President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, reminisced on events that led to his ouster as Head of State, and eventual incarceration for three years by a military government that succeeded him. Buhari’s short stint as Nigeria’s military ruler abruptly ended in August 1985, following a palace coup by some aggrieved elements within the military ranks, led by his Chief of Army Staff , Ibrahim Babangida.
He said it was a battle he lost against corruption. Speaking at the commissioning of new office complex for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), President Buhari reiterated his position that the removal was due to his stance against corruption. The president said he was not deterred by the notion that “when you fight corruption, corruption would fight back.”
“My first attempt to fight corruption, corruption fought back successfully. I was removed from office and detained for three years,” he recalled. The president said despite that experience, his “objective of fighting corruption remains steadfast.” Buhari explained that since coming to office as elected president in 2015, he has made “very conscious decisions” to pursue the fight against corruption. Citing recoveries of “trillions” of naira, he said his government recovered from corrupt officials, the president gave himself a pass mark, saying the administration has made “significant progress” in the fight against corruption. He said there is now a realisation that “corrupt officials would be brought to justice no matter how long it takes.”
In a veiled response to allegations of bias in the government’s anti-graft war, Buhari said his administration “never intended and does not engage in witch-hunting” but “will call people to account within the law.” He urged the National Assembly to “add more verve” to government’s effort by “reviewing archaic provisions” that would address lapses in the legal frameworks.
Dogara urges better welfare In his goodwill message, Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, asked the federal government to focus more on improving the welfare of EFCC staff in order to insulate them from corruption. Dogara, whose short remarks received thunderous applause from staff of the Commission, said building a headquarters for the Commission, “as important as it is” was not enough commitment to the fight against corruption. “We have the ardent responsibility to insulate officers of this agency from temptation,” he said.
He also spoke on the need to change the corruption narrative in Nigeria, saying there are millions of Nigerians who do not bow “before the god of corruption.” Commonwealth scribe thumbs up Buhari In her remarks, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, said the “determination of Nigeria is inspiring” other countries to spur up the fight against corruption. She hailed President Buhari’s example and his commitment to Nigeria’s efforts at recovery of stolen assets.
Ms Scotland also charged officials of the EFCC to remain determined and sustain the current momentum of the anticorruption campaign. “We hope that this building will not only take the angels, but will send all the corrupt (persons) to where they rightly belong,” she said. Magu on scorecard, hails predecessors In his address, the Acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, said under his watch, the Commission has recorded 486 convictions in the last two and half years. He said, this year alone, the EFCC had secured 89 convictions and “for the fi rst time in Nigeria,” a senior advocate was convicted of corruption.
Magu added that the Commission had also recovered N500 billion, explaining that all monies recovered for the federal government were “duly remitted” into the federation account and those for individuals, returned to them. He saluted the effort and commitment of his predecessors, from the founding chairman of the commission, Nuhu Ribadu, who got the Commission its first building in Wuse, Abuja. He said a new and bigger headquarters for the EFCC became a necessity in view of expansion over the years, as well as the need for “security and confidentiality” for the Commission’s operations.
Nation’s economy improving In another development, President Buhari said the nation’s economy “is steadily improving,” and urged Nigerians to remain optimistic as the “future of the country is bright.” Speaking at a State Dinner in his honour by the Government of Jigawa state during his two-day working visit, the president called on Nigerians to continue to support the present administration’s well thought-out economic policies.
“The future is bright for Nigeria, as the economy has taken a turn for the better, our foreign reserves are almost twice the level we met, boosting investor confidence and stabilising the Naira, and inflation has declined consecutively for more than a year. “The federal government released over N1 trillion for capital projects in 2016 and N1.5 trillion in 2017, figures that are unprecedented in Nigeria’s history,” he said. The president listed the Shuwarin overpass and DutseShuwarin-Kiyawa portion of the Kano-Maiduguri Expressway as well as the Dutse-Laraba highway extension, as part of areas in which Jigawa state has benefited from the federal government’s commitment to infrastructure rejuvenation.
He commended his host, Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar for emulating his administration’s commitment to infrastructure development despite severely limited resources available to the state. The president also lauded the state government for subscribing to the federal government’s renewable energy master plan by having the largest solar power investment portfolio in the country – the 330 megawatts joint solar power development station situated in Gwiwa local government area of the state.
Commending the success of the federal government’s Social Intervention Programme in Jigawa state, the president urged states that were yet to access the over N500 billion budgeted for the scheme due to “its stringent eligibility guidelines” to fully take advantage of the programme. Buhari also lauded the governor for his efforts as the head of the fertiliser supply and distribution programme which, according to him, has resulted in “unprecedented availability of fertiliser to farmers at zero level.”