President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in the United States vowed that his administration would trace the accounts of individuals who stashed away ill-gotten oil money, freeze and recover the loot and prosecute the culprits.
Reacting to questions from members of Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) in the US and Canada at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC on the third day of his visit, the President 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 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 NNPC had only two traceable accounts before paying oil proceeds into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), “now everybody is doing anyhow.”
Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity in a statement on Wednesday, said the President expressed skepticism about the existence of oil subsidy, but added that if subsidy is 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 bad governance 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 fulfill 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 attention 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.
President Buhari when asked if the Federal Government (FG) would agree to negotiate with the Boko Haram insurgents and terrorist organization to pave way for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, replied that the FG would only negotiate if genuine and confirmed leaders of the militant sect came forward and convinced the FG 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 ever formed a cabinet within the first four months.
“I am going to go slow and steady,” he assured, as he called for patience to allow the new administration to “put some sense into governance and deal with corruption.”
President Buhari promised that his administration would at the right time tap into the enormous talents available among members of NIDO especially as consultants while their requests for voting right in 2019, a Diaspora Commission and opening of new consulates in parts of the United States and Canada would be looked into.
The President had earlier met at the same venue with a group of young professionals in the US and assured them of his government’s resolve to fight corruption, remain steadfast and invest heavily in education which he said was the answer to taking the youth out of poverty and ignorance. The youth in their huge numbers took turns to express their best wishes for the President and the country.