President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday broke his silence on the controversial Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) gas project and the curious $9.6billion judgement awarded against Nigeria by a United Kingdom (UK) court.
Buhari told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session where he featured as the fifth speaker that the contract was an attempt to swindle Nigeria of billions of dollars.
Before yesterday, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the attorney-general of the federation and justice minister, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had inundated Nigerians and the international community on the P&ID scam.
Presenting Nigeria's National Statement on the first day of the General Debate to the 74th Session of UNGA74, Buhari said that "we are giving notice to international criminal groups by the vigorous prosecution of the P&ID scam attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars."
The Nigerian leader, in a statement issued by his special adviser on media, Mr. Femi Adesina, said that his administration was tackling corruption head on.
While holding the social media responsible for various crimes such as mass killings, President Buhari charged major technology companies to be alive to their duties to humanity, cautioning that "they cannot be allowed to continue to facilitate the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic and false messages capable of inciting communities against one another, leading to the loss of many lives. This could tear some countries apart."
He declared that, "no threat is more potent than poverty and exclusion," adding that "they are the foul sources from which common criminality, insurgency, cross-border crimes, human trafficking, and its terrible consequences draw their inspiration."
Buhari, who described poverty "as one of the greatest challenges facing our world," said that, "its eradication is an indispensable requirement for achieving sustainable development."
As he reeled out his administration's efforts to overcoming the challenge, the president said that Nigeria had developed a National Social Investment Programme - a pro-poor scheme that targets the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country.
He said: "Under this initiative, easy access to financial services are facilitated to our traders, artisans, market women, and co-operative societies. This type of initiative can help lessen and eventually eliminate mass poverty in Africa.
"At the core of our efforts to build an inclusive society, our programmes are focused on youth and women empowerment. These programmes aim at ensuring women and youth participation in governance, industry, climate action and agriculture," Buhari said.
On the 2019 presidential elections, Buhari explained that "our people backed the politics of tolerance, inclusion and community over the politics of protest and division.
"Our country is no exception. Nigeria is a nation of nearly 200 million people of diverse groups. Our diversity is our source of strength which is why in elections this year our people backed the politics of tolerance, inclusion and community over the politics of protest and division.
"Our election promises emphasised political stability, freedom and prosperity, tackling poverty, schooling our young and providing them with the tools to build better lives. We are placing special emphasis on the role of women in our female gender advancement programmes.
"Our progress and delivery are deliberate, purposeful and measured. We clearly appreciate there are no quick fixes to complex challenges," he stated.
On the theme of the current General Assembly: "Galvanising multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion," the president said that "these are the prime areas calling for collective action which will benefit national and global interests."
According to him," today, the world is at a critical juncture. This year marks the first anniversary of the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. This year also marks the 100 years of the founding of the League of Nations, leading eventually to the establishment of the United Nations as part of the post-World War II international order.
"Article 1 (4) of the UN Charter called for 'harmonising the actions of nations in the attainment of common ends'. These common ends include: International peace and security; prosperity and social justice; respect for human dignity, and protection of the environment," he said.
Buhari, who said that multilateralism as symbolised by the UN system had brought immense benefits to the people of the world, stressed that It had saved lives, prevented wars, restored peace and stability as well as generated economic and social progress in many countries.
The president said that "we must admit that as the world grows richer, there are regrettable signals in the world economic and political order. Millions in Africa and around the world remain in abject poverty.
"Furthermore, we are witnessing a backlash against multilateralism in the shape of rising tide of racism, xenophobia, resurgent nationalism, populism and tendencies towards protectionism and unilateralism. The pristine principles of the United Nations appear threatened.
"On cessation of hostilities after World War II, the United States in one of the greatest selfless undertakings in history decided to revive Europe through the Marshall Plan and uplift and restore Japan economically. This generous policy catalysed a great economic revival globally.
"The action of the United States not only benefited Europe and Japan, it also benefited the United States through vastly improved trade and cross investments.
"The United States and Europe have become friends and allies since the end of the war. The United States and Japan have also become friends and allies since the end of the war. This example can be replicated with respect to Africa," Buhari told the audience.
He argued that a developed Africa would not be antagonistic to industrialised countries but would become friends and partners in prosperity, security and development.
Buhari continued: "A prosperous Africa will mean greater prosperity for the rest of the world. A poor Africa will be a drag on the rest of the world. Is this what the international community wants?
"A coordinated multilateral effort should be set in motion to utilise and maximise the use of the enormous resources on the African continent for the benefit of all nations. Investing partners will be able to recoup their investments manifold over time.
"Current attempts to help develop Africa by industrial countries are un-coordinated and plainly incremental. We have the skills, the manpower and the natural resources, but in many instances, we lack the capital - hence my plea for industrial countries to take a long-term view of Africa, come and partner with us to develop the continent for the benefit of all.
"Africa charges you with the singular task of initiating the efforts we are calling for. The United Nations has in place processes for promoting collective action to combat global threats. No threat is more potent than poverty and exclusion," he declared.
To the UN leadership, Buhari said: "Mr President, the United Nations has new opportunities to take the lead on issues that continue to cloud the prospects for international peace and prosperity, namely:
"The rights of the Palestinian people to have their country free of occupation. Mr President, the international community has spoken from Resolution 242 of 1967 to the present day on the rights of the Palestinian people to have and live in peace in their own land; the risks associated with nuclear proliferation; unfair and unjust trading practices notwithstanding the World Trade Organisation Rules and Precepts; the looming danger of climate change," he said.
Commenting on climate change, Buhari averred that "Nigeria stands resolutely with the international community in observing agreed carbon emission targets which I signed in 2015. We have since issued two sovereign Green Bonds and have added an additional one million hectares of forested land taking our total forest coverage to 6.7 per cent through collective national effort.
"As we advocate and strive for inclusion within our societies, we must also ensure inclusion prevails in our collective action as members of international community. That is why we support the expansion of the Security Council to reflect the diversity and dynamics of the 21st Century," he stated.
And at home, the Senate passed a resolution summoning Malami and officials of Ministry of Petroleum to brief it on the $9.6 billion P&ID judgement delivered against federal government by the British court.
The resolution followed a point of order raised by the chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Bamidele Opeyemi (APC Ekiti).
The invitation was to also for the ministers to brief the Senate on efforts being made to ensure the interest of Nigeria was protected in the matter.
Malami, 7 others to contest $9.6bn judgement in UK court tomorrow
Already, Malami has led seven lawyers to the UK to defend Nigeria against the fine.
The legal team will tomorrow go to the Arbitration Court in the UK to have the $9.6 billion judgement set aside.
Their argument is premised on the admission of guilt by the P&ID directors and the establishment of a case of fraud against the firm.
The members of the legal team are Abubakar Malami SAN; Anne C. Akwiwu; S.K. Salam-Alada; Timi Balogun;Bradley Doline;Bala Tsanga; Rotimi Oyedepo and Oyin Koleosho