…Asks govs to open up grazing routes to solve farmer-herder clashes
By Emmanuel Aziken, Clifford Ndujihe & Olayinka Ajayi
President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday, pooh-poohed assertions of protecting his associates in the acclaimed anti-corruption war of the administration as he charged state governors to insist on opening up old grazing routes to ameliorate the clashes between herdesmen and farmers.
President Buhari, All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate, spoke on an NTA interactive session with selected members of the public with his running mate, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, standing in as a helpful assistant in some of the more tricky questions.
The session was moderated by veteran broadcaster, Kadera Ahmed.
Tasked on the perception that the anti-corruption stance of the administration is largely biased against his political opponents, Buhari asked for example.
Ms Ahmed gave examples of former secretary to the government of the federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal, who she presented as having been indicted of corruptly misusing the funds meant for Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East.
Responding, Buhari called on Nigerians to bring evidence to the anti-corruption agencies as he rebuffed insinuations by Ahmed that there was evidence presented by the National Assembly.
In his explanations, he said the government could not keep its eyes closed if people make wrong declarations, an insinuation the moderator quickly asked him if he referred to the contentions over the case involving the Chief Justice of the country, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
“I don’t think that anybody that is being booted out is corrupt,” the president said, in reference to the claim that Lawal was removed because of corruption.
“I told you why I have to be careful. If there are strong allegations, people should come out with strong evidence like names of companies looted, contracts awarded, then, we take them before the court and ICPC and we have to trust the system and allow them to complete their investigation.
“If we just arrest them and look the other way as we did in the military system…democracy is a multi-party system that does not approve that. So, if there is strong allegation, the government may ask people to go like the former secretary general.”
On the clashes between farmers and herders, he said: “What happened in Benue State was unfortunate and we foresaw it and we asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to go to the archives and find out from the First Republic; there were cattle routes, there were grazing areas and even veterinary clinics.”
However, the moderator politely asked the president to move from the past to the present, saying that solution was needed for the present conflict.
“The movement is quite predictable. Structures have been tampered especially with grazing routes and we have sent these to the governors and for Benue I expect the governors to insist that the routes should be reopened. The cattle are already in Bayelsa, are they going to the Atlantic from there?”
“We have to trust the system to investigate and bring the various cases to a conclusion,” he said as he reiterated that “to be fair to individuals, then the people should help with evidence and trust the system and allow the EFCC and ICPC to do their job “
The president said that most of the insinuations on the fight against corruption had become politicised.
Challenged on the increase in the attacks by Boko Haram despite the claim that the group had been technically defeated and degraded, the president said:
“The best people to answer the question are people from the Northeast. When this administration came, Boko Haram was holding 17 local government areas, but they are not holding any local government now. They have resorted to soft targets now.
He charged the press to do more research and discover that the people were moving more freely.
But with Ms Ahmed insisting that the attacks against the military had increased under his administration, Buhari said that the terrorists had become craftier and become more mobile.
On restructuring, the president threw the ball at the court of the public who he told to be more proactive towards the governors and local government chairmen who he said were almost always preoccupied with looting public funds.
Vice President Osinbajo in intervening said that the president was himself involved in ranching which he said is the way to go.