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Treasury looters for trial soon, says Buhari

By Mohammed Abubakar and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
12 August 2015   |   2:14 am
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has given assurance that prosecution of those who stole the nation’s resources would begin in a matter of weeks.

Former Head of State and Chairman, 2015 Election Peace Committee, Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami (left); Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; President Muhammadu Buhari; Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, National President, Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; Cardinal John Onaiyekan and others, during a courtesy visit by the National Peace Committee at State House, Abuja …yesterday PH0TO: PHILIP OJISUA

National Peace Committee prescribes due process 

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has given assurance that prosecution of those who stole the nation’s resources would begin in a matter of weeks.

His spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement yesterday, quoted the President as speaking at a meeting with members of the National Peace Committee led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar at Aso Villa, Abuja.

The meeting, held behind closed doors, lasted for about one and a half hours. Also in attendance were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Diocese, John Cardinal Onayeikan; Primate of Church of Nigeria, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh; President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Dr. Mathew Hassan Kukah.

Others were Senator Ben Ndi Obi; Mrs. Priscilla Kuye; Vanguard publisher, Sam Amuka-Pemu, Prof. Amaze Guobadia and Mr. Yunusa Tanko, National Chairman, National Conscience Party (NCP) as well as his All Progressives Congress (APC), counterpart, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

According to the statement, Buhari declared that his administration was irrevocably committed to doing all within its powers to break the jinx of corruption, unemployment and insecurity in Nigeria. “Nigeria has to break this vicious cycle before we can make progress,” the President said, adding that his administration was diligently getting facts and figures pertaining to the nation’s stolen funds, before proceeding to the prosecution of identified culprits. “President Buhari told his guests that the government, under his leadership, would not only ask for the return of stolen funds that have been stashed in foreign banks, but will also ensure that those who stole the funds are put on trial in Nigeria.”

The President also said that as part of actions to address the national problems his government inherited, his administration was reorganising Nigeria’s revenue generating institutions.

He explained that a single treasury account had been established for all Federal revenue to ensure greater probity, transparency and accountability in the collection, disbursement and utilisation of national funds. “We have really degenerated as a country.

Our national institutions, including the military, which did wonderfully on foreign missions in the past, have been compromised. But we are doing something about it.

The military is now retraining and morale has been resuscitated. “As Petroleum minister under Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1970s, I could not travel abroad until I had taken a memo to the Federal Executive Council asking for estacode. Now, everybody does what he wants.

That is why security-wise and economically, we are in trouble,” the President said. Speaking to State House correspondents at the behest of Gen. Abubakar, Kukah said the meeting harped on the need to stabilise the polity after the March and April general elections which Buhari won at the expense of Jonathan.

The cleric denied media reports that the meeting was prompted by reports that Jonathan had complained to Abubakar about alleged harassment of officials who served in his government by the present administration in the prosecution of the war against corruption.

He said contrary to reports that Jonathan reached out to the committee to intervene, Kukah said: “Anybody is free to come to our committee, but President Jonathan never, either by telephone or any other means, sought to see the committee.

We went to see him after we had already seen members of the political parties and a few members of the civil society. “So this essentially, is just to hear everybody out.

The good news is that Nigerians are committed to a new nation, we are committed to ensuring that the gains and the blessings God has given come to fruition. ‘‘ What we had in the elections was like a wedding, the reality of governance is the marriage, and people need to be encouraged and we need to reaffirm that this is our country.

The only thing we can collectively be opposed to is injustice, iniquity, corruption and we all had one single conversation. “I’m happy the President also reaffirmed the need for this committee to continue and the international community has very much welcomed its contributions. Essentially we are not policing, but when the need arises we help to build confidence.”

On insinuations that Buhari administration’s stance on corruption could heat up of the polity, Kukah said: “It is not heating up the polity.

In our conversation with President Jonathan and members of the political parties, I don’t think any Nigerian is in favour of corruption or is against the President’s commitment to ensuring that we turn a new leaf. “I think what we are concerned about is the process.

It is no longer a military regime and under our existing laws everybody is innocent until proved guilty. Again our own commitment is not to intimidate or fight anybody.

The former President’s commitment and what he did still remains spectacular and I think that President Buhari himself appreciates that.’’

A source at the meeting had told The Guardian in confidence that Jonathan had indeed complained to the committee about what he referred to as the selective nature of Buhari’s war against graft.

The source said Jonathan made it clear he would have preferred all previous administrations being subjected to the probe rather than the present situation where only his administration is the target for probe.