President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, dubbed Rivers State as Nigeria’s most deadly state, even as he offered profuse apologies for the ill-tempered elections conducted under his watch in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers states. Speaking at the first National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Abuja this year, the president said the administration had so far raked N3 trillion into the Treasury Single Account, TSA.
The president, who spoke amid a tight security cordon mounted at the APC national secretariat, urged party supporters to stay the course, saying that progress was being made on all fronts, from the economy to the security situation in the country.
Buhari nevertheless charged Nigerians to rise to the situation as he particularly charged militants in the Niger Delta that continuous sabotage of oil facilities was doing the people more harm than good. The president, who appealed for understanding from party members also dismissed allegations from critics that he had turned a globetrotter.
Earlier in his welcome address, the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said challenges facing the administration were inherited from the preceding administration and the collapse of the price of oil in the international market.
He charged party faithful to stand boldly with the administration in facing the challenges. Odigie-Oyegun also disclosed that a committee had been constituted to reorganise the membership of the Board of Trustees, BoT, of the party, a sign that inevitably indicated that the scheduled inauguration next week would be put on hold.
The tight security around the meeting venue was also not unconnected to alleged plans by some members of the NEC to disrupt the meeting upon claims of marginalisation of some members of the NEC. Giving notice of the progress made in security, the president commended the party for recommending the removal of the military hierarchy inherited from the preceding administration, saying the decision helped to raise the morale of the military.
Noting that the decision helped to ensure complete control of all 774 local government areas in the country, he admitted that though the insurgents do not hold any local government, they still have the ability to strike at soft targets.
On conflicting signals from Niger Delta militants, the president said: “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 ourselves, 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. Charging Nigerians to sustain the democratic enterprise through maintaining their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, the president offered profuse apologies for the ill-tempered elections held in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers states.
“I am afraid I did not succeed in the election in Kogi, Bayelsa, Rivers. I think that more Nigerians are 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 something by the next general election.
Noting the crash in oil prices and how it led to the failure of 27 of the nation’s 36 states to pay salaries, he faulted the failure of the preceding administration to make adequate arrangements for the rainy day even as he gave the readiness of the administration to make amendments through diversification and other cost saving measures.
One of the measures he said that has reaped huge benefit was the decision to fully implement the TSA. He said: “The Central Bank Governor, 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 that at the advent of the present administration, there was no proper account of the amount of crude exports, even as he said the administration was now putting facts together to push the prosecution of those who benefited from illegal exports.
The president said efforts were being made to articulate a comprehensive list of recoveries of ill-gotten loot which he said would be published in due course.
“We have to get credible evidence to carry out 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.” The president also appealed for understanding from party members, saying where mistakes were made in governance like in the sacking of university governing councils that he had no qualms apologising.
“So, please, try to bear with us as we reflect on where we found ourselves,” he said. Concluding, the president rebuffed assertions that he had turned to a globetrotter saying: “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 realize 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.”
In his remarks following the NEC meeting, Odigie-Oyegun said the party has resolved to frame a budget for the party, and to organise congresses to fill vacant positions including that of the National Publicity Secretary. Fuming at developments in Rivers, the national chairman said: “It is a disgrace. That is the only thing one can say. Some of the things that happened and some of the killings that happened would never have been able to happen in this country.
But the assurance we can give you and the assurance Mr President has given us is that these issues will be vigorously addressed. People must not get away with that level of dastardly act and killings of the most bestial act and in no circumstance must this be allowed to spread to the rest of the country because unless you address it, you are in fact inviting other states to set up their own military wings.”
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