Vanguard (Lagos)

23 January 2013

Nigeria: We Are in Mali to Secure Nigerians - Jonathan

Abuja — President Goodluck Jonathan has reiterated that Nigeria's involvement in the crisis in Mali was not borne out of any territorial ambition but to secure her citizens from terrorism and stop terrorists from establishing bases in West Africa.

He stated this in Geneva when he met with members of the Nigerian community in Geneva.

According to the president, "Nigeria has no territorial interest in Mali. Going to Mali does not mean that we are trying to extend our territorial control to the country. No. We believe that if we don't go there the war going on there will affect us," Jonathan explained.

The president said the escalation of violence in the northern part of Nigeria which recently resulted in an attack on the Emir of Kano is a direct fall out of activities of Terrorists in the West African subregion.

The president warned that if the crisis in Mali is not managed it may engulf Nigeria and many of its neighbours.

"that is why Nigeria is particularly interested about the issue of Mali. Because the Northern part of Mali is now becoming a sanctuary for breeding terrorists that are trooping into West Africa and Northern Africa".

From Left: President Goodluck Jonathan; Minister Of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina; CEO Oxford Business Group, Mr Andrew Jeffreys And The Chairman, Access Bank Plc, Mr Gbenga Oyebode At The Inaugural Meeting Of Presidential Eminent Persons Group On Agriculture In Geneva On Tuesday (22/1/13).

"We are gradually improving the Nigeria security architecture. So, we are surely working hard and by the grace of God the problem will surely come down.

"If you don't solve the problem of Mali Nigerians will continue to sleep with one eyes because the terrorists will like to move from Northern Mali to Niger, Chad and of course Northern Nigeria. Almost 50% of the Boko Haram adherents are trained in Northern Mali. Most of the weapons they use come from Libya to Mali and then to Nigeria.

The president said there is no conflict of interest between Nigeria and France on the latter's involvement in the Malian crisis.

"Nigeria has been working with France in many areas. Cited the case of the collaboration it had with ECOWAS on the issue of Cote D'Ivoire. Their own policy of managing their own Francophone countries is their way of doing things, but that does not mean that on issues that affect the Anglo-phone countries we should keep quite. We thank them for coming to assist us. But we will do our best to make sure that the situation is under control" he said.

On the issue of fighting corruption the president said his government is doing everything possible to check the menace.

He expressed happiness with the regime of the current minister of agriculture saying that immediately he came on board he initiated the e-procurement of fertilizers and tractors which has made the product available to consumers.

On fuel subsidy, he said all over the world it is a policy that hydrocarbons shouldn't be subsidized. He said instead of subsidies to go to the people directly, it was going to big cats and big rats.. Somehow we have to sanitize the industry but then riots came up in Lagos and other places.

"We are very happy we got to some level and we are still struggling. But for you to stop corruption you must make sure that the culture of impunity is dealt with and people who commit offence get punished," he posited.

He observed that this position applies to the government's fight against Boko Haram and other forms of crimes and criminalities. "We make sure that if you commit offence, we pursue you. And a number of its actors (Boko Haram) we continue to pursue them. In fact, only yesterday, one of our brothers, Henry Okah was jailed in South Africa. If somebody commits crime, we'll make sure we get him even it takes one month or ten years," the president remarked.

"The issue of impunity is being addressed. We believe that the issues of corruption and Boko Haram will one day be a thing of the past," he assured.

In her address, at the event which held at the Inter-Continental Hotel, Geneva, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri lauded the President's Transformation Agenda saying he has been steadfast in trying to put the country on the right footing.

The leader of Nigerians living in Geneva, Alhaji Isa Abdullahi, also listed the sterling qualities of his contemporaries adding that as professionals desirous of giving their support to their country, many of them are being mobilised for the transformation agenda back home.

He, however, drew the attention of the president to the matter of non-installation of passport making machines and the occasional rejection of documents approved by the Nigerian embassy as fake ones by the Swiss authority.

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