In an interview with Aliyu Mustapha of VOA in Washington, President Muhammadu Buhari speaks on Barack Obama, state police, corruption and other key issues.
Q: Why did you come to the U.S.?
Mr Buhari: I was invited by President Trump and I was given a time and I promised to come and God made it possible.
The U.S. government understands the importance of Nigeria in Africa and the World at large.
For instance, during Obama’s era, we tried to get some jets to help us in the fight against terrorism in the North-east, which was declined.
But as soon as Mr Trump came into office, he gave the green light and advised us to make funds available. He said the U.S. will sell the jets to us. We had approached Brazil and the UAE, but they told us that based on the agreement they had with the U.S., they cannot sell or give anyone these jets until the U.S. agrees; but the U.S. refused at the time until the arrival of Mr Trump, who granted out request and gave us the price.
Q: Apart from the jets, which other agreements did you have?
Mr Buhari: Not agreements, just discussions. The first one is the information being given to them that Christians are being killed in Nigeria; but what happened in the Church also happened in the South-east and the North and they just say it is herdsmen that are killing them.
Those making these allegations against the herdsmen know that herdsmen, as we know them only carry sticks, going about with guns is a new thing and those making the allegations know that conflict between farmers and herders has a long history even before we were born.
Therefore, it is wrong to say the conflict is between Fulani and Tiv or other tribes, like in Taraba. What of Zamfara, where more people were killed than in Taraba and Benue put together?
People need to understand that it is mischief that makes people to bring in religion or ethnicity.
Q: Many are commending you on the degrading of Boko Haram in the North-east, but reports indicate that gunmen are now raiding villages in Zamfara. I am aware you have ordered for the establishment of military formations in the state, neighbouring Katsina, and others.
Is there any other measure you are taking to curb this menace of insecurity?
Mr Buhari: Measures being taken is to increase the number of police officers and to equip them well.
I have asked the police to recruit 6000 more personnel and that they should recruit across the 774 local government areas in the country instead of going to motor parks and markets to just pick people anyhow.
Q: Governors have been asking for state police. What is your view on that?
Mr Buhari: I want the Nigerian Constitution to be consulted first and see what it says. If it says they should be allowed, then they should be allowed but don’t forget, how many times did we have to release money to states in the name of bailouts to enable them pay salaries?
How many states are able to pay their workers in time? And you add the police to them? People should look at this matter very well.
Q: But you are not convinced about state police?
Mr Buhari: No, I am not convinced.
We should have solved the current insecurity in the North-east and South-south by now. Can the states be able to shoulder the burden of the polic?
You cannot just give someone guns and ammunition, train him and refuse to pay him, you know what will eventually happen.
Q: You came with three major areas; insecurity, corruption and the economy and one of the things you came up with is the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
However, bribery and corruption is still high in Nigeria. Are there any other measures you are planning to take?
Mr Buhari: Well, there is no any other measure other than to ensure that whoever is arrested is prosecuted for all to see. We should have had a lot more arrests and prosecution by now; EFCC has done a lot; they will investigate and send accused persons to court and Nigerians would be adequately informed. Those who are saying we have not done enough in that regard are right.
What we don’t want is to take people to places where the judges may not be able to convict them appropriately.
Now, we will select those who will dispense justice well and give them time and necessary evidence such as the bank balance and properties owned by individuals in comparison to their wages. They will be asked to prove how they acquired the difference, otherwise, everything will be taken away and they will be prosecuted.
Q: In Bauchi recently, you mentioned that everyone should be careful in your second term because of the way you plan to deal with offenders; what measures are you planning to take?
Mr Buhari: By the time we set up these special courts and prosecute offenders, I am sure citizens will know that we are serious.
Those who embezzle public funds should be ready to face the consequences.
Q: Your recent comments in England on Nigerian youth generated a lot of controversy. What did you really mean?
Mr Buhari: You know they say we are over 180 to 200 million people in Nigeria and 60 per cent are the youth below the age of 30.
In the North, for instance, most have not attended school or they abandoned halfway. If not because we had favourable rainfall in the past two seasons; most of them have no job, just idling away. People like them, even if they go to the South, for instance, what they will make will not be enough to even pay their rent not to talk of feeding, clothing and transport back home.
That has not been explained enough and you know the media, especially the print, are simply doing whatever they like.
We had two successful farming seasons, people went to farm and did very well, but no one is talking about that; only insults.
That is why the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, had to respond to the letter of insults released by Mr Obasanjo.
We spoke about it and I asked him not to respond but he refused and said he will just respond by stating the situation we met the country, where it is now and what was done in between and the monies we are getting.
Recently, I had to come out and state that from 1999 to 2014, anyone who carries out a study here in America or Europe or India will know that we were producing 2.2 million barrels of crude oil daily at a price of at least $100 per barrel.
In those 16 years of PDP rule, Nigeria was getting 2.1 million x 100 everyday, every week, but when we came on board, the price fell to between $37-38 and hung around $40-$50.
I went to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), – the governor of CBN is here – and asked him, how far? And he said nothing was left apart from debts.
I said, but this is what the country made? And he said: Yes. He knew, and I asked him, where is the money? All gone.
Nigerians know that there were no roads or rail lines, there was no power, despite the billions of dollars spent. Only God will judge this thing.
Q: Since you have decided to seek re-election what are the new things you are planning to do?
Mr Buhari: We have not even finished what we are doing now. Insecurity is still a problem. The worst thing that Boko Haram is doing now is to get small girls, hypnotise and put explosive devices on them to go and detonate in mosques, churches, motor parks and markets and kill people.
However, they are not able to take over any territory now, although, even today, I read in some newspapers that Boko Haram are still holding territory. Well, they may still be somewhere in Sambisa Forest but the Nigerian Army has prevented them from coming out.
Q: How do you relax, apart from reading newspapers? Do you listen to music for instance?
Mr Buhari: I don’t get to listen to music but I find time to rest. When I was a general, I gave orders, but now, I receive orders.
The doctor is here.He always insists that I eat well and rest, that is why many are surprised at how quickly I recovered.
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