President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he would recuperate the $16
billion allegedly spent on power by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo somewhere in the range of 1999 and 2007.
President Buhari said that if such humongous measure of cash stolen by the past administration was utilized to create infrastructure, the nation would have been exceptional than what it is today.
Buhari, who was in Dubai for the 9th Annual Investment Meeting in Dubai, reaffirmed his commitment to probe the fund on Tuesday during a town-hall meeting with Nigerians community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Nigerian President had earlier on Tuesday, met with the President of UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayan, where they held bilateral discussions.
He said: “I think one of the leaders of those administrations made a slip tongue by saying that they spent $16 billion, not Naira on power. But, where is the power and where is the $16bn? Maybe eventually by the end of this term, I will get at it.
“So, whoever calls me ‘Baba go slow’, I’m very cautious of historical antecedents. Since I was in a hurry, I was locked up, I’m going slow so that I can survive.”
The president reminded the Nigerian community that “As you know, the roads, some of them were not rehabilitated since what used to be the PTF. From Abuja to Onitsha, from Abuja to Port Harcourt, back and other roads. Equipment in hospitals and other institutions.
“I was forced to go to public so many times. What Nigeria was earning between 1999 and 2014 from crude oil production was 2.1m barrel per day, the barrel of Nigerian crude was $100 per barrel, it went up to $143.
So, Nigeria was earning 2.1m times $100, times 16 years. But look at the condition of our infrastructure when we came; the roads, the rail was killed and you know there was no power.”
Speaking on his second term and what Nigerians should expect, President Buhari said that he was very impressed by the turnout in every state of the federation, assuring that he will deliver on his campaign promises which centred on economy, security and anti-corruption.
On treasury looters, he said: “People said that I bark but I cannot bite, Baba go slow; I have once ruled this country. Some of you know that once upon a time, I came in uniform and what I did was to arrest from the president downward.
The president, Vice President, the governors and ministers. Other than the president and the vice president, the others I put them in KiriKiri, and I told them they are guilty until they can prove themselves innocent.
And you know subsequently what happened- we put about six tribunals based on the geopolitical zones, and those who were ministers and governors were asked to justify what they have in the banks and physical on the ground relative to their legitimate earnings.
There were only two Nigerians then to my knowledge who were found to be very Honourable, both of them are dead now: Biliyaminu Usman, a junior minister, from Jigawa State, and Adamu Chiroma, a minister of finance and governor of central bank.
They were incredible Nigerians. But you know what happened, eventually, I myself was arrested. I was put in detention for three and a quarter years. Luckily for me, I was so stupid, I didn’t take anybody’s money, so there was no bad publicity for me because they couldn’t find anything against me.
Eventually I was released, and that was why I made up my mind to enter partisan politics. You also know what happened, I tried three times, and I managed to succeed the fourth time.
And the three times I tried, 2003; 2007, and 2011, I ended up in Supreme Court. All the time, I was claiming that I was actually the person who won the election but I was rigged out.
But because I was in the opposition, I never won any of the cases until God brought technology- Permanent Voter Card (PVC) and so on.
“The fourth time, before they realised it, I won the election. So there was nothing anybody could do.
“I may be ‘Baba go slow’ but I didn’t loot. People have to be proven guilty before they are locked up. All that I have to do it to tell the police, and DSS that somebody has so many houses, he has so many investments and his salary is this.
Recently, the EFCC placed an advert in some of the national newspapers and showed how much was recovered in term of fixed assets and money.
“But what this administration did is to encourage Treasury Single Account (TSA), where government revenue goes to. If you see how the money goes in, and how it goes out, you can follow it.
Before everybody was doing his own thing. You had ministry with 20 accounts. The office of the Auditor General of the Federation or the Accountant General cannot follow it.
“So, when we came, we said there must be TSA, all government revenues must go there and from there you can trace where it has gone to.
It’s a very unpopular decision but I think feel relieved that people have to account for whatever they manage.
“We are investing more on research and development because it’s a new technology in educational institutions and so.
“Government is coming up with a policy of trying to make sure we take the full advantage of the resources of the country to get first class equipment in our institutions and to train and retrain our teachers”.
When asked on what to expect in his Next Level, which was his second term campaign slogan, President Buhari said: “I’m sure you are informed group of Nigerians.
You know we campaigned on three issues in 2015: Security, economy and fighting corruption. I explained so many times where we are, what we have been able to do with resources available to us from that time till now.
“The next level is to consolidate on whatever we have done initially and 2023. It makes common sense that in order to manage an outfit, whether a nation, state or organisation, you have to secure it.
“We all know how many local government the Biko Haram were occupying. People among you that are from the North-East know now that they are not holding any local government.
They were holding 17 out of the 774 local governments; they are not holding any now.
They have reverted to indoctrinating young people, mostly girls and arm them with explosives and send them out on soft targets like churches, mosques, market places, motor parks and so on; and after blowing up the place they will say ‘Allah Akbar.’
I told them, they don’t know what they are saying because God made everything good. You can’t kill innocent people and say God is Great. You either don’t know what you are saying or you don’t believe it”.
The president explained that his administration was trying it best not only in physically dealing with the insurgents, but to rehabilitate those left behind in the internally displaced persons camps (IDPs).
He reminded that “we have a commissioner there, who is supposed to look after them. I hope she had the time to look after them”, stressing that “the next level is to consolidate on our success.”
On insecurity- banditry and the conflicts between herders and farmers, Buhari said: “But those of you who are neighbours to cattle rearers, Nigerian cattle rearers used to carry only sticks and their machetes to cut foliage for the cattle. But these are cattle rearers with weapons like AK47.
“But the problem is that you can hardly identify the difference between cattle rearers from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and other cattle herders.
They look the same but I was accused of not doing anything about those operating locally.
“I took the governor on this and this is one of the reasons he left our party for another party.
Because I told him the cattle rearers and settlers’ problem in Nigeria is older than myself not to talk of him. In the first republic, they had cattle routes, they put infrastructure and even vertinary.
“But the so-called politicians because they are so much in a hurry to make money they acquire some of these lands and turned them into their private farms.
So, if you are a cattle rearer or you know more about cattle like myself, the herders now move through anybody’s land to find water for their cattle to drink.
“I told Audu Ogbeh, the minister of agriculture to look at the gazette of the first republic to get the cattle routes and get the grazing routes and re-establish them so that we can reduce this incidence. Some of you here know the efforts we are making.”
On mining in Zamfara State, President Buhari acknowledged that there are illegal mining there, saying, “we have taken action about it.
We said all mining activities should be closed and the expatriates participating should go back to their countries, we have enough problems. So let them go back.”
When responding to question on what the Federal Government was doing in health of workers and occupational hazards in oil and gas industry, he said that there are standards and rules.
He recalled: “I used to be in the petroleum sector for three and a quarter years under Gen. Obasanjo, there are rules.
“You can’t take Nigerians on paper, it’s when it comes to practical application of what is on paper this is where you have problem with Nigerians.
But when you look round, there are rules, there are committees and it depends on the leadership of a particular institution or place.
“If the leadership has the time and commitment to do his job, then there are rules and regulations by which he can go and efficiently run that organisation or institutions.
But a lot of Nigerians, they will commit to memory all the paper work, and then they will proceed to do what they like personally.”
Buhari assured Nigerians that the health of workers is clearly defined in each of the institutions especially the dangerous ones like oil rig operators amongst other sectors,
adding that, “anybody who is wounded as a result of mismanagement or bad instruments, there are enough laws to prosecute that institution and get money or payment for those who have been wounded.
“It is up to the ministries responsible to maybe develop how they can go round and ensure that people are going by the rules.”
On diversification of the economy, he said his government encourages people to go into agriculture and made fertilizer available at the half price it used to be.
He noted that the response was excellent, adding that Nigeria has virtually achieved food security and stopped the importation of rice.
President Buhari said that the money his government has saved in foreign exchange was in hundreds of millions of dollars, disclosing that the money is being put into the infrastructure.