President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said he almost exited the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock , Abuja soon after he was sworn-in as President in 2015 when the enormity of the country’s economic crisis dawned on him.Again, he took a swipe at the past Peoples Democratic Party, PDP- led past administrations of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan for not saving for the raining day.
Buhari said he became scared when he discovered that the country did not make any investment in infrastructure and other essentials in spite of the huge revenue that accrued to successive governments since 1999.
The President spoke while addressing the Senior Executive Course 38 (2016) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari was reading a prepared address at the event when he suddenly digressed to drop the bombshell.
He said, “Gentlemen, I have to digress now. For 16 years, there was unprecedented revenue realized. The oil projection which can be verified was 2.1 million barrels per day, 1999-2015. The average cost of each Nigeria’s barrel of oil was $100 per barrel.
“When we came, it fell to less than $30 per barrel and is now between 40 and 50 (dollars). Actually I felt like absconding because 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries and we know they have no other source than to depend on for salaries.
“And I asked any savings? I was told there was no savings, And I asked, what have you done on agriculture, power, rails, roads? Nothing. You know more than I do because you move around. I have not been moving around since after elections but you do. How many of the Trunk A roads are still good enough? How much power do we have, although there are some elements of sabotage?
Buhari said he was further taken aback when he was told that the huge revenue from oil was spent by successive governments on importation of food and petrol.
He wondered how many Nigerians, apart from the elite class, could afford imported food items or even have taste for them that would warrant such expenditure.
“I was told the money was used to import food and fuel. I didn’t believe the answer and I still don’t believe it. Until now substantial number of people in the East eat garri and groundnut; in the West, pounded yam, cassava, vegetables; in the North, tuwo which is made from any of the grains: millet, sorghum. They eat it in the night and warm it in the morning and eat it and take fura da nono in the afternoon. How many of those people can afford foreign food?
“Then they said I should check out the petroleum sector. The legislature dedicated 445,000 barrels per day and that is just 60 per cent of our requirements. I said ok what of the 40 per cent? The marketers that are bringing it just present documents, papers are just stamped and monies are taken away. This is the type of things that the Nigerian elites are doing for our own country. When you go back look at your colleagues and encourage them to be truly Nigerians,” Buhari noted.
Returning to his prepared speech, the President said he was glad that Course 38 had been able to deliver on his challenge to them to do a report the topic “Strengthening Institutional Mechanism for Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Development”
“I have looked forward to receiving this report because it touches on one of the fundamental problems confronting our nation. The Report comes at a time when our economy is experiencing a downturn and all efforts are being made by this administration to get our country moving again,” he said.
Presenting the report earlier, the Acting Director General of NIPSS, Jonathan Juma said a lot could be done by the national institute if more robust budgetary support was extended to it.
“For the Institute to operate as an “apex institution” and be at the forefront of relevant researches for national development, it is required to recruit and retain top level academics, very senior technocrats and other experienced specialized experts.
“At the moment, I must confess to you that the national institute is operating below its conceived capacity due to its inability to attract a full complement of requisite staff who would conduct research across broad strategic areas of national life and also impact new knowledge,” he submitted.
Meanwhile, the northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) met with President Buhari on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja to protest the rise in the abduction of underage Christian girls in the north in the guise of marriage.
Led by its Chairman, Yakubu Pam, the Pan Christian body warned that if that unpleasant development was not reversed immediately, it could lead to a serious crisis in the north.
It would be recalled that the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumini Usman had been accused of marrying off a 14 year old Habiba Isiyaku to her kidnapper, Jamilu Lawal. Habiba’s father alleged that his daughter was kidnapped from school, Government Senior Secondary School, Kudun Kankara, Kastina State by Jamilu and has been forcefully converted to Islam and married off by the Emir without her parent’s consent to Lawal.
There was also a case of 14 –year- old Ifesinach Ani who was abducted in Abuja and taken to Maiduguri, then Zaria, where she was said to have been married off and 13-year- old Blessing Gopep who was stolen at age 12 in 2015 by two people, Iliyu and Umaru from Bauchi motor park. Her name has been changed to Mariam.
Others reported cases are: Patience Paul, a 15-year-old school girl who was forcefully abducted in Sokoto State by two men, Ifeoma Nichodemus who is 16 was allegedly kidnapped and reportedly left her parent’s home in the Hausa community in Zaria, Kaduna in May 2014 after a fight with her mother and 16- year- old Linda Christopher who was stolen at age 16 in November 2015 by a certain Shagari in Bauchi and amongst others.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after meeting with President Buhari , Pam said they came to present themselves as the northern CAN chapter to the President and tell him some of the challenges that Northern Christians were passing through.
According to him, the child abductors should take a cue from Buhari who married off his daughter properly last weekend.
Pam said, “We also talked on the issue of girl child abduction in the north. In some Northern states, some young girls and children are being abducted at 12 years old and the parents will just hear that the girls have been married to traditional rulers and emirs. This is gathering a cloud of crisis already and if that is not taken care of, it will lead to a serious crisis. These are the issues we told the President”.
He also noted that one of the challenges confronting them was that Christians were having difficulties in expressing their faith in some parts of northern Nigeria
”We have also told him some of the difficulties we are passing through. The Fulani herdsmen and the farmers need to be protected and in fact we told the President that we have been encouraging our youths to go into farming and they need to be protected and when they come into the city, there is no employment and that is why farmers must be protected.
“We congratulated him on the wedding of his daughter, the fight against corruption, Boko Haram war as people have started returning to their homes and the return of the Chibok girls” , Pam said.
He, however, noted that President Buhari responded positively to their petition, promising to look into the matter.