By Emmanuel Aziken, Emma Ujah, Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Godfery Bivbere, Joseph Erunke, Nkiruka Nnoorom, Emmanuel Elebeke, Jonah Nwokpoku, Ediri Ejoh & Prince Okafor
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday, explained why he cannot release leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
The President disclosed that Kanu has two passports, one Nigerian, one British and came to the country without using any passport.
President Buhari also made a robust defence of the integrity of all 36 ministers in his cabinet challenging anyone with a contrary view to present evidence against such a minister.
Speaking in his first media chat, the president said the first gains of the war against corruption would become evident by the end of March, next year, even as he accused erstwhile National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) of having allegedly committed atrocities against Nigeria through reckless disbursement of billions of government funds.
The president made his first dismissal of the agitation for Biafra stating that Igbo were in strategic position in the cabinet including holding the petroleum and labour portfolios besides the stewardship of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
President Buhari also assured of the administration’s readiness to implement the N5,000 monthly transfer to vulnerable Nigerians even as he said the campaign promise did not emanate from him but from his then running mate, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. He also frowned at the allocation of N47.7 billion for the purchase of vehicles by the National Assembly even after the lawmakers had collected car loans from the government.
The president, who expressed his readiness to negotiate with any credible leadership of the Boko Haram sect for the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls also disclosed his readiness to consider a ban on the use of hijab should the trend of bombing through young veiled girls continue.
Noting the dire economic conditions facing the country, President Buhari was, nevertheless, against the immediate devaluation of the naira even as he revealed that N1.5 trillion had been recovered into the federation account through the implementation of the Treasury Single Account.
The president also spoke on the fate of the Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, saying that he had allowed the Kaduna State government and the military authorities to take the lead in the investigations. He affirmed that the cleric had over time overstepped his bounds to the distress of the communities he lived.
On the panel that interviewed the president yesterday were Kayode Akintemi, Channels TV; Dr. Ngozi Anyaegbulam, Media World International; Munir Dan Ali, Daily Trust and Ibanga Isine, Premium Times.
On the ministers
“I don’t think I tolerate corruption, I don’t think I picked anybody that I know will embarrass my government. But if you have any evidence about any of my ministers, I accept responsibility for the 36 ministers that I have.
“I don’t think I took anybody among the ministers who has got a case in court. Tell me one out of the 36. I don’t think I will deliberately make that mistake.”
Asked if he would sack any of the ministers if he or she is charged to court for corruption, he said:
“No, I will insist that the case go through the courts.”
On the location and condition of the Chibok girls, he said he would be prepared to negotiate with credible elements in the Boko Haram leadership if there is precise intelligence that could help return the girls to their parents. He, however, affirmed that presently he did not superior intelligence on the fate of the girls.
“We are still keeping our options open. 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 have made absolutely clear. But while they are keeping the Chibok girls, they must not get away with the idea that we will not attempt to secure the rest of Nigeria.
“We have no firm intelligence on where they are physically and what condition they are in. But what we believe from our intelligence, they keep taking the girls around, they are not keeping all the girls in one place, we don’t know how many divisions they made of them and where they are.
On the crisis in Kaduna involving followers of the Shite leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, he said:
“I expect the Kaduna State Government to set up a judicial inquiry because it happened in Kaduna, in one of the cities and it has been there for the last twenty years from what I have been reading from papers. They will occupy a federal highway, sometimes from Kano to Kaduna. This is what I heard.
“We have a system of investigation, the military that was involved too have a tradition of investigation and I am the head of the federal government, I have to wait for the official report before I can come out as head of the federal government and make a statement. So I am allowing the Army and the Kaduna State government to submit their report of inquiry. Meanwhile it does not mean that the police, the SSS and other directorate involved are not doing their own part of constitutional role.
Frowning at the activities of the group, he said:
“Unfortunately it is very serious. How can any group proclaim statehood in a state? I don’t want to speak about it in details now, I better leave it still after the report of the inquiry but there are a number of clips I saw, where some excited teenagers were visually hitting the chest of a general, mounting road blocks and threatening them with missiles.
On the contentious issue of subsidy, the president said that by the end of the next quarter that there would be no more talk about subsidy in the price of petroleum.
“Money has been recovered but whatever we recover, has to end up in court because I feel personally that Nigerians are entitled to know the truth and the truth will be what the court has discovered by the submission made to them in terms of documentation and the documentation includes the bank statement of where our money was lodged, when it was lodged and how much. Whether it is petrol from NNPC or Customs and Excise or money directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
Told that he was limited in his disclosure of his assets, the president said that he had declared his assets at least four times in the past.
The president expressed reservation on proposals by the National Assembly to commit N47.7 billion to purchase new vehicles after members had collected car loans from the government.
N5,000 monthly stipend for the less privileged
“When my VP was quoted, how can I come here and disown it? First, I believe in getting facts, how many are involved? How are we going to do it? Is it state by state or geo-political zone by geo-political zone? In trying to get the bottom of the problem, a lot of work has to be done and if it is undertaken, we have to look at it very well.”
On Dasuki, Kanu and others
Asked on the alleged flouting of court orders by the state on the issue of Dasuki and detained Biafran agitator, Nnamdi Kanu, he said:
“Technically, if you see the kind of atrocities those people committed, if they jump bail? I am sorry to say this publicly…the former president just wrote to the governor of the CBN and said give N40 billion to someone while you have two million Internally Displaced Persons, what kind of country do you want to run?
“The one you called Kanu, do you know he has two passports? One Nigerian, one British and he came to this country without using any passport? Do you know that he brought sophisticated equipment into this country and started broadcasting for Radio Biafra? There is a treasonable charge against him and I hope the court will listen to the case.
Biafra and marginalisation of Ndigbo
“They say they are marginalised but they have not defined the extent of marginalisation. Who is marginalising them? Where? Do you know? Choosing a minister is not a matter of ethnicity, it is a matter of the constitution. I am limited by what the constitution says that there must be a member of the executive council from each state. There is a lot of partisan politics in it. Who is the Minister of State for Petroleum? Is he not an Igbo? Who is the governor of the CBN? Is he not an Igbo? Who is the Minister of Labour? Who is the Minister of Science and Technology? What do they want? I stood elections and I won, I am limited by the constitution, I have a member of every state in the Federal Executive Council and I have to listen to them when I sit as chairman. That is the limit the constitution gave me”.