• To try ex-ministers over oil theft, looting 
  • Says removal of subsidy will hurt Nigerians


Fears by Nigerians that the issue of same-sex marriage on which Nigeria and the United States do not agree may be forced on President Muhammadu Buhari, were laid to rest yesterday as Nigeria’s President rejected the US parliament’s attempt to compel him to accept it.
Nigerian Pilot has spearheaded the clamour against the move with several publications, and the President, who met with a joint session of Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs, told the lawmakers point-blank that Nigeria abhors sodomy.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, disclosed this on his Twitter handle, yesterday.
Adesina said the issue of gay marriage was raised in one of the meetings the President attended in Washington DC on Tuesday.
He said when the issue came up, Buhari made it clear that sodomy is against the laws of Nigeria and an abhorrent to her culture.
“The issue of gay marriage came up here yesterday (Tuesday). PMB (President Buhari) was point-blank. Sodomy is against the law in Nigeria, and an abhorrent to our culture,” Adesina stated.
He however disclosed that President Barrack Obama did not raise the issue himself during his meeting with Buhari.
“The same-sex marriage issue came up at the joint session of the Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs, not in direct talks with Obama. Talks shifted to another matter once PMB emphatically stated Nigeria’s stand on same-sex marriage. The issue was not pushed,” he added.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had on January 13, 2014 signed the anti-gay marriage into law.
The law prohibits gay marriage and same-sex relationships and prescribes 14 years prison terms for offenders.
Jonathan had defied western governments’ pressure urging Nigeria to respect gay and lesbian rights.
The law, which also proscribes membership of gay rights groups, was passed by the National Assembly in May 2013, but Jonathan had delayed signing it.
Two similar bills have been proposed since 2006 but failed to make it through the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has also vowed to trace the accounts of former ministers and individuals who stashed away the country’s oil monies into foreign accounts, recover the loot and prosecute the culprits.
The President accused some unnamed former ministers of stealing up to one million barrels of crude oil per day, saying his administration will ensure that they are brought to book.
Buhari declared this on Tuesday when he fielded questions from members of Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation, NIDO, in the United States and Canada at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC.
He lamented that “corruption in Nigeria has virtually developed into a culture where honest people are abused.”
According to him, “250,000 barrels per day of Nigerian crude are being stolen and people sell and put the money into individual accounts,” adding that the US and other developed countries “are helping us to trace such accounts now. We will ask that such accounts be frozen and prosecute the persons. The amount involved is mind-boggling. Some former ministers were selling about one million barrels per day. I assure you that we will trace and repatriate such money and use the documents to prosecute them. A lot of damage has been done to the integrity of Nigeria with individuals and institutions already compromised.”
Citing the example of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, President Buhari said unlike what obtained during his tenure as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum under military regime when the organisation had only two traceable accounts before paying oil proceeds into the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, “now everybody is doing anyhow.”
The President, who expressed scepticism on the existence of oil subsidy, said if subsidy was removed, transport, housing and food prices would go out of control and the average worker would suffer untold hardship.
While agreeing that the “economy is in an extremely bad shape, following 16 years of misrule by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which ran down the oil refineries and had the “treasury in their pockets,” he said the All Progressives Congress, APC-led administration would fulfil its three-pronged campaign manifesto of providing security, turning around the economy with a major focus on youth employment and fighting corruption.
According to him, agriculture and mining would receive priority as faster job-creation avenues for the teeming unemployed youth, adding that some foreign investors had agreed to take advantage of the immense business opportunities in Nigeria.
When asked if the Federal Government would agree to negotiate with the Boko Haram insurgent and terrorist organisation to pave way for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, replied that his administration would only negotiate if genuine and confirmed leaders of the militant sect came forward and convinced the government of the current conditions of the girls, their location and the sect’s willingness to negotiate.
“Our objective is that we want the girls back, alive and returned to their families and rehabilitated. We are working with neighbouring countries if they will help,” he said.
On when he would form his cabinet, the President, who observed jokingly that the question was chasing him around the world even to the point that at home he had been nicknamed, “Baba Go Slow”, noted that not even the PDP during all the years it ruled the country never formed a cabinet within the first four months. “I am going to go slow and steady,” he declared, and called for patience to allow the new administration “put some sense into governance and deal with corruption.”
Buhari maintained that he would not be a party to taking decisions that would further impoverish Nigerians in the name of removing oil subsidy.
“When people ask you to remove subsidy, ask them to define it. Who is subsidising who? Let me make it clear. The people are gleefully saying `remove subsidy`.
“They want petrol to cost N500 per litre. If you are working and subsidy is removed, you can’t control transport, you can’t control market women, the cost of food and the cost of transportation.
“If you are earning N20,000 and you are living in Lagos or Ibadan, the cost of transport to work and back, the cost of food. You cannot control the market women they have to pay what transporters charge them.
“If there is need for removing subsidy, I will study it. With my experience, I will see what I can do. But I’m thinking more than half the population of Nigeria virtually cannot afford to live.
“Where will they get the money to go to work? How can they feed their families? How can they pay rent?
“If Nigeria were not an oil-producing country- all well and good. Our refineries are not working. We have a lot of work to do.”
Buhari also pledged to study the Diaspora Bill with a view to signing it into law as requested by the Nigerians in the Diaspora.
He advised Nigerians living abroad and searching for government jobs back home to suspend their ambition as the nation’s economy was in a bad shape.