*Promises to overhaul the judicial system
*Decries oil theft in Niger Delta
*Judiciary should be monitored —SERAP
By Dapo Akinrefon & Levinus Nwabughiogu
Addis Ababa — President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that the judiciary remained his main headache in the fight against corruption.
According to him, corruption is so pervasive in the country that it requires the strong support of the judiciary to effectively fight.
This was even as he showed his anger to the tribal claims and theft of oil by some individuals in the Niger Delta.
The President, who stated that he needed the support of the judiciary to win the anti-graft war, recalled that corruption in the judiciary stalled his presidential ambition for years.
He also promised to overhaul the country’s judicial system.
President Buhari, who spoke at a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday, said: “On the fight against corruption vis-à-vis the judiciary, Nigerians will be right to say that is my main headache for now.
“If you reflect on what I went through for 12 years when I wanted to be the President, I attempted three times and on the fourth attempt through God and the use of technology, it was possible for Nigerians to elect an APC candidate as President.
“In my first attempt in 2003, I ended up at the Supreme Court and for 13 months I was in court. The second attempt in 2007, I was in court close to 20 months and in 2011, my third attempt, I was also in court for nine months.
“All these cases went up to the Supreme Court until the fourth time in 2015, when God agreed that I will be President of Nigeria.”
President Buhari, while defending the N6.077 trillion 2016 budget, which is now before the National Assembly, also stated that the budget would be financed from non-oil revenue.
Decries oil theft in Niger Delta
He regretted that the international oil market had collapsed, resulting in poor income for the country. The President, however, said that he was not happy with claims and theft of oil resources persisting in the Niger Delta.
“The theft of the oil market by some Nigerians that happen to live there who feel that the oil belongs to them and not the country is an irritating thing for those of us who participated in the civil war for 30 months in which at least two million Nigerians were killed,” he said.
The President also said the proposed budget would focus on increasing efficiency and transparency in government operations and the blocking of leakages from revenue generating agencies.
He added that the recovered assets of the country would also be used to reduce the budget deficit.
Buhari orders review of railway projects
A statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, from Addis Ababa added that President Buhari had ordered a review of several railway transport projects signed by the previous administration with the Chinese government.
This, according to the statement, is to boost urban development and social infrastructure.
Adesina added that the President, who regretted that the previous agreement with Chinese government did not yield any positive results, had, however, directed the Ministers of Transportation, Finance, Power, Works and Housing to revisit the agreements and explore ways of re-approaching the Chinese government for assistance.
He said the Chinese government had indicated interest to assist Nigeria on project financing through its Export-Import Bank.
He said: “The Chinese government was very generous to Nigeria on the projects signed with the previous government because they agreed to pay 85 per cent of the project. But the Nigerian government was unable to meet up with its counterpart funding of 15 per cent, so the Chinese government was unable to make any impact on the project.”
In his reaction, Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Adetokunbo Mumuni, advised the President to monitor the judiciary but was quick to add that the judiciary should not be intimidated by the executive.
Mumumi said: “Like our organisation suggested, the judiciary must be seriously monitored and whatever amounts to a violation of the penal code of the land, must also be visited with the same amount of punishment.
“Some retired judges have been dismissed for corruption. If the old cases are opened, that will make the current members of the judiciary to sit tight. The judiciary should not be jittery over what the President has said, they should do their work without fear or favour.
“We know that the rot in the judiciary is monumental, there is no doubt about it but that should not be his (Buhari’s) headache. The President leads the executive arm of government and every other agency of prosecution are under him. What he should just do is to allow them do their work independently. The judiciary should not be intimidated by what the President has just said, they should be seen to do their work fair according to the dictates of the law.”