President Muhammadu Buhari has explained that despite the fall in the international price of crude oil, measures taken to block leakages in the nation’s revenue generating agencies would ensure enough cash to fund the N6 trillion budget he recently submitted to the National Assembly.
The president gave the explanation in an interview with Mansur Liman of the BBC Hausa service on Christmas eve. He also spoke on his government’s ‘success’ at defeating the Boko Haram insurgents.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Sani Tukur translated the interview;
Q: You recently submitted the biggest budget estimates in Nigeria’s history to the National Assembly, and this came at a time the price of oil has drastically gone down in world markets. How do you intend to get money to fund the budget?
Buhari: As a government, we inherited N1.5 trillion domestic debt and when foreign debt is added we have about N2.2 trillion. Everybody knows Nigeria is not a poor country, we are rich, and we have human resources, the problem had been that leadership did not take seriously, curbing corrupt tendencies.
Apart from highlighting our debt profile, we have also shown the changes we have made in the Customs for instance, how; much we are making from the Customs service, how much from petroleum, that is NNPC; how much we are making from the ports. There have been lots of leakages in these sectors. If we block these leakages, we would make much more money to run the country despite the fall in the price of oil.
Q: Are you sure you can block all the leakages? Because if one looks at it, it was just the leaders of these agencies that were changed while most of the lieutenants who were part of the system of the “leakages” are still in place. What do you think would change to make sure that “business as usual” does not continue and Nigeria would get those monies?
A: It is generally believed that a fish begins to rot from the head; once the head is rotten, the whole body is also rotten. We have tried to remove all the heads of the organisations, and most of the lieutenants have been changed. A lot is happening in this government that people do not appear to understand; many permanent secretaries of ministries have been changed; we used to have 42 ministers, now we have 36 because the constitution requires that each state of the federation must have a minister; we used to have 42 ministries, now we have 24.
Q: You have also allocated 30 per cent of the budget to capital projects; what informed that decision?
A: It is a must. Remember during the campaigns, we said Nigeria is facing three things and nobody disputed that assertion. Firstly; there was widespread insecurity, war in the north east, while the country’s oil was being stolen at random in the south; secondly; there is massive unemployment, 62 per cent of the nation’s population are youth from the age of 35 years downward; most of them are unemployed, including those who went to school and those who did not, that is a serious problem. Therefore, it has become necessary to restore peace and create employment.
That is why we are returning to agriculture and mineral resources. Thirdly, bribery and corruption was basically suffocating the country. If we don’t kill these monsters, this country would go down.
That is why those who stole monies meant for arms procurement and shared it among themselves are being arrested and are being shown documents, so that they would be asked to refund the money or face prosecution; we would use those documents to prove what they stole, collect all the assets acquired from the proceeds and then jail them.
Q: You have initiated a programme in which poor and vulnerable Nigerians would be paid N5,000 monthly; what have you put in place to ensure that there is justice and fairness in the running of this programme?
A: It is not possible for everyone needing it to get it; but the Federal Government has said it would collaborate with the states and local governments. At the local government level, almost everyone knows each other. It would be easy to identify those to give who would go into trading and how to get it back. It would be like a cooperative and we all know how it operates. Also, state governments would identify those who have capacity to employ more people and all we need to do is to empower them. Our people already know how to go about implementing these modalities to create employment for the citizens.
Q: You earlier mentioned Boko Haram. After your assumption of office, you gave a deadline of December to bring an end to Boko Haram insurgency. We are almost at the end of December, does it mean you and the armed forces have failed?
A: I want people to understand that after I settled down and got good grasp of what the country is going through, we removed all the service chiefs and appointed new ones. We also undertook an investigation and found out how the monies meant for arms procurement were diverted and shared by officials in the last administration. They sent the boys to the war front without arms and ammunition, leading some of them to mutiny after which they were arrested and detained.
We have been able to raise money and fund the war. Go and ask the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa; how many of their local governments were under the control of insurgents? And how many are currently still under the insurgents?
May be we would not win the war completely by the end of the month, but the insurgents have now resorted to putting on explosive vests on young children, mostly girls aged 15 and below and then sending them to markets, mosques and churches to detonate. Boko Haram themselves know that the era of them taking over communities and local governments are over. If people would be fair to us, they would know that the Nigerian Army has basically met the deadline and are winning the war. You cannot find any significant number of Boko Haram members in Adamawa, and Yobe, only may be in about three local governments of Borno in the area around our borders with Chad Republic. They are not in a position to threaten Nigeria now, so we have won.
UK Government Has Approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
The United Kingdom on Wednesday Approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
British government on Wednesday became the first country to approve Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use, according to the UK government.
The vaccine will be rolled out from next week and the first dose could be administered as early as December 7th, stated people familiar with the matter.
Last week, the UK government announced it had ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 and appointed Nadhim Zahawi, the current junior business minister, as the minister responsible for the deployment of the vaccines.
British government on Wednesday morning said, “The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use”
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, revealed that the programme would commence early next week.
“It is very good news,” Hancock said.
Zabarmari Massacre: Buhari to Provide More Resources for the Nigerian Military
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to provide more resources to the military in the aftermath of the Zabarmari massacre.
On Saturday, Boko Haram killed 43 people with around 70 people still missing in Zabarmari, a village in Borno State.
Reacting to the massacre, Buhari, through his official Twitter handle @MBuhari said “Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of Nigerians. Everything is secondary when security is at stake. I will ensure that more resources are made available to the military and other security agencies to prosecute the war against terrorism.
“As we mourn all the lives lost in Zabarmari, the Armed Forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis, until we root out the terrorists.
“We will intensify our cooperation with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels, to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.
“As I noted earlier, the massacre by Boko Haram in Zabarmari is nothing short of senseless, barbaric, gruesome and cowardly. It reinforces our resolve to root out all forms of insurgency and insecurity not just in Borno but everywhere across Nigeria.”
Boko Haram Kills Rice Farmers in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria
Rice farmers were killed on Saturday morning in the Northeast Nigeria by suspected Islamist militants, Boko Haram, according to a Reuters Report.
The report also noted that 30 of the people killed were beheaded while over a dozen others were still missing.
However, resident of the Zambarmari Village where the attacks took place said a total of 70 people were feared dead.
Another resident and Amnesty International were quoted as saying at least 10 women were among those missing.
In another statement by Edward Kallon, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, it was armed men on motorcycles that led the brutal attack on civilians harvesting their fields.
“Armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon stated.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” he added, noting that several women are believed to have been kidnapped.
“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice,” Kallon said.
On Sunday, Governor Babaganan Umara Zulum of Borno State, who was at the burial told journalists that at least 70 farmers were killed on Saturday.
The Governor, therefore, called on the Federal Government to recruit more Civilian Joint Task Force members, Soldiers and civil defence fighters to protect farmers in the region.
He added that people are facing desperate choices.
“In one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation, on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” he said.
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