The presidency has faulted a group, the Muslim Solidarity Forum, over a threat it issued to the bishop of Sokoto diocese, Most Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah, to tender an apology over a recent comment credited to him or leave the state.
In a statement signed on Wednesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, the presidency described the situation as an assault on the cleric’s freedom.
The presidency also declared that Bishop Kukah must be allowed to practice his faith and politics, describing the stance by the Muslim solidarity forum as wrong and not in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Bishop Kukah in his Christmas message had lamented the state of the polity, condemning the president’s leadership style and ascribing the prevailing national condition to his decisions, a comment the Muslim Solidarity Forum says was an insult to the entire Muslim Ummah and “malicious comments” against Islam.
But in its statement, the presidency explained that “under our constitution, every citizen has the right to, among others, freedom of speech and expression, the right to own property and reside in any part of the country, and the right to move freely without any inhibitions.
“Nigeria’s strength lies in its diversity,” the statement read in part.
“The right for all religions to co-exist is enshrined in this country’s constitution. The duty of the government, more so, this democratic government, is to ensure that the constitution is respected. But all must respect the rights and sensitivities of their fellow Nigerians”.
While admitting that Bishop Kukah offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the president, the presidency called for restraint, warning that groups or factions such as the Muslim Solidarity Forum must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches.
“It is just being ridiculous. How can anybody do this? Then people must be heartless if they should do this and subject these young people to that.
“You heard the accounts. These young people were kept in the forest. They were fed once on raw potatoes and drips of water for seven days.
“See the suffering they were subject to. I don’t think any decent human being will subject innocent young people to this kind of thing. Nobody should say this please,” he said.
He also debunked claims that ransom was paid to secure the release of the schoolboy revealing that they were released based on the joint effort of Katsina and the Zamfara State government who used repentant bandits.
“All of the leading actors involved in the release of the children said no ransom was paid. The governor of Zamfara State, who had a policy of engagement with the bandits leading to the surrender and renouncement of bandits, used repentant bandits to gain access to those that were in the forest and they had them (schoolboys) released.
“They used repentant bandits to gain access to the bandits in the forest and they had the children released.
“So, to the best of our knowledge, no ransom was paid.”
-Missing Schoolboys Found-
Over 300 students were abducted on Friday, December 11 after gunmen on motorcycles invaded Government Science School students in Kankara, Katsina State.
The abduction of the students sparked an outrage with calls from various individuals and groups on the government to step up efforts towards securing the lives of the people.
It occurred at a time when President Muhammadu Buhari had travelled to Daura, his hometown in Katsina for a private visit.
The boys were eventually released and received by the Katsina State government after seven days in captivity.
The Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, has described those who are in doubt about the Federal Government’s ability to protect Nigerians as mischievous.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr Garba also said the administration has the will and has demonstrated unquestionable capacity to protect Nigerians.
“Those who doubt this Government’s resolve are mischievous,” he said, adding that “it is an administration empowered to draw enormous resilience from innate reservoirs of human resources, a network of reliable intelligence sources, and demonstrated expertise in scenario building and mediation”.
Mr Garba said this against the backdrop of the recent abduction and release of the Kankara schoolboys in Katsina State.
According to him, many of those who continue to doubt the ability of the president to protect citizens, have other motives.
He further stated that while many were heartbroken by the abduction and staying hopeful for good news, others who he described as “crass, shameful and despicable”, were profiting from the misfortune.
“Indeed emergency activists thought they could cash in on these schoolboys and their parents’ misfortune devoid of their conscience.
“While patriotic Nigerians prayed for the boys’ quick return, these merchants of fortune were renting crowds, creating certain suspicious hashtags, opening bank accounts for the sole aim of soliciting funds for a cause they thought would linger. What will they do now with the one million T-Shirts they have produced? This is hugely shameful. These scavengers should now be honourable enough to refund the monies they have so far collected for the now futile campaign to discredit their fatherland”.
After the kidnap of the schoolboys last week, #BringBackOurBoys began to trend on social media, in reference to a similar hashtag used after Boko Haram abducted schoolgirls (many of whom remain missing) in Chibok and Dapchi in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
Although the boys have now been recovered, there have been questions around the circumstances of their release.
But Mr Garba attributed their release to the efforts of the military, saying they do not get the much-deserved accolades.
According to him, the boys were all returned safely, without a scratch – a feat he considers very important, explaining that if as much as one life was lost, it would have tainted the rescue mission.
“Those charged with coordinating the boys’ safe return held tight, stayed focused, refusing to succumb to doubts, taunts, and conspiracy theories.
“They eventually got the job done most transparently and brought back the boys,” the statement titled five takeaways from the safe return of 344 Kankara schoolboys, read in part.
“Once more, the Nigerian Military has delivered on the big stage. They had a plan, kept to it, and got the job done without firing a single shot.
“This is important because one casualty, one dead schoolboy, could have traumatized President Buhari and the parents. One dead student would have tainted the rescue mission.
“The President wanted the boys back alive and delivered to their parents. As a compassionate father figure, he would have been pained if one life had been lost in the rescue process. Bravo to the Nigerian Military and our security agencies for a well-coordinated and professionally executed mission to the President’s order reuniting the boys with their parents.
“There are not enough words to thank our gallant men and women in uniform, the military that continues to make sacrifices for many of us to enjoy and express our freedoms in its various forms and shapes”.
As he marks today, December 17 as his birthday, Muhammadu Buhari, driver of change and mobiliser of voters continues in his role as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, leading by setting examples as the country wades through the thick waves of corruption, insecurity and a Covid economy.
David Aaker, the American marketing guru says every person has a brand that affects how the person is perceived and whether he or she is liked and respected.
The qualities of uprightness and incorruptibility have given the biggest push to Muhammadu Buhari both as a military Head of State and a two-term democratically elected civilian President of Nigeria.
As an assistant in his office, I attest to the fact that the Buhari phenomenon is not a product of marketing. In any case, experts in the field teach that marketing cannot sell a bad product. No matter how much money, so long as what you are selling does not measure up to expectations or is fake, all efforts in that marketing will fail.
With discipline and consistency, President Buhari has convinced a majority of Nigerians and his peers who have retained him as the continent’s anti-corruption champion that he is sincere, credible, incorruptible and that he stands for good governance.
Upon his assumption of office in May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari sat at long meetings with teams led by Permanent Secretaries and heads of the various government agencies and departments. Those meetings took a few months to go round and were in effect, responsible for the delay in the appointment of ministers into his first cabinet.
Before his inauguration, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari wasn’t allowed to meet government officials, just as we witnessed in America recently, until the incumbent President agreed that the incoming President Joe Biden be met and briefed.
President-elect Buhari therefore didn’t have the benefit of an official view of things because the administration he succeeded had decided that “there will not be two governments in place in the country; wait for your time”.
So the President-elect bided his time until he took the office before getting a real glimpse of what was the nature of the treasury to inheriting; the state of security; projects going on and the disposition of the public service to implement his ambitious plans.
One of the earliest rules set by the leader at the inception of the administration was that “I will not be corrupt and I will not let anyone of you to be corrupt.”
The chance to spell out this message clearly to the senior government officials and the business community was when he met with the big companies handling government contracts: roads, railways, bridges, buildings and others.
On this particular issue, the President had this important message:”We have been informed that percentage cuts- 10 percent or more are built into contracts, to be shared among government leaders and civil servants. This must stop. We will not accept kickbacks.
“We have equally been informed that handlers of major contracts build homes for government leaders. You buy expensive cars and maintain them for the beneficiaries. When they or close relations fall ill, you take them to hospitals abroad, including the use of air ambulances when that is warranted at no cost them.
“Our finding is that nothing you give is free. All such costs are built into government contacts. We don’t want that to continue.
“Most of you have built the reputation over the years for doing good jobs, delivering them on time. So we will continue to patronize your services. But the the high costs will be checked.
“From now going forward, the added costs and all this padding must end. If we ask for quotations from you, tell us the actual cost that the project entails. No ten percent, no added costs.”
An eerie silence greeted the riot act as read by the President. No one in room complained against the assessment of the President nor was there a dissent.
A young Nigerian designer, very successful abroad produced a gold wristwatch of the famous Rolex brand and embossed the picture of the President on its face. The President Commanded the success of the young man’s brand oversea, asked him to keep the name of Nigeria flying but directed that the gift be politely returned. The young entrepreneur picked up his precious wristwatch and left.
Among the key arguments for the Petroleum Industry Bill now being debated in the two chambers of the National Assembly is that it seeks to curb what critics say is the “absolute power of a president to award, revoke and renew licenses.” At the pleasure of past leaders, influential individuals had oil wells gifted to them.
In an interview he once gave, the immediate past Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the Board, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said President Buhari as Minister and head of government never, not even once did he direct him to issue the gift of oil well, this or that license, contract or any sort of authorization but allowed all to come through due process.
President Buhari equally abhors ostentatious living style. When a Permanent Secretary, at those early briefings announced to him that he was in receipt of N400 million from the treasury for the purchase of new cars for his office, the President’s question was, “what is wrong with the cars left behind by the former President? They are alright for my use.” He continued to use those Jonathan cars until just a year ago when one of the two Mercedes Benz cars broke down on the way to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
That his austere and disciplined lifestyle were not a make-believe was on public display when the enterprising photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo captured the President in a picture he was watching a football match at home in Daura.
Without meaning to do that, that iconic picture put out for the public to see the austere furnishings including a TV set not bigger than 36 inches wide. A picture tells more than a thousand words.
Nigerians in thousands were caught saying, “wow, is this all that the President could have at home?”
In seeking a holistic approach against corruption, the President has spoken all the time for the place of effective audits and other systemic checks. He has promoted the adoption of e-government initiatives and innovative technology. He found very progressive policies on the drawing boards, the Bank verification Number, BVN; the Treasury single Account and the IPPIS Payroll service which the previous government failed to implement and promptly put the mechanism in place for their implementation. Arising from this, gains from savings are today being counted in trillions of naira. In dealing with contractors and contacts, that is where you find oil in the hands of many leaders.
Everyone knows by now that President Buhari does not use power, discretionary or otherwise, to issue contracts. Open bidding is the way to go and when approvals are needed, President-in-Council insists that the path to due process must be followed. The bidding process must be disclosed, company directors must be listed and a due process certificate must accompany the request for each approval.
Because cash or cheque payments are no longer in fashion, contractors get paid without person to person interaction to reduce corruption. Using information technology, the arrival of the “alert” tells the contractors that the their payment is on account. Each government payment of five million Naira and above must be on public display in the GIFMIS (Government Integrated Financial Management Information System) that seeks to stem the tide of corruption.
President Buhari believes that the road to reduced corruption in Nigeria and elsewhere is not an easy one. One experience he never forgets to speak about is that in which the counterrevolutionary elements who threw him out of office as Military Head of State in the 80s locked him up in detention, set free all those he detained and returned to them in full the proceeds of their corruption. Now he says, I follow the due process of the law. Beyond that, we will auction whatever we have taken from the corrupt, use the money to serve the people so that there will be nothing to be returned when others succeed us after the completion of our term.
As I write, Committees under the Ministry of Justice have been set up to sell off all seized assets – aircraft, boats, cars, buildings, factories and so forth.
Beyond the unyielding determination to lead by setting examples, President Buhari strongly believes that there must be consequences for corruption. When government leaders or officials commit acts of corruption and there are no consequences, the ones that come after them will engage in corruption with even greater vigar.
Our President is determined to keep this lesson in place, and the best way to showing the seriousness of commitment is to lead by example.
The Presidency has insisted that it will not respond to comments suggesting Nigeria is on the brink of disintegration if President Muhammadu Buhari does not “do one thing or another.”
The Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a series of tweets on Friday described as ‘unpatriotic outbursts’ comments suggesting that Nigeria will break up.
He said these comments are both “unhelpful and unwarranted” and the Federal Government will not succumb to threats.
“Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the President’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of a health crisis,” Shehu said.
See his full statement below…
The Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the President to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up.”
This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are both unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it at a time of the Covid-19 health crisis.
Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the President’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of a health crisis.
The President as an elected leader under this constitution will continue to work with patriotic Nigerians, through and in line with the Parliamentary processes to finding solutions to structural and other impediments to the growth and wellbeing of the nation and its people.
THE Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the President to to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up.”
The Presidency has assured that Nigeria will continue giving its unflinching support to ensure that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wins the race to become Director-General World Trade Organisation (WTO).
In an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, the Presidency through Mr Garba Shehu stated that no stone will be left unturned as Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala moves to make history.
The spokesman said President Buhari has been reaching out to world leaders on the matter.
“President Buhari has been talking to all world leaders, at some point, Ngozi had a list of those to be talked to, so President Buhari talked to them, some to thank for being so strong in their support, some may be to be encouraged to firm up their support for her candidacy and we are seeing the result of this,” Mr Shehu asserted.
Though the president’s special media aide was not certain if Buhari had recently spoken to President Donald Trump regarding Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy, he, however, noted that the Buhari-led government is determined to see that she (Okonjo-Iweala) will be the first African to clinch the DG position at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The Presidency has continued to defend the recent hike in petrol prices, as spokesman Garba Shehu on Friday questioned how many Nigerians benefit from low fuel charges.
The Buhari administration earlier this year put in motion plans to cut out fuel subsidy and deregulate the petroleum downstream sector.
Since then, prices of petrol have fallen, in line with a dip in international demand attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, in September, the price of petrol went up, sparking outrage among many Nigerians.
Some have blamed the government for allowing the prices to rise even as many Nigerians are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
On Friday, during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today, Mr Shehu argued that it is unfair for poor Nigerians to continue to subsidise the lifestyle of urban dwellers.
“We belong to a global market system,” Mr Shehu said. “We are buying, mostly, refined products from the international markets.
“Is it fair that the taxpayer’s money . . . how many Nigerians have cars anyway? How many of them run generators in their homes that they need this fuel for? Is it fair that the farmer and the herder and all of these low-level people in our society, that the taxpayer money is taken from them and is subsidising the lifestyle of our city, urban dwellers?
“So the President is just trying to be as practical as possible on this matter.”
Deregulation is the answer
Mr Shehu also defended President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments on Independence day, where he compared the price of fuel in Nigeria with that obtained in Saudi Arabia.
He said: “So Saudi Arabia is important in this discussion because what is the technical cost of producing a barrel of oil in Saudi Arabia? It’s not more than a quarter of what we spend here. And yet you see that they charge more than Nigeria. How much comes to Nigeria? One, you look at their technical cost. So therefore Nigerians should be realistic.”
He added that it was unwise for the government to continue to determine prices and be an active player in the petroleum industry.
Deregulation, Mr Shehu argued, will see an end to long queues during festive periods.
“Government is not the best manager of businesses; we should surrender them to the market,” he said.
“We have done this with the telecoms; the telecoms are serving the whole nation excellently well, and when we do this with petrol, we will no longer have to cope with queues, spending two nights ahead of Christmas travel.
“All nations of the world put this thing to the market. We should no longer pretend.”
In his quest to boost agriculture in the country, President Buhari’s on Thursday directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to give foreign exchange for food and fertilizer imports, a move which some have frowned at, arguing that the CBN’s policies should not be imposed by a political authority.
Addressing those who hold the view that Buhari’s directive is overreaching, Mr Shehu said, “I am not sure there is anywhere in the world that the Central Bank is So independent that it will operate as foreign ownership”.
The Presidency has reacted to the increasing demand for the creation of state police to tackle the several security challenges in the country.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, the Senior Special Assistant to the President of Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, says President Muhammadu Buhari is concerned about the misuse of weapons.
He argued that many states clamouring for the creation of state police in the country are unable to pay workers’ salaries.
“For President Muhammadu Buhari, his concern had always been the spread and the misuse of weapons in the hands of police.
“He said repeatedly that a lot of states that had clamoured for state police have been unable to cope with the salary payments.
“If you hire a community policeman and give him a gun and keep him for five, six months without salary, what do you expect?” the presidential spokesman said.
Shehu explained that the Federal Government had worked to create a framework in order to guide states with effective policing of communities.
The presidential aide noted that the history of community policing goes back to the First Republic, adding that the native authority police was an instrument by the ruling powers.
Speaking further, Shehu maintained that he was not surprised that the regional police was abolished for the creation of national police.
“The history of the state or community police in the country has been well-documented going back to the First Republic.
“It is clear that the native authority police that we had then was merely an instrument for the operation of people that opposed the powers that behold at the native authority or regional level.
“The country’s experience was a hurried one indeed and it is not surprising therefore that regional police were abolished for national police to ensure proper management and control which the police had become subjected to,” he said.
Shehu’s remarks come five days after President Buhari approved N13.3billion for the take-off of Community Policing initiative across the country amid the myriads of security challenges.
In a virtual meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) on August 20, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed this.
Mr Garba Shehu on Wednesday defended the invitation of Dr Obadiah Mailafia by the Department of State Services (DSS) over his recent comments on the Boko Haram insurgency.
In his appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity believes the DSS took the right decision.
“This is Nigeria; this is not Mali … Is this the first time the Department of State Service is inviting people for questioning?
“When somebody claiming to be a responsible citizen makes such a claim as Obadiah Mailafia did, saying that a governor is a commander for Boko Haram and he shouldn’t be asked questions, so what kind of society do we want?” the President’s aide asked.
Mailafia was invited and grilled over his claims on a radio programme that the insurgents in the North East were enjoying the support of some governors.
This sparked an outcry with calls for investigations while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) imposed a sanction of N500,000 on the station over what it called unprofessional broadcast.
In his reaction, Shehu took a swipe at those criticising the DSS for the invitation extended to the former CBN deputy governor.
According to him, people find it difficult to adhere to the laws of the country when they are compelled to be law-abiding in foreign nations.
The presidential aide said, “We are living in a country of people who will go to the UK and America and obey all the laws and in our country, when there is enforcement, they start crying… so, what is political about it?”
He also backed the increase in the fine for hate speech to N500,000, stressing that the current amount was still not enough to tackle the menace.
“As for the increase in the charge against hate speech, perhaps it’s the assessment of the minister,” Shehu said.
He added, “The N500,000 that was emplaced was not being respected, it was not effective in curtailing these things because somebody picking rumour and is going to the radio to announce that … come on, what are we dealing with?
“There has to be law enforcement in this country as it is happening with our citizens when they go outside the country.”
The Presidency says the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has no moral ground to question President Muhammadu Buhari’s war against corruption.
In a communique on Sunday, the Presidency through Mr. Garba Shehu said that the PDP which has been struggling to clear its name from alleged deals with the underworld in Dubai and the United States has, to its surprise, found the voice to attack the anti-corruption war of the Muhammadu Buhari administration following the President’s endorsement of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the All Progressives Congress, APC’s “dashing” candidate for the governorship election in Edo State.
The PDP had in an earlier statement noted that prior to endorsing Osagie Ize-Iyamu, President Buhari ought to have been aware that the APC candidate is standing trial for corruption.
According to the PDP, the President’s endorsement is a dent on the government’s war against corruption, a war which the PDP says has become a failure.
In his reply to the PDP, Mr Shehu said the party has forgotten its own history and antecedents.
He asked the PDP to first withdraw the governorship nominations it gave to Ahmadu Fintiri and Bala Mohammed of Adamawa and Bauchi States respectively before it opens its mouth and talks on the efforts of the present administration in fighting corruption.
Mr. Shehu asked the PDP to either withdraw the governorship nomination aforementioned or else, it should “shut its mouth” forever and leave the Buhari-led administration to do what the opposition party dares not attempt.
He said both PDP governors were actually on bail from criminal trial on several counts of fraud and embezzlement.
Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, July 1, 2016 granted bail to the former acting governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri.
He was charged on June 30, 2016 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside his company, Mayim Construction and Properties Limited on a five-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N2.9 billion.
In the case of Bala Mohammed, the PDP Governor of Bauchi State, the EFCC, on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, arraigned the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, before Justice A. M. Talba of the Federal Capital Territory, High Court sitting in Gudu, Abuja, on a six-count charge bordering on abuse of office, false declaration of assets and fraud to the tune of N864 million.
“Bala, while in office as minister, allegedly received N550 million as bribe from Aso Savings and Loans Limited with respect to some properties in the Asokoro area of Abuja.
“He is said to have corruptly abused his position as Board Chairman of Aso Savings by allocating four numbers fully detached duplexes and 11 numbers semi-detached duplexes valued at N314 million through the Presidential Taskforce on Sale of Government Houses, to himself.
“The former minister is also accused of making false declaration of his assets.”
Pastor Ize-Iyamu is being prosecuted by the EFCC alongside Lucky Imasuen, former deputy governor of Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih, PDP Chairman in Edo State and other leaders of the party in the state, Tony Aziegbemi and Efe Erimuoghae.
The presidential spokesman reminded the PDP that under the country‘s laws, only the courts can convict, adding that “A suspect remains a suspect until conviction. But, if in the view of the PDP, a suspect is guilty as charged, then they must show examples by withdrawing the nomination of their governors and the party’s numerous Senators and other legislators standing trial in various courts of the country.
“A party which 16 years in office destroyed the country’s economy and infrastructure has no moral authority to criticize the accelerated infrastructure development drive, largely drawing its energy from the Buhari anti-corruption campaign.
“A government that sees corruption in the past administration and sees corruption in its own administration, and fights it with equal gusto, cannot be placed on the same scale with those who, by their words and deeds said corruption is a way of life and Nigerians should learn to live with it.
“This clean-up drive by the President Buhari administration will only speed up with the ongoing investigations and trials.”
He insisted that the current administration’s cleansing exercise of the government, politics and economy in line with the zero tolerance for corruption, will not be distracted.