Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the resolve of his government not to spare any Nigerian involved in any corrupt practice.
Buhari, who appeared alongside Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at a town hall meeting tagged 'The Candidates' organised by the MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with NTA and DARIA Media in Abuja wednesday, emphasised that the anti-corruption stand of the present administration is now being pursued with vigour.
He said any Nigerian, no matter how highly placed, who has been accused of corruption, investigated and found to be culpable would definitely face the wrath of the law.
The president who had earlier noted that his anti-corruption crusade could not have similar impetuous as his first coming as military leader said, "I told you why I have to be careful. If there are strong allegations and there are evidence; bank accounts, names of companies noted, contracts awarded, then we will take them before the court through the EFCC and ICPC, and we have to trust the system and allow them to complete their investigations.
"If we just take people in as we did during the military and we just lock them up, the present multi-party democratic system does not approve of that. If you have accused a person, you have to prove that in court for him to be prosecuted.
"So, if there is strong allegation, the government may decide such people should go like the former SGF you mentioned; we asked him to go."
Asked why Babachir has not been prosecuted if there is strong evidence to ask him to go, which is an indication that may be he did something wrong, Osinbajo who interjected said, "I think the matter is already before the EFCC and I believe that a directive has been issued regarding all persons who have cases before EFCC. I am sure that you will find that each and every person that has been duly investigated will be put on trial."
Emphasising that his government has not condoned corruption, President Buhari stated, "I don't think that there is anybody that has been brought out as corrupt in the last dispensation, which we looked in the other direction.
"I think I can best illustrate my experience on this; when I came in uniform in 1984, we arrested the president, the vice president, governors, and ministers and put them in detention and said they are guilty until they can prove themselves innocent. We put committees of investigation and based on geopolitical zones, those that were investigated, except two Nigerians, late ... .Usman, a junior minister in the Ministry of Education and then late Adamu Ciroma, a governor of the Central Bank and the Minister of Finance, were the only people who were found to have managed their resources with integrity.
"But I myself was eventually arrested and detained and those people who were found guilty of misappropriating public funds were given back what was found to have been misappropriated through committee investigation."
Apparently making reference to the ongoing litigation against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, who is currently facing litigation at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged non-declaration of assets, Buhari said, "So, I decided to come now and I have to be careful. People are not just arrested like that but once they hold positions, if they made a wrong declaration, it is just one point; they didn't mention how many houses they have in Europe, America and Asia and they didn't mention the companies they floated, the contracts they gave, which is eventually uncovered, they are faced in court with the document."
Also reacting to allegations of misappropriation of funds and material meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-east, Osinbajo, who said he was never alleged of misappropriating any fund, said the allegation was that the approved fund was not appropriated, said such allegation was inappropriate.
He said, "We have shown evidence, I think since then we have not gotten a reply from them."
On insecurity, the president said before 2015, Boko Haram was reportedly holding 17 local government areas but now none is under their control.
He also said another way to gauge the successes recorded in dealing with the insecurity challenge is that major roads within the North-east axis have become accessible, adding that the people from the area could also attest to the fact that things are far more better now.
On military spending and complaints about poor welfare and equipment for the soldiers, Buhari said he was not convinced that things were that bad with the country's military.
Regarding the revolt by aggrieved soldiers in the battle line, the president said there is an internal mechanism being employed to deal with soldiers who violate military rules by embarking on demonstration with a view to instill discipline.
He said though much is still needed to be done, it requires more to be able to face the challenge posed by the insurgency.
"I believe that the system is still working otherwise there will be serious break down of law and order," he said.
Osinbajo said on the issue of alleged misuse of military funds that government does not close its eyes to any form of misuse of public funds.
"My take on that is that if there is misappropriation of public funds, there are ways of prosecuting those involved appropriately," he said.
On the question about the increasing rate of poverty in the land, Osinbajo said the situation is not as bad as it was during the era of immediate past government in the country when compared to the level of revenues available to the two administrations.
He specifically blamed the present poverty level in the country on bad governance of the previous administration.
According to him, while more revenues accrued to the country during the past PDP administration, the APC-led administration had to contend with far less revenue to tackle the present challenges facing the country.
He also highlighted some efforts being made by the present administration to address rising poverty, which include the "trader moni" programme being implemented to get persons at the lower rung out of poverty.
According to Osinbajo, the efforts of the government in this direction are being hampered by lack of adequate resources occasioned by dwindling income from oil.
Buhari Explains Second Term Run
The president also explained that he is seeking re-election in the forthcoming presidential election to consolidate on his achievements in the fight against corruption, insecurity and to ensure economic development.
He said the All Progressives Congress (APC) nominated him as its presidential candidate because he had delivered on the campaign promises of the party.
"We want Nigerians to remember where we were in 2015, where we are now and where we are going," he said.
Buhari: If I Lose This Election, It Won't Be My First Time
The president stopped short of saying that losing the forthcoming February 16, 2019 presidential election would not be a big deal because he had lost same election three times before his eventual victory in 2015.
The moderator, Ahmed, had asked the president if he would willingly concede defeat should he lose the forthcoming presidential poll.
Responding, the president said he had lost elections since 2003 until 2015 when luck smiled on him, noting that he had had to go to court to contest his proclaimed defeat in various courts of the land to no avail during those periods.
"Well, it will not be the first time I would lose an election. I lost in 2003 and went to court for 30 months. I lost in 2007 and went to court for 18 months. I lost in 2011 and went to court for eight months, all the way to the Supreme Court. What they were doing at the time was to write marks and said anyone who disagreed should go to court. But God dey," he said.
Also asked on why he seemed to be indifferent to the leaked video on how Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, was allegedly collecting bribe in dollars from contractors, Buhari said the matter was already before both the court and the Kano State House of Assembly and he would rather wait for the outcome.
"I don't know how much technology they used. Thank God the court and the House of Assembly are handling it. Hopefully before I go for campaign in Kano, the matter would have been resolved," he said.
Also asked on his administration's solution to the conflict between farmers and herdsmen, Buhari said there had been grazing routes since the First Republic and hence, the Benue State Governor ought not to merely ban grazing but also ought to make arrangements for grazing routes.