Presidential Media Chat: Buhari Tackles Corruption, Economy, Security

Media ChatPresident Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, December 30, hosted his first presidential media chat since taking over on May 29, 2015.

The media chat, which was live on Channels Televison and other broadcast stations, saw the President fielding questions on a range of burning national issues from a panel of journalists.

Issues of security, the fight against corruption and the state of the economy dominated the conversation as the media panel, led by Channels TV’s Kayode Akintemi asked the President questions on efforts to defeat the Boko Haram sect, the rescue of the adopted Chibok schoolgirls, and the recent clash between soldiers and the Shiite Islamic sect.

President Buhari expressed satisfaction in the progress made by the Nigerian military, adding that the deadline given them had been largely met as the sect has been greatly reduced to suicide bombings of soft targets unlike their audacious attacks on military barracks, police posts, and government offices, taking territories in the process.

He condemned the continued use of teenage girls as suicide bombers and hinted that a ban on the use of hijab might be considered if the outfit continues to aid the suicide bombers as higher value has to be placed on the lives of Nigerians.

WATCH THE MEDIA CHAT HERE

The President also used the platform to defend areas of the 2016 budget that have been generating criticism in the media, explaining the rationale behind allocations to each sector of the economy.

He believes he is on the right track by making infrastructure the priority. He reiterated his administration’s determination to make steady power available to Nigeria as soon as possible.

According to President Buhari, “We need steady power, railway, roads so that local industry can develop” as this is the best way to develop the economy.

Corruption

On his determination to fight corruption, President Buhari insisted that he remained committed to the mission to see that looters of Nigeria’s wealth end up in the courts.

There had been some condemnation of the anti-corruption campaign with some Nigerians alleging that the President is biased but the President insisted that prosecution can only be based on evidences as he believes in facts.media chat

In response to insinuation that members of his cabinet might also be corrupt, he said, “I don’t think I picked anybody (as Minister) that I know will embarrass my government.

“If you have got any evidence about any of my Ministers I accept responsibility and you have the right as a Nigerian to take them to court.”

He promised that by the end of first quarter of 2016, his administration “will be kept busy informing Nigerians what progress has been made” in the fight against corruption.

The Central Bank of Nigeria’s recent ban on the use of Naira debit cards overseas also came to the fore as the panelists informed the President of Nigerians’ complaints of the hardship this has caused and the negative effects it is having on students, citizens seeking medical services and small business owners who engage in international trade.

President Buhari admitted that this new policy would indeed have some negative effects as he was also aware of some of the issues. He said that he expects the CBN to come up with some measures to reduce the hardship on Nigerians, especially those schooling or getting medical attention abroad.

The chat closed with President Buhari challenging the Nigerian media to engage in more investigative journalism as this would help the drive to change Nigeria for better.

The Presidential Media Chat has remained a major platform through which every past Nigerian president, beginning with the return of democracy in 1999, has kept Nigerians abreast of government’s activities.

Suspected Looters Will End Up In Courts – Buhari

Pmedia chatresident Buhari has said that his government will not spare treasury looters as he would ensure they end up in the courts.

He said this on Wednesday night during his maiden edition of the Presidential Media Chat.

The media chat, which was live on Channels Televison and other broadcast stations, saw the President fielding questions on a range of burning national issues from a panel of journalists.

He expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far in the efforts to recover stolen funds.

“I think we are doing quite well considering the circumstances”, he said.

“We have been lucky to find some documents where public funds were diverted into personal pockets, where Nigerian crude oil was lifted illegally and the proceeds were put into some personal accounts instead of the federal government account and of course we have started going to court.”

He expressed his expectation that the judiciary would see to the proper handling of the cases, noting that the government “cannot prejudge what the courts will do” as “we cannot determine issues while they are still in court”.

The President admitted that Nigerians are entitled to know the truth about the anti-corruption campaign but this is dependent on the courts. He,  however, assured Nigerians that monies have already been recovered and the details of the recovered funds and their sources would be made known.

He promised that by the end of first quarter of 2016, his administration “will be kept busy informing Nigerians what progress has been made” in the fight against corruption.

Allegations of Bias

There had been some condemnation of the anti-corruption campaign with some Nigerians alleging that the President is biased but the President insisted that prosecution can only be based on evidences as he believes in facts.

In response to insinuation that members of his cabinet might also be corrupt, he said, “I have been a democrat since April 2002. I don’t think I tolerate corruption, I don’t think I picked anybody (as Minister) that I know will embarrass my government.

“If you have got any evidence about any of my Ministers I accept responsibility for the 36 ministers I have – although I have 24 ministries.

“I think if you have got the facts, you have got the right as a Nigerian citizen to take them to court.”

President Buhari challenged the Nigerian media to engage in more investigative journalism as this would help the efforts to change Nigeria for better.

He also discussed issues of security, the fight against corruption and the state of the economy.

The Presidential Media Chat has been a major platform through which every past Nigerian president, beginning with the return of democracy in 1999, has kept Nigerians abreast of government’s activities.

Buhari’s Media Chat To Focus On Current National Issues

buhariNigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, will host his first Presidential Media Chat on Wednesday, December 30.

The programme will be broadcast live on the network services of the Nigerian Television Authority and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.

In the course of the programme, President Buhari will answer questions from a panel of journalists on a broad-range of current national issues.

Part of the issues expected to be discussed are insecurity, counter-terrorism operations in the north-east and the economy among others.

A statement by a spokesman for the President, Femi Adesina, said that the Media Chat would begin at 7:0pm local time.

It is the first Media Chat that the President is having since he took over office on May 29, 2015.

I can contest in 2015 – Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has told a Federal High Court that contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, an incumbent president’s tenure in office can extend beyond four or eight years.

The president, who last Sunday said it was too early to discuss 2015 presidential election, disclosed this in response to a suit filed by a Port Harcourt-based lawyer and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member, Henry Amadi, who wants the court to declare that Mr Jonathan was no longer qualified to contest in 2015.

The plaintiff argued that allowing Mr Jonathan to contest in 2015 would amount to extending his tenure beyond the maximum period of two terms of four years envisaged by the 1999 Constitution.

A similar suit was filed by another member of the PDP, Cyriacus Njoku, who asked an Abuja High Court to stop Mr Jonathan from contesting the presidential election in 2015 on the grounds that he was already in his second term in office.

Judgment was yet to be entered in the said suit by the presiding Judge, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, long after he had earlier fixed November 13, 2012 date before adjourning the case sine dine (indefinitely) following his trip abroad.

In the present suit, the plaintiff joined Mr Jonathan and the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) as co-defendants.

He specifically asked the court to stop Mr Jonathan from putting himself forward or participating as candidate for election to the office of the president at the end of his current term of office in 2015.

Mr Amadi also asked the court to direct INEC not to accept Mr Jonathan’s nomination as candidate of the PDP in 2015, saying by so doing, the president would hoist illegality in the polity since the oath of allegiance and office he would take if he won would violate the two oaths of allegiance and office stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.

But in the counter-affidavit filed on his behalf by Ade Okeaya-Inneh, President Jonathan asked the court to decline jurisdiction to entertain the case on the grounds that the plaintiff was an ordinary individual who was not qualified to request court to stop him from contesting 2015 presidential election.

“Under public law, an ordinary or a citizen or a taxpayer without more will generally not have locus standi as a plaintiff. This is because such litigations concern public rights and duties which belong to and are owed all members of the public including the plaintiff,” the president’s lawyer said.

The president contended that the plaintiff failed to disclose reasonable cause of action and that his claim before the court was hypothetical and academic. Mr Jonathan averred that he took the first oath of office on May 6, 2010 following the death of former president Umaru Musa Yar’adua.

“The question that arises for determination is whether, having regard to the facts of this case, he is in his first or second term. In other words, given that the constitution prescribes a maximum of two-term of four years each totalling a maximum of eight years as president, is he eligible to run for re-election in 2015?

“If yes, that would mean that, if he wins, he would be in office for a period of more than eight years.

“On the other hand, if the answer is no, that would mean that he, for no fault of his, would be constrained to serve for a period of less than eight years. “Given that between May 6, 2010 and May 28, 2011 he held office for the unexpired term of office of Yar’adua following the death of the later. Does the constitution contemplate that the period of about one year and three weeks would constitute his first term, a period of less than half of the constitutionally prescribed period of four years.’’

Mr Okeaya-Inneh further said: “in resolving this issue, the court is invited to make a determination whether the period of May 6, 2010 to May 28, 2011 wherein Jonathan occupied the office of the president can, in law, be regarded as one term of office and relevance of the oath of office Jonathan took on May 6, 2010 in computing the tenure of office of Jonathan in line with Sections 135 (1) and (2), 137 (1)(b), 140 (1) and (2) and 146(1) of the 1999 Constitution.”

He argued that it was better with the political situation of Nigeria for Jonathan to spend nine years in office than to spend less than eight years. “This approach is also consistent with the time honoured canon of interpretation to the effect that if confronted with two interpretations, one of which would abridge a person’s right and another which would maintain or enhance a person’s rights, the former constitution yields to the later.’’

Meanwhile, Justice Adamu Bello adjourned to 23 January 2013, for parties in the matter to adopt their processes and argument. He also granted the applications made by lawyers to Mr Jonathan and INEC to extend time within which to file their counter-affidavit and preliminary objections to the suit filed by lawyer to the plaintiff.

Lagos-Ibadan expressway: FG kicks out Bi-Courtney, award contracts to Berger, RCC

The Federal Government on Monday terminated the concession of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway granted to Bi-Courtney consortium on May 2009.

The termination of the concession contract follows the promise made by President Goodluck Jonathan during Sunday’s media chat where he promised to ‘fix the Lagos-Ibadan expressway’.

“As a responsible government, I don’t think we can allow Nigerians to continue to suffer. All of us in government, we feel pained that the country is held ransom because of a transaction that probably was not consummated properly because of some kind of issues. But we cannot continue like this, we will intervene on that road,” President Jonathan had said.

Announcing the end of the contract between Bi-Courtney and the government at a press conference in Abuja, the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen said the termination of the concession is consequent on the serial breaches of the concession agreement by Bi-Courtney consortium and especially the failure of the company to reach financial close as provided for in the agreement.

The Minister said: “The Federal Government today terminated the concession of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway granted to Bi-Courtney Consortium on 8th May, 2009.

“The termination of the concession agreement by Bi-Courtney consortium and especially the failure of the company to reach financial close as provided for in the agreement.

“Due to the senseless carnages on this important expressway which is part of Arterial Route A1, the Federal Government has also decided to embark on the emergency reconstruction of the expressway.

“Consequently, the Federal ministry of Works has engaged the services of Julius Berger Plc and R.C.C Nigeria Limited to commence work immediately on the reconstruction of the expressway.

“While Julius Berger would handle handle section 1: from Lagos to Shagamu interchange, RCC Nigeria Limited will be responsible for section II: from Shagamu to Ibadan.

“The Federal Government wishes to assure that while it will continue to uphold the sanctity of contracts entered into by the Federal Government, it will not shy away from implementing provisions of the contract agreement dealing with non-performance on the part of the contracting party.”

On the legal implication of terminating the contract he said, “The legal implications of this termination have been carefully considered by both the Federal Ministry of Works and indeed the Federal Government. If you recall, we have been on this issue for quiet sometime now and we have meticulously followed the concession agreement, the provision of relevant clauses of the agreement.

“We have complied fully with the provisions of this agreement. We have had cause even in the past to write the concessioneer to detail the breaches which it had committed in this agreement in this particular transaction and we have also followed the minimum and maximum number of days the contractor was expected to remedy the situation but failing which the Federal Government had no alternative but to take this course of action”.

“In terms of percentage payment so far, this is a concessioned project. In other words it is different from the normal EPC contracts, so the FG in a sense did not make any direct payment to Bi-Courteny in this particular transaction. Bi-Courteny was supposed to raise, he would have been able to raise the fund from the private sector and apply it to the construction of this expressway and toll it for as many as 25 years, to recoup his investment and this has not happened, and that is why today the concession has been terminated.

“For your information, under this concession, the construction period is supposed to last for four years and the four years will come to a close in about six months’ time and right now there is nothing on ground to suggest that the company is capable.”

On whether it was a mistake to have given the concession to Bi-Courteny he said, “I would not want to say that it was a mistake, because though I was not in the office as at that time, perhaps at that time they had the most responsible bids, the details is best known to the then minister of works and his team that handled the project. But again it is not out of place to give Nigerian companies opportunities to handle projects of this nature. This is our country, whoever has the ability and the capacity to do projects of this nature we believe should be encouraged”.

On the percentage of work done on the road he said, “I will leave that for those who use the road. As far as we are concerned the terms of work has not been complied with”.

We need action from politicians not media chats – Lawyer

An Abuja based lawyer, Ismaeel Ahmed on Monday said what Nigerians need actions from politicians that would improve the living conditions in the country not media chats.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Ahmed rated the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan in Sunday’s presidential media chat as ‘one of his best’.

“At least he didn’t say he didn’t give a damn about certain things,” Mr Ahmed said.

According to the legal practitioner, the answers President Jonathan provided to certain questions suggested that ‘he was running for office rather than running an office.’

VIDEO: Jonathan says no dialogue between FG and Boko Haram

President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday said that the Federal government has not started any form of negotiations or dialogue with the fundamentalist group, Boko Haram.

The president, who disclose this during a two-hour media chat broadcasted live by Channels Television, said there was no way that the government could discuss with a group that is still in hiding.

“Boko Haram is still operating under cover, they wear masks, there is no face,” President Jonathan said.

The position of the president contradicts the earlier comments credited to one of his aide who was quoted as saying that the Federal government had commenced dialogue with the sect.

The aide reportedly said: “I can confirm to you that talks are ongoing at the background. But the talks are not the kinds being envisaged by Nigerians.

“I know that some Nigerians are expecting that a venue should be chosen and a banner will be placed there indicating that the Federal Government is holding dialogue with the group there.

“That is not the kind of talks we are talking about here. The ongoing talk is a back channel one in which those who know members of the group are talking with them on behalf of the government.”

Boko Haram which has been prosecuting a bombing campaign against the Nigerian state recently gave conditions for ceasefire and talks with the government.

The sect, among others asked for compensation for its killed members; that its demolished mosque be rebuilt; that its members in custody be released; and that the dialogue venue should be in Saudi Arabia.

The group spoke through Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, who claimed to be the second-in-command to its leader, Abubakar Shekau.

Mr Abdulaziz named a former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari; Shettima Monguno; a former Yobe State Governor, Bukar Ibrahim; Ambassador Gaji Galtimari; and Aisha Alkali Wakil, and her husband, Alkali as “trusted” Nigerians it would be ready to negotiate with.

General Buhari however rejected his nomination.

SERAP invokes FOI act to seek Jonathan’s assets declaration

A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Tuesday sent a Freedom of Information request to President Goodluck Jonathan asking him to “provide information on your assets declaration details between May 2007 and May 2012, and to publish widely the information on a dedicated website.”

The group said that “failure to comply with the request within 7 days of receipt and/or publication will compel us to seek appropriate legal action to enforce the FOI in your case.”

The request dated 26 June 2012 was signed by the group’s executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni.

According to the group, “The disclosure of the information requested will give SERAP and the general public a true picture of the assets of the president from May 2007 to May 2012, and will demonstrate the president’s oft-expressed commitment to transparency and accountability and show that your signing of the FOI was not just a public relation exercise but a public duty done in good faith.”

The group said that it is “concerned that your recent statement that you would not publicly declare your asset is a clear violation of the Nigerian Constitution and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, and entirely inconsistent with your oft-repeated promises to prevent and combat high-level official corruption in the country.”

“Your statement may also have breached the provisions of chapter two of the 1999 Constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, which among others require the government to take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and the abuse of power,” the group added.

“We are also concerned that your statement shows your government’s lack of political will to lead by example, and to combat the endemic grand corruption which has continued to have corrosive effects on the human rights, in particular economic and social rights of millions of Nigerians. Your statement is also inconsistent with the action of a president who signed into law and is supposedly committed to the effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Act,” the group also said.

The group also said that “We believe that disclosure of assets is crucial for ensuring that public officials’ personal interests including that of the president as the leader of the nation, do not conflict with their duties and responsibilities. Public disclosure also helps to provide a baseline and thus means for comparison to identify assets that may have been corruptly acquired and that a public official may legitimately be asked to account for.”

“Specifically, Section 153 of the Constitution establishes a Code of Conduct Bureau to ensure, among other things, that all public officers, as defined in Part II of the Fifth Schedule, declare their assets on assuming office and immediately their terms of office expire. Paragraph Three of Part 1 (A) of the Third Schedule, empowers the Bureau to receive declarations made by all public officers, examine same and keep them in custody. Paragraph 3(C) says the Bureau shall have the power to “retain custody of such declarations and make them available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe.”

“Similarly, the UN Convention against Corruption requires public officials to make declarations to appropriate authorities regarding, inter alia, their outside activities, employment, investments, assets and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result with respect to their functions as public officials,” the group also added.

The organization also said that, “By virtue of Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the assets declaration by the president of Nigeria, being a public document within the meaning of the FOI, and which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.”

According to the organization, “By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

The organization also said that, “By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, your excellency is under a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to your assets declaration are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.”

“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability,” the organization also said.

When asked why he has not yet publicly declared his assets during his recent media chat the president responded that: “I don’t give a damn about that. The law is clear about it and so, making it public is no issue and I will not play into the hands of the people. I have nothing to hide. “I declared (assets publicly) under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua because he did it, but it is not proper. I could be investigated when I leave office. “You don’t need to publicly declare it and it is a matter of principle. It is not the President declaring assets that will change the country.”

Click here to read SERAP’s letter to President Jonathan.