22 July 2015

Nigeria: We Can Negotiate for Chibok Girls' Release - Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the federal government is ready to negotiate for the release of Chibok girls with Boko Haram if the leadership of the group is credible.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour yesterday during his visit to the United States, Buhari expressed fears that different factions of Boko Haram have sprung up in recent times, making some of their claims difficult to ascertain.

But the president insisted that the leadership which the government is willing to negotiate with must be authentic.

Boko Haram kidnapped about 276 schoolgirls from their dormitory in Chibok town, Borno State, in April last year, and after a few managed to escape, 219 remain in captivity.

Responding to a question on whether he was willing to negotiate with the terrorist in the quest to recover the girls, he said: "We have to be careful about the credibility of the various Boko Haram leaderships claiming they can deliver and we are taking our time to bring them (the girls) back safe.

"I cannot be against it. As I told you, our main objective is to secure those girls safely back and rehabilitate them. So ,if we are convinced that the leadership that presents itself can deliver those girls safe and sound, then we will definitely negotiate to know what they want."

LEADERSHIP recalls that the Chibok girls have been in captivity since April 14 last year and in October last year, hopes were raised that the girls might soon be released after the Nigerian Army announced a truce between Boko Haram and government forces.

Meanwhile, another report emerged last week that Boko Haram was willing to exchange the Chibok girls for the release of some of its detained members.

Buhari also affirmed that the United States had promised to do all it can to help Nigeria in terms of training and intelligence gathering, for Nigeria to be able to prosecute the war against the terrorists effectively.

No Sacred Cows In Fight Against Corruption - Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said that he would not be partisan in the fight against corruption in the country, saying that there will be no sacred cow in the fight.

Buhari said this in an interview with CNN anchor, Christiane Amanpour, during his historic visit the US President Barack Obama in Washington D.C.

While answering question on whether he was ready to take on his associates and party members if they are indicted or guilty for corruption, he said that no personality will escape justice if indicted.

"I think I will have to; there is not going to be any such a member or personality that will escape justice," said.

Buhari, however, reiterated his effort in rescuing the missing Chibok girls and stressed that one of his administration's cardinal objectives was to secure the girls safely back to re-unite with their families and rehabilitate them.

On his campaign promises, he said that it was too early to judge him on them since he had more than three and three-quarter years to deliver on them.

The president noted that one of the vocal points of his visit to the United States was based on President Obama's promise during the G7 summit in the fight against insurgency.

According to him, Nigeria had presented its requirement in terms of training and intelligence gathering to defeat Boko Haram.

He emphasised that tackling the Boko Haram insurgency and militants in the Niger Delta region was the top priority of the country for now, as nothing will work if the country is not stabilised.

"My people want the security in the country to be stabilised so that normal life can return even in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria where the militants are still sabotaging oil installations and kidnappers demanding ransoms, and the North East of the country where Boko Haram is still active. This is the main occupation of Nigeria now. Nothing will work until the country is stabilised," he said.

On the recent allegations of human rights abuses levelled against the Nigerian military by Amnesty International, the president noted that investigation to verify what happened was on, adding that the movement of the military command to Maiduguri was part of such effort.

"Well I have just said that under the Lake Chad Basin Commission, we have agreed to form Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) so whatever happened before that decision was taken, we must find ways to allow further investigation to verify whatever happened and I am sure you've heard of the decision of moving the military command."

On the present attempt to prosecute former president of Chad in Senegal over crimes against humanity, President Buhari said the location did not matter as long as justice is served.

"What is important is justice; whether it is in Africa or anywhere in the world, the important thing is for justice to be served," he said.

Boko Haram's chief arms supplier captured

Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has said it has arrested a suspected arms supplier to the Boko Haram insurgents, Hausa service of the BBC reports.

A security source told the agency that the culprit, Babagana Gwange, was arrested yesterday in a joint military raid on Chadian soil.

The source said that the supplier was eventually nabbed as the military continues its offensive against the insurgents in the north-east and the neighbouring country.

"It has long been a baffle for many on where the Boko Haram sect sources its sophisticated weapons to attack civilians in the North East and the cross-border attacks," the unnamed security source said.

The regional forces fighting to end the insurgents comprise Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republic.

The arrest and interrogation, according to the source, may provide answers to questions that have been asked about how the insurgents were able to get the arms with which they had been carrying out their attacks in the past six years.

Boko Haram: World Bank To Spend $2.1bn In Rebuilding North-east

The World Bank yesterday unfolded a package it designed in which it will spend about $2.1 billion in rebuilding the north-eastern part of Nigeria which had suffered serious devastation due to Boko Haram attacks in the last six years.

The decision, according to presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, was taken at a meeting President Muhammadu Buhari had with representatives of the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Washington at the sidelines of his four-day official visit to the United States.

The World Bank will spend the $2.1 billion through its International Development Agency (IDA), which gives low interest rate loans to government, the first 10 years of which will be interest-free, while an additional 30 years will be at a rate lower than capital market rate.

Adesina said, "The World Bank is eager to move in quickly, give out the loans, and give succour to the people of North East, who had been long at the mercy of an insurgency that has claimed over 20,000 souls.

"WHO is also to invest $300 milliono on immunization against malaria in Nigeria, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will collaborate with Dangote Foundation to ensure that the country maintains its zero polio case record of the past one year. If the effort is sustained for another two years, Nigeria will be declared fully free of polio."

At the meeting, President Buhari told the global organisations that apart from rebuilding the region in terms of infrastructure, priority must also be given to the resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who now number over one million.

The president, Adesina added, urged the World Bank to send a team "which would work in concert with a team from the federal government so that a proper assessment of needs could be done."

Nigeria, U.S Seal Deal To Recover Stolen Wealth

As part of its pledge to assist President Muhammadu Buhari's bid to tackle corruption, the United States government has sealed a deal with Nigeria to help recover all identified ill-gotten wealth belonging to the two nations in countries where they have jurisdiction, including the US itself.

This was the outcome of the meeting between President Buhari and the US attorney-general, Loretta Lynch, on Monday evening, which bordered on support for the war against corruption in Nigeria.

The Nigerian president had left Abuja on Sunday to Washington DC on a four-day working visit to the United States.

Senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, noted in a statement that, at the meeting, Nigeria and the US agreed that "the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the two countries in 1985, which came into effect in 2003, will be given some teeth."

US will also offer training to judicial staff and prosecutors "in order to place Nigeria in a good position to uncover proceeds of corruption and for improved prosecution of cases of crime."

Shehu said: "There will be collaboration. Each of the two countries will receive legal assistance from the other on criminal matters and that should cover the recovery of ill-gotten wealth. On extradition, we already have a treaty with the US by virtue of being a former British colonial territory.

"There is, however, the possibility that Nigeria might negotiate a new extradition treaty to meet our other requirements. The negotiation will be done under the auspices of a 're-energized' US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission."

Meanwhile, President Buhari in Washington yesterday challenged American investors to avail themselves of the liberal trade and investment climate in Nigeria to engage in profitable businesses in the country.

Speaking at a business forum organized by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council on Africa, Buhari also noted that his administration would stop at nothing in forging ahead with the ongoing privatisation programme 'but with improved moral architecture cleaner processes'.

The president hinted that the privatization exercise will be extended to include Nigeria's aviation, telecommunication, energy, gas, solid minerals, aviation, health and infrastructural development.

"It is my intention to create the necessary environment for future investment in Nigeria. We are the most populous nation with the largest market in Africa, with vast human and natural resources and blessed with abundant young and skilled workforce," the president said.

"We are therefore proud candidate to become the destination of choice for United States investments in Africa. I work assiduously to welcome new investors to our country. We will also simplify Visa procedures based on the principle of reciprocity."

Buhari appealed to the business communities in the United States and Nigeria to take advantage of the excellent political relations between the two nations to broaden their trade and investment ventures, including joint venture projects in priority sectors of the Nigerian economy.

He listed the sectors to include power generation, gas, full value-chain in agriculture, mining, health sector, tourism and other non-oil sectors of the economy.

The Nigerian president restated his administration's resolve to fulfill its key campaign promises, especially creation of employment opportunities for millions of Nigerian youths.

He said: "While I recognize the pivotal role of government in facilitating and promoting economic growth, the private sector must assume an increasing role as part of the engine of growth. We will welcome genuine investors who are willing to come to Nigeria for solid mineral exploitation.

"Generating employment was one of my key campaign promises. I will do my best to keep this promise. There is no other way to expand economic opportunities and create employment opportunities for millions of our youths than boosting domestic manufacturing, undertaking infrastructural development and industrialization.

"Let me repeat, Nigeria will partner with genuine investors who are willing to join us to achieve our economic objective and at the same time realise handsome returns to recoup their investments. There is more to Nigeria than oil.

"This is why I will continue to stress the need for increased United States investments in our non-oil sector. In this respect, the present administration will be attentive to the needs of the business community and pursue policies that will strengthen the sectors that drive growth."

Buhari further reassured that his administration would reduce waste in the management of the nation economy with focus on prudence, accountability, good governance, respect for the rule of law, and strict compliance with, and observance of, contractual agreements.

According to him, Nigeria had enormous economic potential that require heavy funding, which cannot be sourced locally in Nigeria now.

"In this regard, I want to use this platform to encourage United States foreign investment and funding agencies such as Oversea Investment Corporation and the United States Export-Import Bank to increase access to capital and funding of such businesses on favourable terms. Nigerian potentialities are already being exploited," he added.

On his part, the chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa, Mr Paul Hinks, announced that American investors were ready to do business with the new government in Nigeria and invited President Buhari to chair the Council's summit slated for Ethiopia in November.

Buhari Is Capable Of Ending Corruption In Nigeria - John Kerry

US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, yesterday said that President Muhammadu Buhari is capable of flushing corruption out of Nigeria.

John Kerry made this remark during a bilateral meeting he had with President Buhari at the Department of State in Washington, DC, during his four-day working visit.

Kerry said the United States government would do all it could to support the president's fight against corruption and corrupt leaders, both past and current.

He added that the decision of the president to bring a very significant delegation with a number of governors to Washington D.C. for the working visit showed his ability to introduce reforms.

"And I might mention the president is deeply committed to tackling the problem of corruption, which has prevented the country from doing many of the developmental and other initiatives that are on the table" he added.

Speaking further, Secretary Kerry described Nigeria as an important country, stressing that both countries had very important interests together.

"Nigeria is an extraordinary important country. We have pledged with the president's meeting yesterday to work very closely on development of the economy, on counterterrorism, on regional issues, but, very importantly also, to join together in an effort to do a better job of taking on Boko Haram.

"The president is deeply committed to this endeavour. He has a military background. He has himself been in combat. He has led the armed forces of his country and he knows what this is going to take.

"So we have a ready and willing partner, and we look forward to developing our counterterrorism and our counter-Boko Haram plans even as we also work on energy development, on education, health, and other issues within the country," Kerry said.

... We'll Work With The US - PMB

In his response, President Buhari thanked John Kerry for the opportunity to meet with him at the Department of State. He also promised that his administration would work with the US in every way required to make Nigeria a better country.

"As the United States' message sent to the previous administration. .as clean and clear that the United States would not accept anything unconstitutional, that prepared the minds of Nigerians to back us and to arrive where we are today," the president said.

According to him, Nigeria would remain very grateful to the United States, to President Barack Obama, and to the Secretary of State for their support to make sure that electoral reforms took place in Nigeria.

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