President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said he would not make compromised citizens and ‘hostages’ ministers.
“We will try as much as possible to avoid appointing hostages; by this, I mean peoplewho have been in the system but compromised their personal and professional integrity, Buhari said on Monday in a live programme, Good Morning Nigeria, on the Nigerian Television Authority.
He said he needed decent, patriotic and hard-working technocrats as well as politicians to work with him in order to achieve his dream of repositioning the country.
He said the worst thing that could happen to his administration was to get compromised persons to be in charge of institutions, adding that such people would be ineffective and unpatriotic.
The President said, “From what I have seen so far, we need very patriotic Nigerians (to be ministers); Nigerians that can work very hard with knowledgeable experience; committed Nigerians to be in charge of ministries.
“A lot of institutions in Nigeria are compromised, everybody for himself and God for all of us. It is most unfortunate. We have people, educated and experienced people, but everybody seems to be working for himself on how much they could get away with as soon as possible.
“We have to look for technocrats and politicians. We have to look out for decent people in this class to give them the responsibility of being in charge of ministries and important parastatals.
“It is taking so much time (to appoint ministers) because a number of knowledgeable people have been compromised. They have been compromised by people who will like to depend on them to damage our economy and security; a lot of them have been compromised.
“The worst thing that I think can happen is to get a compromised person to be in charge of institutions. There is no way he could be efficient or patriotic. Somebody behind the scene will be manipulating him at the expense of the nation.
“This is what we are trying to avoid and I assure you that so much damage has been done to Nigeria. We cannot rush to give this responsibility to people that have unfortunately been compromised.
“This is because there is no way you can effectively supervise, let’s say 20 ministries, you have to give it to people you trust and you allow them to perform according to the Constitution of the country. If you appoint compromised people, then we will be back to square one and Nigeria will be the loser.”
PDP taking over government
Buhari said that the All Progressives Congress’ members in the National Assembly, by their conduct and the ongoing leadership crisis in the legislature, were allowing the Peoples Democratic Party to take over his government.
He said, “I have to be very sensitive to the Constitution of the country. I do not like to be told by anybody, especially the legislators that I am interfering in their matter. There are three arms of government: executive, legislature and the judiciary.
“Over the last 16 years, they (lawmakers) have developed the system of choosing their leaders. There is no way I can directly interfere. All I can do through the party is to appeal to their conscience that what I already observed, we should go over it as soon as possible.
“When I say ‘we’, I mean the APC. We cannot win the battle and lose the war. We must not allow individual personal ambition to succeed in dividing us and allow PDP to deal with us.
“This is what the National Assembly has allowed so far; the APC is giving the PDP the allowance to take over the government again. This is extremely disheartening, I am very worried.
“The only thing I can do is to appeal to the conscience of the APC members in the Senate and House. It took us time to get to where we are; I don’t want personal ambitions to scuttle our success and therefore fail to deliver on our promises to the nation.”
Officials still stealing oil
On corruption, Buhari regretted that crude oil theft that characterised past governments was still thriving under his government.
The President, who was inaugurated on May 29, said the nation’s crude was still being lifted illegally by government officials up until July 10.
He said the situation, which he described as a monumental fraud, was beyond comprehension.
He expressed the confidence that some developed countries would assist Nigeria to identify and repatriate looted funds.
This, he said, would however not be achieved without meeting some conditions.
He said, “The multiparty democracy system for developing countries has its advantages and relative disadvantages in the sense that for us to get the help of the developed countries, we have to get our facts: documents, complete and reliable investigation, take them to court and get these people prosecuted.
“Meanwhile, the theft continues. Up to the 10th of this month, our crude is still being illegally lifted by people who are in government.
“We are trying to get these documents; we are getting cooperation from the international community. We are going very soon to make sure that those who perpetrated this crime against Nigeria will be faced with facts and be taken to our courts.
“We have got the cooperation of some of the countries that are the destinations of our crude and we are discussing with them. We have to maintain high confidentiality so that we don’t risk some of the people in Nigeria that are helping us to trace the destinations of this stolen crude and then the accounts where the proceeds are being paid instead of the Federal Government account.
“I don’t think the NNPC knows how many accounts are there in which payments are made on Nigerian crude. The monumental fraud has been going on for a number of years; a lot of Nigerians cannot comprehend it.”
Buhari admitted that the task of getting looted funds repatriated had not been an easy one.
While saying his government was working hard to meet the demands of the foreign countries, the President promised that he would be updating Nigerians of developments as far as the repatriation process was concerned.
He said, “The countries are willing but I also said it has to comply with their own system; we have to get the documents, especially the shipping documents, how they load here in our terminals and the destinations.
“Some of them even change the crude or the destinations on the high sea and then change the account, instead of the Federal Government account, they pay into individual accounts.
“The cooperation we need is that once we get those shipping documents and we are lucky to trace them up to the countries where they sold the crude and which account it goes, then we will submit the evidence in terms of loading, the payment made and the account.
“Once we do these, they are very willing to make sure that all those accounts are frozen and money repatriated to Nigeria.
“It is not an easy process but I assure you that we are working very hard. We cannot say we will wait until when everything is completed. Whatever we are able to get in a couple of months, we will bring it out for Nigerians to know.”
On the planned breaking of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Buhari said the best way to go was to first establish the magnitude of the inexplicable way the NNPC had conducted itself.
He said after doing that, his administration would be on a higher moral ground to implement whatever recommendations made to it.
Buhari traced the continued problem of fuel scarcity to the destruction of infrastructure.
Buhari said, “The problem of fuel scarcity is one of the problems. We all know we used to have four refineries refining daily on the average of about 450,000 barrels per day.
“We had 25 depots all over the country from Maiduguri to Ilorin, from Gusau to Yola, from Makurdi to Port Harcourt to Ibadan.
“These entire infrastructure have virtually been vandalised and Nigerians are forced to buy products from world markets as if Nigeria hasn’t invested in the industry. This is sheer corruption and inefficiency.
“This situation cannot be undone overnight. Firstly, we have to organise with our partners who had been developing the petroleum sector.
“Nigeria was consistently losing on a daily basis millions of dollars. I think those who have been operating in the industry have been displaying lack of conscience and patriotism. Only God knows the amount of damage done to Nigeria.”
Buhari said he discussed the issues of unemployment, insecurity and corruption with President Barack Obama when he visited the United States last week.
He said he was impressed with the concern raised by the US and Europe about the situation in Nigeria.
1.5million displaced by Boko Haram
On terrorism in parts of the country, Buhari said he was in possession of a comprehensive report of what Boko Haram members did when they were occupying some local governments in the North-East.
He put the number of Internally Displaced Persons as a result of the activities of the sect at over 1.5million.
He said, “I have a comprehensive report of what the Boko Haram members were able to do when they occupied more than 10 local governments in Borno State, seven local governments in Yobe and Adamawa states.
“The destruction they made on the infrastructure, especially schools, hostels, roads, blown up bridges and blown up markets. We have made a list of these and what it will cost to quickly rehabilitate them.
“Again, the Internally Displaced Persons, they are more than 1.5million mostly from those three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. But they are in Kaduna, Abuja. What it takes to rehabilitate in terms of repair of towns that have been razed down by Boko Haram, like Bama, Baga and other towns and then getting the infrastructure – schools, hospitals, getting the teachers is a very expensive and a long list but is verifiable and quantifiable.”
The President said contrary to the belief of many, the US was willing to help Nigeria with weapons because they understood the nation’s problems.
He recalled how the US came to the nation’s aid when it became obvious that the past administration did not want to hold elections as scheduled.
Buhari said the past government reluctantly conceded defeat after the APC won the election.
The President explained, “Because of the high technology in the U.S., the European countries and China. It is not that we do not have trained personnel, not that we don’t have basic infrastructure but the problem is that in spite of the money allegedly spent on the operations, the Air Force is virtually non-existent.
“The aircraft are not serviceable, the helicopters are not serviceable and they are few.
“There is the need for the Air Force to conduct a reconnaissance and support the ground troops. The arrangement made by the former government will soon expire. We have made this clear to America and the G-7 and we need their cooperation.
“This problem is not only in the North-East, we have a problem in the Gulf of Guinea between Senegal and Angola and the incredible theft of the Nigerian crude in an average of more than 250,000 barrels per day, which is being illegally loaded from our terminals by unpatriotic Nigerians that only consider their own selfish interests to get money.
“We registered the support and cooperation of the US and other countries who sympathise with us to make sure the Gulf of Guinea is secured so as to make it difficult for crude thieves to load at our terminals and transport it to all over the world.”