The All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has listed the strategies that he would adopt to end insecurity in the country if elected President.
The methods, The PUNCH learnt, were unveiled by Buhari during his meeting with the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Lagos on Sunday.
The source, who was one of the APC members that also attended the meeting, said on Monday that the strategies included the elimination of corruption, transparency in the management of defence budgets and an overhaul of the nation’s security apparatuses.
He said that Buhari highlighted the plans when Kerry expressed concern about the spate of insecurity in the North-East.
The source added, “Kerry said the US was interested in someone that could curb the Boko Haram menace. He said the concern of President Barack Obama was that terrorism should not spread beyond the North-East as it seemed to be doing so gradually.
“Kerry asked what the strategy of the APC would be in fighting insecurity.”
One of our correspondents gathered that while responding, Buhari said since he knows that corruption and lack of political will are some of the problems militating against the war against insurgency, he would tackle them headlong if elected.
Buhari was said to have told Kerry that the Goodluck Jonathan administration had spent billions of dollars on defence and that a large portion of the money was diverted by those in power.
It was also learnt that the APC candidate informed the Secretary of State that the President had turned a blind eye to this.
Buhari was said to have also stated that there was something wrong with the intelligence-gathering mechanism of the military. He therefore promised that he would revamp the security apparatuses of the government.
According to our source, the APC candidate said “that Boko Haram members were not ghosts but that they were gaining ground because the security agencies had been compromised.”
He said that the former Head of State also promised that transparency would be his watchword in the disbursement of defence budgets.
It was gathered that Buhari “promised to ensure that every kobo spent on security would be accounted for as this would ensure that our soldiers get the appropriate equipment and have their morale boosted.”
He was also said to have told Kerry that the Jonathan government once scuttled a hearing by the National Assembly on defence spending, an act that clearly showed that it was not ready to promote transparency in the management of the nation’s affairs.
“Buhari said when the National Assembly set up a hearing with the heads of security agencies to know how the defence budgets were being spent, the Presidency scuttled it because it was obvious that the money for equipment was not being spent judiciously. He said by such an act, the Jonathan government was not encouraging transparency in the way and manner money meant for security was being spent.”
The PUNCH gathered that APC leaders like the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who were also at the meeting, urged the US to impress it upon the Jonathan government to ensure that next month’s elections were not postponed.
Kerry was said to have expressed worry at the pre-election violence in the country but the APC leaders told him that they had nothing to do with it.
The APC Presidential Campaign Organisation has however welcomed the call by the US for free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria.
The organisation, in a statement by its Director, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said it fully identified with Washington’s appeal to political parties to ensure credible polls.
According to the statement, the Jonathan administration and all responsible politicians should support the objectives of free, fair and peaceful polls as advocated by the US government.
The statement read in part, “He(Kerry) explained that the US and other members of the international community should not leave the Jonathan administration to its devices or whims and caprices, adding that the government must be held to these commitments to avoid any hanky-panky during the elections.
“On the US threat to deny visa to politicians that engage in electoral violence and malpractices, the APC Campaign organisation said it fully endorsed the measure to serve as a deterrent and give credibility to Nigeria’s democracy and electoral system.”
I can’t fight corruption by jailing people, Jonathan insists
Meanwhile, Jonathan has insisted that he will not fight corruption by jailing people.
He, however, stated that he would build a system that would block people’s direct access to funds.
The President said this at a corporate forum titled, ‘An Evening with Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan’ in Lagos on Sunday.
He said even if five million Nigerians were thrown into jail for corruption, graft would still continue if the system was porous.
He said, “People always say government is not fighting corruption but our position is very clear. We are fighting corruption and our position is that fighting corruption is not all about jailing people and showing them on television sets.
“In this country, we never had armed robbery until the civil war when small arms were being used. Initially, armed robbers were being shot in public and later in secret. But it did not stop armed robbery; so our commitment is in the British law system that states that it is better for nine criminals to go free than for one innocent person to suffer undue punishment. In that case, the concept of beyond reasonable doubt is always difficult to prove in corrupt cases and that is why they even accuse the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) of going for plea bargain.
“In the area of arrest, the EFCC has prosecuted more people and has secured more convictions than before but even if you prosecute 10 million Nigerians and convict five million, it will not stop corruption. Yes, you are fighting corruption which must continue but the most important thing is to block those avenues that corruption can occur.”
The President also promised to bring the fight against insurgency to an end if re-elected.
Earlier, many of his key ministers had spoken about the administration’s achievements.
For instance, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the recent rebasing of the GDP showed that the Jonathan administration had actually diversified the economy better than its predecessors.
Okonjo-Iweala, however, warned that there would be tough days ahead but maintained that the diversification of the economy would cushion the drop in the price of crude oil.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, said there had been giant strides in the oil sector but lamented that pipeline vandalism was affecting both oil production and revenue.
She said over 60,000 barrels of crude were still being lost to the act daily.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said the economy should be diversified such that oil would constitute only about 40 per cent of the nation’s revenue.
Dangote, who called on the government to ensure job creation, said it was unfortunate that within 90 days the price of oil went from $110 per barrel to less than $50.