds alone and had sought the cooperation of the developed countries where the monies were lodged provide the documents of the bank accounts. “We can’t do it on our own”, he said.
Asked if he believed the prosecution of corrupt officers would take years, Buhari answered in the affirmative, saying, “I suspect it will take years because we’re appealing to foreign countries to ask their institutions to cooperate with us because Nigeria is virtually on its knees”.
Assets declaration not new
On when he would make full declaration of his assets as promised, he recalled that he had done so four times. “I have declared my assets four times. I started during Murtala administration. I declared when I was military administrator or North-eastern states, I declared when I was a member of the Supreme Military Council and Minister of Petroleum and when I was leaving for the war college in 1979 and when I became head of state in 1983, I declared my assets. But when I was removed I did not declare because I was in detention. And when I came back as civilian president, I declared, making four times. If you want my declarations, you have the constitutional right to go to the code of conduct bureau.
“All my declarations were documented in the Ministry of Justice. So if the ministry of justice cannot produce my declarations, they too should answer some questions on where they keep declarations of public officers. I don’t have to ask them to provide my declarations”.
No devaluation of the naira
Buhari rejected the call for further devaluation of the naira, saying that would not benefit the nation as Nigeria is not a commodity-exporting country.
No state within a state
On the recent clash between the Army and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria known as Shittes in Zaria, Buhari said the group could not create a state within a state.
The president, however, added that he would wait for the reports of the investigative panel set up on the clash by the Army and Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-rufai.
“Certainly, I know something about it, I ought to because I have heard about it. When it happened I was in touch with the governor of Kaduna State; you know it happened in one state in all of the 36 states. Interestingly, the President of Iran spoke to me about it. But I told him that as a government, we have a system. When it happened in one of the cities, the governor has physically visited the area. We have a system of investigation. The military that was involved too has a tradition of investigation.
“And I as the head of the federal government have to wait for the official report before I can come out to make a statement. So, I am allowing the army and the Kaduna State government to submit their own reports of inquiry. The police, the SSS, though they are not directly involved, also they are doing their own constitutional role of finding out the cause of the matter.
“But all I know is that whether it is the police, the military, the civil authorities, where there is evidence that lives were lost and property destroyed, there is a standard way of investigation; it depends on how serious it is. If it is very serious, a judicial inquiry (is set up). …And then, people from all directions are asked to come and give evidence.
“How can any group create a state within a state? I don’t want to speak about it in details now. I think I should leave it until I see the inquiries. But there are a number of things that I saw where some excited teenagers were virtually hitting the chest of Generals, putting roadblocks and threatening them with missiles”, he said.
On whether he felt infuriated, Buhari said: “Very much so, but I realised my position. I am now a sitting duck”.
On whether he was worried about the number of casualties in the clash, he said: “You can’t justify the figure. But to be fair to both sides, we have to wait for the inquiries, and then you tell the public. For instance, I heard some people in Zaria gave a press briefing in Kaduna, isn’t it? About 2 or 3 days ago, they called the press and told them the agony they had been going through in the last five, ten years.
“I expect my report of inquiry from the Kaduna State government because it happened in Kaduna, in one of the cities and it has been there for the last 20 years from what I have been reading form your papers, they occupied federal highways, sometimes from Kano to Kaduna. This is what I heard and fortunately for me, I have never been in that mess”.
Why Dasuki, Kanu can’t be released now
Buhari also said that the former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki presently standing trial over $2 billion arms purchase scam and the leader of the Independent People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu could not be released because of the atrocities the perpetrated against the nation.
“Technically, if you see the kind of atrocities these people committed against the country. If they jump bail, see the former president (Jonathan) wrote to the governor of the Central Bank and said give N40bn to so, so, and so, and then he gives account and you release him to go and see his doctors in London, while about two million IDPs don’t even know their parents.
“And the one you are calling Kanu, do you know he had two passports, one Nigerian, one British; and he came into the country without any? Do you know he brought equipment into this country and was broadcasting Radio Biafra? Which kind of government do you think should harbour that kind of person? There is a treasonable feeling against him and I hope the court will listen to the case”, Buhari said.
Hijab may be banned
Buhari said Hijab would have to be banned if suicide bombing continues.
“Hijab would have to be banned if suicide bombing continues,”
He lamented that the extent of indoctrination that leads to suicide bombings is becoming too much.