- Abdulsalami, Kukah warn against military-style intimidation
President Muhammadu Buhari has hinted that the prosecution of leaders who looted the treasury will soon begin.
At a meeting with members of the National Peace Committee led by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar in the State House yesterday, Buhari declared that his administration was committed to doing all within its powers to break the vicious cycle of corruption, unemployment and insecurity in Nigeria.
The meeting came a few days after the President met with his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He said: “Nigeria has to break this vicious cycle before we can make progress,” adding that his administration was diligently getting facts and figures on the nation’s stolen funds, before proceeding to the prosecution of identified culprits.
President Buhari told Gen. Abdulsalami and members of his committee that the Federal Government under his leadership, will not only ask for the return of stolen funds that have been stashed in foreign banks, but will ensure that those who stole the funds are put on trial in Nigeria.
The President further said that as part of his measures at addressing the problems he inherited, his administration was reorganising Nigeria’s revenue-generating agencies.
Buhari explained that a Treasury Single Account, TSA, had been established for all federal revenue to ensure probity, transparency and accountability in the collection, disbursement and utilisation of national funds.
He said: “We have really degenerated as a country. Our national institutions, including the military, which did wonderfully on foreign missions in the past, have been compromised. But we are doing something about it. The military is now retraining and morale has been resuscitated.
“As Petroleum Minister under Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1970s, I could not travel abroad until I had taken a memo to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, asking for estacode. Now, everybody does what he wants.
“That is why security-wise and economically, we’re in trouble,” President Buhari told his guests, adding that those who have stolen the national wealth “will be in court in a matter of weeks and Nigerians will know those who have short-changed them.”
Gen. Abubakar and members of his committee urged the President to be guided by the rule of law in its fight against corruption.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the two-hour meeting with the President, Catholic Bishop, Mathew Hassan Kukah, advised the Federal Government to ensure that due process is observed as it launches out its anti-corruption fight.
“In our conversation with President Buhari and members of the parties, I don’t think any Nigerian is in favour of corruption or is against the President’s commitment to ensuring that we turn a new leaf.
“I think what we are concerned about is the process, it is no longer a military regime and under our existing laws everybody is innocent until proved guilty.
“Again, our own commitment is not to intimidate or fight anybody, the former President’s commitment and what he did still remains spectacular and I think that President Buhari himself appreciates that.
“So, our effort really is to make sure that the right thing is done,” the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese said.
Speaking further on their mission to the Presidential Villa, Kukah said they were there to give President Buhari an update on the relevance of the peace committee and how it could help to “nurture what God has given to us.”
He denied reports that former President Goodluck Jonathan had sought the intervention of the committee to shield him from being probed by Buhari, saying that anybody was free to approach their committee but Jonathan never did or asked for any form of protection.
Kukah said: “Anybody is free to come to our committee but Dr. Jonathan never by telephone or another means talked to the committee. We went to see him, but that is after we had already seen members of the political parties and members of the civil society. We planned to see the Speaker of House of Representatives because we couldn’t see him yesterday.
“This is a planned series of intervention essentially just to hear out everybody and I think the good news is that Nigerians are committed to a new Nation, they are committed to ensuring that the gains and blessings God has given us come to fruition,” he said.
The Bishop further clarified that the meetings of the peace committee with groups and individuals “is not an intervention.”
He continued: “When we had election, it was like a wedding; now, the reality of government is now the marriage and people need to be encouraged. We need to reaffirm that this is our country and the only thing we can collectively be opposed to is injustice, iniquity, corruption and in that regard we all had one single conversation.”
Bishop Kuhah also disclosed that President Buhari had reaffirmed the need for the committee to continue, adding that the international community equally appreciated the contributions of the committee.
“Essentially, we are not policing, but when the need arises, we can help to build confidence and in the process,” he submitted.
Members of the National Peace Committee who accompanied Gen. Abubakar beside Kukah, were His Eminence, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III; John Cardinal Onaiyekan; President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh.
Others were Justice Rose Ukeje (rtd), Prof. Ameze Guobadia, Vanguard Newspaper Publisher, Sam Amuka, Dame Priscilla Kuye, Senator Ben Obi, Dr. Yunusa Tanko and Dr Arthur-Martin Aginam.
The National Peace Committee, formed before the 2015 general elections, was granted permission by the President to transform to a National Peace Council.