President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the leadership and members of All Progressives Congress (APC) to be ready to make sacrifices in order for the government to achieve the desired change.
President, who made the call at the second APC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held since he assumed office, advised the party to be ready to make sacrifices even in the face of criticisms including criticisms of his frequent travels abroad.
He insisted that the trips are necessary because they enable him to personally interface with neighbouring countries and prospective investors.
He said: “For the party, I will like you to continue to make sacrifices. I know you are being harassed since the election that they haven’t seen anything on the ground. Well, you have any explanation that could be accepted, and that is that they have three more years to go.
“For globe-trotting, sometimes, you need to present your case on personal basis to your economic colleagues and neighbours. Nothing is better than personal touch and I believe that we are learning a lot and, eventually, the nation will realise so.
“I don’t envy you on the harassment you are going through from your constituencies. Take it with a lot of determination and we will be all right, God willing.”
While addressing the NEC, President Buhari said that the APC government under his watch had made progress, including the overhauling of the whole security apparatus of the country as well as acquiring military hard- and software to enable it fight insurgents.
“On security, we have made progress. It was a very courageous decision that the party took and executed by the Executive by removing most of the military hierarchy and appointing those to take over from them, acquiring some new hard- and software and raising the morale of the military to go secure the rest of the country as, then, 14 out of 774 local governments were under Boko Haram control. I have said it often that, as far as I know, and the service chiefs who are on ground – they are not holding any local government, but they (Boko Haram) still have some capability especially on soft targets by using technology.”
The president however lamented that the Niger Delta militants were sending conflicting messages, with some wanting to drop arms and embrace peace, while others are still sabotaging the pipelines which is scaring away investors and Investment. He stated that his government was doing all it could to persuade them in joining the rest of the country in building the country.
“For Niger Delta, the militants are sending some conflicting messages. Some have said they are ready to drop their arms and join the rest of the nation to build it.
But part of them are still sabotaging installations which is making investments in that lucrative area of Nigeria difficult because nobody will submit his riches to financial institutions, get money only to suffer huge loss. So, the environment for investment is being sabotaged by our own selves, Nigerians. We are doing our best with the military by trying to persuade them to join the rest of the country because in unity lies our strength.”
On elections conducted under his watch with special reference to the Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers elections, President Muhammadu Buhari admitted that he did not succeed in this area, describing the outcomes as shameful and promising to do something before the next elections.
He further stated that he wanted to be remembered as a person who respected the integrity of INEC, even as he urged the security agencies to do more in safeguarding voters.
Buhari said: “I am afraid I did not succeed in the elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, Rivers. I think that more Nigerians were killed or killed themselves in Rivers than in any particular state. At this stage of our political development, to remain brutal is shameful and as a government, I promise we will do our best to change the situation.
“Of course the leadership of INEC has been changed, but I appeal to the leadership of the military, security agents and INEC that what I want Nigerians to remember me for, even if I have to leave the Presidency tomorrow, is that I respect them. I want all Nigerians to believe and hold their PVC as personal entitlement as Nigerians and use it the way they like, and vote for whoever they like at which ever election.
If they voluntarily sell it, it is part of their right and so, let them sell it and remain at home and not participate in any election. But let the law enforcement agencies give them the confidence that nobody will come out who has money to hire thugs, give them drugs and stop them (voters) from exercising their fundamental rights.”
The president reiterated his belief in agriculture and solid minerals as the alternatives to oil. He also highlighted the gains of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), saying about N3 trillion has been recovered for the country.
‘’The policy we are trying to implement is TSA when we insist that we have to know what comes in and what goes out for us to make a comprehensive amendment to the economy.
‘’If you go and see the Central Bank Governor, he will tell you that in the TSA, we have more than N3 trillion. Where would this money have been if TSA was not in vogue?
‘’I was made to understand that vouchers would have quickly been raised towards the end of the financial year and cheques made; whether they are going into projects or private pockets, nobody can prove it to you.
‘’But that money is there, it is identified, it is quantified and when the budget comes back eventually, the Ministry of Finance will see how to allocate it to the rest of the country’’, he said.
Buhari also said that he had tried to reorganise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) so as to know how much of crude is taken, sold and to which account the money was going.
“‘I tell you that up to the time we came, if anybody told you that he knows how much of crude exchanges hands either on the high sea or on reaching their destination and the accounts the money go into, that person would not be telling you the truth.
‘’We are getting the cooperation of countries that had received this crude. But we have to be sure of the facts in our hands before we start prosecution so that Nigerians will believe what we have been telling them.”
He justified the anti-corruption stance of his administration but lamented that more would have been done save for the fact that facts and evidence have to be provided when taking people to justice.
“Again, I have to repeat myself here for you to appreciate what I am going through because you are closer to the people than myself. I was telling a British team that came to supervise the training team they sent that when I was in uniform, I took the perceived corrupt ones and put them in safe custody and quietly told them they were guilty until they could prove themselves innocent. But now under multiparty democratic system, I see some of them ride Rolls Royce, some of them have built estates here, but they are innocent until we can prove them guilty.
“This situation is true and you don’t need to stretch your imagination to find out. If you can find out, you discover that a grade level 08 officer has five houses, while you, as a permanent secretary or commissioner, are still living in a rented house. That is the credible thing to do now.
We have to get credible evidence to carry our successful prosecution and get judgement from the judiciary. But effort is being made to give a list of recoveries in whatever currencies so far so that Nigerians will know that it is not all about long stories.”
While briefing newsmen after the meeting, the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said the party had resolved some contentious issues and that the party will now be repositioned.
Oyegun said that as a fallout the NEC, it had been agreed to downsize the BoT, and streamline the constitution to meet the realities on ground.
“For the first time, NEC has established a budget for the party and we have set up a committee to look once more into the constitution of the party to be able to streamline it. Particularly, NEC decided to downsize our Board of Trustees in line with all other constitutional amendments.
“We don’t have any particular number, but it is going to be seriously downsized. The committee will be headed be the national legal adviser. We will put our head together on that in the next day or two and there may be need to hold on a little bit.”
On the position of National Publicity Secretary, he said: “These are constitutional matters. The zone may have to now propose a replacement. It is part of the decisions of today that we are going to have congresses all over the nation to fill all vacancies at all levels of the party which resulted from victory at the election by party officials who decided to contest, appointments at federal level and at state levels.
“There are allot of vacancies and we need congresses because that is what the constitution provides. No day has been fixed for the congresses because we just took the decision today and we are going to work on it.”