.Says no plan to colonise any part of Nigeria
.There’s too much suffering in the country, Catholic tells President
.Presidency backs state police
President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his administration’s commitment to the fight against corruption in the country, saying that government will be guided by the law in the investigation and prosecution of all graft-related cases.
Buhari also disclosed that ‘‘people are being prosecuted systematically with evidence.”
Receiving Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) on Thursday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, led by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, Buhari also said that “the intention of government is to create grazing locations for cattle rearers, which has now been misconstrued as another form of colonisation.”
He explained that the policy proposed by Federal Government in response to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country is not meant to colonise any part of the country.
Buhari regretted that the well-thought out policy of the Federal Government, which was conceived after wide consultations with stakeholders, had been largely misunderstood by a section of the public.
He said, ‘‘If a permanent secretary has five houses in Abuja, two in Kaduna and one in Borno and Sokoto and he can’t account for the properties and there are bank transactions linking him to the properties, the prosecuting agencies will not have difficulties to make progress on the case.”
He, however, assured the Catholic Bishops that the Federal Government will continue to explore all opportunities and support initiatives to ensure peace and stability in restive areas.
Condemning recent spate of killings in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, and Zamfara states, the President said security operatives would ensure prosecution of perpetrators and all those found with illegal arms in the affected areas.
He said, ‘‘The impression created that I was sitting in an air-conditioned office and home, enjoying myself while these things happened, is dishonest.
‘‘At every step, I have tried to foresee these problems because I have the experience as a former military officer who commanded three out of the four divisions of the Nigerian army, in Lagos, Ibadan and Jos.
‘‘I am quite aware of the problems we have and I am doing my best to get law enforcement agencies to be on alert.”
The President told the Catholic Bishops that he would not be tired of recounting remarkable progress recorded in the areas of security, economy and the fight against corruption.
‘‘We have done very well on security in the North East, when you compare what the condition was before we came in and what it is now.
‘‘On the economy, particularly agriculture, I am very pleased that God answered the prayers of Nigerians who prayed for bountiful harvest.
‘‘People have taken advantage of Federal Government policies and programmes to return to the farm and they have not regretted,’’ he added.
On the question of Federal character, the President declared that no ethnic group or political zone has been deliberately marginalised in the appointments made so far.
He, however, added that he would take a second look at areas on which issues have been raised, when a compendium of all government appointments is submitted to him.
In his remarks, Archbishop Kaigama pledged that the Catholic Church in Nigeria would continue to support the Buhari administration and make its contribution to nation-building through prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy Nigerians.
‘‘As the voice of the people, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion,’’ Kaigama said.
The Catholic Bishops told President Buhari that the enormous goodwill with which he assumed office in 2015 is being fast depleted by some “glaring failures” of his government, saying that there was too much suffering in the country, with poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence and fear, among others, pervading the land.
The bishops said this on Thursday when they paid the President a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The address of the bishops at the visit, copies of which were made available to State House Correspondents, was jointly signed by the CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama; and the Secretary, the Bishop of Gboko, Most Rev. William Avenya.
The bishops said: “Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones.
“There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous.
“There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption.
“Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this goodwill is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government, which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders,” the bishops told Buhari.
“Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country.
“We are saddened that, repeatedly, innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed.
“Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes.”
The CBCN said that they were still saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by suspected terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba states, which has caused national shock, grief and outcry.
The Bishops said that the Federal Government’s silence in the wake of the attacks was shocking.
Meanwhile, as security challenges continue to increase unabated from various states across the federation, the Presidency has thrown its weight behind the call for the establishment of state police in Nigeria.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made the call on Thursday at a National Assembly security summit, as he believes this would help tighten security across the nation.
Osinbajo said that “the state policing system is the way to go because having a centralised system – as is currently practiced, cannot effectively secure the nation.”
But Osinbajo also said that the Nigeria Police Force should be strengthened, adding that the current number of police in the country be tripled.
He also called for more funding for the police as well as other security agencies.
Osinbajo’s comments came at a time when the police have come under criticism with some questioning its ability to effectively play its role.
The Vice President also rejected insinuations that the President is ignoring the killings by herdsmen because he is Fulani.
He said no other issue preoccupies the President as much as the killings in the country.
Osinbajo therefore, warned stakeholders not to allow the conflict between herdsmen and farmers assume ethnic and religious dimensions.
The two-day summit, which is taking place at the NAF Conference Center, Ahmadu Bello Way, Abuja, is aimed at providing an all-inclusive platform for finding long-term solutions to the security challenges in Nigeria.
Peaceful transition of power in Africa is no longer negotiable – Buhari
In a related development, President Buhari has said that political transitions in Africa must be properly managed to safeguard countries from slipping into crises that slow down economic growth, and row citizens into avoidable hardships.
In a ceremony on Thursday to receive Letters of Credence at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari told the Ambassador of the Republic of Togo, Mr. Lene Dimban, that peaceful transitions on the African continent were no longer negotiable, considering the heavy toll of political crises on the economy and ordinary citizens.
“At this stage in ECOWAS, we are working on consolidating our relationships to ensure that we bequeath a safe and secure region to the next generation by ensuring peace transitions,’’ he said.
The President said the political challenges faced in some African countries, like South Sudan, usually spiraled into neighbouring countries, leaving the entire continent more vulnerable and forcing governments to channel meager resources into fighting internal crisis.
Buhari said his administration will work hard with other ECOWAS Heads of State to prevent political transitions from snowballing into crisis so that citizens in the region can focus their energies and resources on developmental issues, rather than trying to survive political upheavals.
The President, who also received Letters of Credence from the Ambassadors of the Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Pham Anh Tuan and the Republic of Burundi, Mr. Emmanuel Mpfayokurera, assured the countries that Nigeria will keep working hard to improve on its diplomatic relationships, and build more progressive partnerships.
President Buhari congratulated the ambassadors on their postings to Nigeria.
In his remark, the Ambassador of Togo said Nigeria and Togo played a major role in the formation of ECOWAS, adding that both countries must remain central in promoting peace and stability in the region.
“As a big brother, Nigeria has an important role to play in securing and stabilizing the region, and we will always look up to you,’’ he said.