President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday in Abuja said leaders who undermine the economy by denying workers their benefits, while stuffing personal accounts with public funds will not escape the current anti-corruption dragnet.
He made the remark while receiving All Progressives Congress (APC) delegation from Benue State, led by Sen. George Akume.
He said the Federal Government’s bailout to states and Paris Club funds were basically to alleviate the sufferings of the people, describing misappropriations as unjust and unfair to workers.
Buhari, according to a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Femi Adesina, said “I honestly don’t know how people sleep when workers have not been paid.
“The workers have to pay rent, buy food, send their children to school and they have healthcare to take care of.
“I assure you that my main interest is all Nigerians in all parts of the country. Therefore, if anybody who tries to create any impression that I prefer any group across ethnicity or religion let him dare me by being caught red handed stealing public funds. I will deal with him,’’ he said.
The President told the APC delegation that the Federal Executive Council had been monitoring the plight of workers across the country and utilisation of the bailout and Paris Club funds by some states.
“I thank you for your courage to come and see me. This visit has resuscitated our morale,’’ he said.
President Buhari said the Federal Government had made significant progress in diversifying the economy by investing in agriculture and encouraging more individuals and entrepreneurs to go into farming, pointing out that Nigeria would soon become self-sufficient in feeding its citizenry.
“We are proud of what we have achieved with resources at our disposal,’’ he added
He also listed ongoing road, rail, sea port, airport and power projects as hallmarks of his administration’s commitment to improving lives.
President Buhari said the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria will be further motivated to work together and support all interested Nigerians to take up farming on commercial scale.
He noted that the killings across the country, including in Benue, Zamfara and Taraba, were carried out by “ungodly’’ people who had no religious or ethnic inclinations.
“We know about herders. The ones we knew carried sticks, and sometimes cutlasses to cut foliage for their cattle. We now have people who carry AK 47s and pretend they are herdsmen.
“We are working hard to secure our borders. We are going to see how the old cattle routes can be opened. We will control movement. Please beg our people to be patient,’’ he said.
The President pointed out that security personnel were already uncovering the network of the killers and arresting them.
In his remarks, the leader of the delegation said the narrative in the state about the Federal Government was fast changing for the positive as more people had discovered the good intentions of President Buhari to secure lives and property, and alleviate poverty.
“Your Excellency, Mr President, we know your commitment to Nigeria. We know how much you love the country and will be ready to die for the good cause,’’ Sen. Akume said.
Akume, a former governor of Benue State, told the President that APC members had started sensitization and mobilization of voters for the 2019 elections, noting that more had accepted the party and its manifesto in the state.
He commended the President for the flag-off of the dualization of the Abuja-Keffi-Lafia-Makurdi road, urging more attention on the Makurdi-Otukpo road and the water projects in Gboko and Otukpo.
“You have worked hard to stop herdsmen and farmers clashes in Benue. It is important to note that many people used religion and ethnicity to score cheap points. Religion was used in Benue for sinister purposes,’’ he added.
On corruption, Sen. Akume said the President has made significant difference by tackling perpetrators.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Akume said “This is a very special delegation of leaders and stakeholders of the APC Benue State to the president. We came to solidarise with him in total sense of involvement and commitment to his re-election. A man who has worked so tirelessly to turn around the fortunes of this country, deserves to be supported by all well meaning Nigerians. This has nothing to do with politics.
“I am from the APC family but the truth is that, within three and half years, what has been achieved under this government is monumental, you cannot compare this with what we have witnessed in the last administration which we always refer to as the Lancia regime, those of you who speak French will know the implication of a referring to a government as ancia regime.
“Be it in the area of infrastructure you can see what is going on in the rail transportation, yesterday (Thursday), we were Keffi to flag off the Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi axis of dualization of that road. This is something that has been on the drawing board since 1999 when the PDP came to power.
“If you look at the performance of this government against the backdrop of what happened in the area of power, again you will give kudos to this administration.
“I recalled that in 2005 contracts were awarded for the purpose of increasing the power generation in the country. We were told and we believed because we all supplied money – the local governments, states and federal, pulled resources together to ensure the increase in the power output in this country. And by the calculation of government of the day, by the end of 2007, 6,000 megawatts of power would have been added to the national grid, my God. By the end of May 2015, were still hovering between 3,000 and 5,000 megawatts, the story is now different.
“When you talk of security, Boko Haram has taken over virtually Borno and Yobe States, that is a different story today. Yes, occasional incursions in some of the areas by Boko Haram remnants. even American which is the most powerful in the country has not been able to subdue as it were the gorilla elements in Afghanistan. They are still hitting whether they the ISIS or the other group.
“So our performance is much better. I’m not saying we are America but I am saying that when you talk of Gorilla warfare, there is no way you can completely wrought it up within two days or one year. So invariably, we are on a very safe ground.
“Look at agriculture, so many initiatives in that area. So when you look at it this cumulatively, you will know that this government is working, three and half years and the results are spectacular compared to what we witnessed in the past 16 years of the PDP administration and they are coming back again, they want to take over.
“Let’s be honest, they have no message. If people could share $2.5 billion meant to buy arms and ammunition and kit our sons and daughters before sending them to arms way, then of course those people do not deserve to see this place again.
“Those people do not deserve that. And to show you how wicked these people were, some of these guys who managed to escape, were still arrested and tried for escaping, some of the soldiers for escaping, why did you escape? So, the difference is very clear.” he said.
On what is being brought on board, especially towards payment of salaries, he said “When you talk about herdsmen and farmers clash, it’s a story saying good bye. Have you heard of farmers/herders clashes in Benue again? No. We know those who were behind that, government was behind that. I am talking about the state government through the Livestock Guards, they knew what was going on.
“So it is now a thing of the pass. And as for him, certainly he knows that there is fraud on the payroll I have been in government before, everything that is going there is fraudulent in Benue State and the people are simply tired on this misinformation that they have been receiving, the narrative has changed, it is not question of herdsmen, we are not talking about religious and ethnic bigotry, we are talking about performance of government.
“If you cannot pay salaries, if you cannot pay pensions, if you cannot gratuity, what are you doing there? If you cannot provide infrastructure what are you doing there, what is the basic purpose of government? It is the welfare of the people, security for the people.
“If you say your slogan is my people first and we are telling you no my people last because you are chopping there money. So, it is not my people first, it is my pocket first in Benue State.” he said.
Speaking on his chances at winning forthcoming election, the Benue APC Governorship candidate, Emmanuel Jime, said “I am running for governor believing that the responsibility of government is the security and welfare of our people.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we have had security situation in Benue which is what you are referring to regarding this issue of herdsmen and our farmers and that situation has been on for quite sometime but it will be fair to say that at the moment that the security situation in Benue State has been stabilized and we are receiving stability so much now that we are no more talking about herdsmen/farmers clashes. And the reason for that is obvious, it is due in part to the fact that Mr. President has actually stepped in.” he stated