Buhari’s 2019 Bid And Matters Arising By Garba Shehu

The country is gearing itself up for the General Elections in February next year and with President Muhammadu Buhari announcing that he will bid for the governing party, APC’s ticket to run for a second term, all hell has been let loose by the chaotic, ill-prepared opposition camp.

In democracies around the globe, second terms by incumbents are usually harder to get simply because, somehow, there is always some kind of anti-incumbency leading to a loss of faith among those supporters.

For President Buhari, who won with massive votes in 2015, his major challenge is to do as well as he did, or even better. He came to power with a lot of expectations and Nigerians had, justifiably placed very high hopes on him.

As we said sometimes back, he as a consequence, has become a victim of the tyranny of expectations. The weight of unrealistic expectations has evidently blinded many of the people from seeing the revolutionary changes happening across the nation.

Nigerians expected him to undo the damage in several decades of misgovernance and naturally, many are already feeling frustrated that he hadn’t done that in three years.

The problem with our opposition is that beyond fault-finding, they are unable to give or innovate a vision of their own on how they can make the nation better.

A so-called Third Force has failed to get political traction since it birth. This is understandable, given that they have promised to give the country everything that is new but have so far produced no new faces, no new ways of doing things. Certainly, there is no face that can be called the President of Nigeria.

For the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP parading itself on the glory of being the largest opposition, the party has not less than 10 leaders acutely ambitious to rule Nigeria. It will take them minimally two to three terms of presidential tenure that is eight to twelve years to reinvent the party.

Looking at the entire opposition landscape, it can be said that they cannot be united by ideology, the type that made the pre-2015 opposition fuse into a formidable challenger that pushed an incumbent out of office. There is in no way therefore, they can choose leaders with unanimity.

What then they have taken to, is scaremongering by fanning ethnic and religious divisions among the minorities especially in the Middle Belt where hundreds of innocent citizens are confronted with violent death.
Before they take the words out of my mouth, let me state that the spate of those killings are tragic and unacceptable. They ought not happen and I am aware of how sad the Presidency is about these unfortunate goings-on.
And there is so much that is being done to end the killings.

More, however, could still have been achieved if there is cooperation extended to the security agencies by everyone, and by everyone, I mean especially the political opposition. A political warlord recently ordered the provocative stoning of a Nigerian Air Force personnel as their chopper landed in a Northeastern state.

Today, government has irrefutable evidence that much as most of these killings are arising from herdsmen-farmers attacks, some of it is driven by politicians. The recent arrests by the army in Taraba State point to a clear political sponsorship, and the kingpins, some of whom have been arrested have been handed over to the DSS for further investigation. Others who are being sought have either gone into hiding or they are pulling strings of blackmail to force the hands of government to abandon the search for them.

It is clear by now that the Middle Belt killings even if they are not caused by the opposition are no doubt seen as a political opportunity to set the tone for the 2019 elections.

Another matter of great disappointment is the ongoing attempt to victimize a group of religious leaders, the Arewa Pastors Initiative for Peace, representing 45,000 members, simply because they paid a visit to President Buhari. We see this development as an unnecessary distraction at a time the country should be united against its common problems and challenges.

We are both mystified and disturbed by the growing lack of tolerance and accommodation by some groups who see it as their birth right to visit and address the President on their issues but lack the modicum of respect for others to do the same. It is regrettable that an innocuous visit is becoming a subject of needless and unprintable attacks on the President and his visitors for doing nothing wrong.

For the avoidance of doubt, the President would not want to set a dangerous precedent for the country by discriminating against any group exercising their democratic rights of freedom of speech and association.
An important motivation for President Buhari’s bid for second term is that the gains made from 2015 should not be frittered.

Buhari is not involved in corruption and is not desperate for the office. He is among the few leaders we have who are not obsessed with money, cars and homes but working passionately for the country’s economy, peace and safety. If a corrupt politician wins, we will go back to where we were in 2015.

Many by now have forgotten where we are coming from. The daily bomb blasts in our cities between 2012 and 2015 including the deadly attack on the United Nations office in Abuja have been forgotten by many. The Juma’at Mosque bomb attack on Kano that left 300 dead and the theft of 270 girls in Chibok as they assembled to write their final exams, with 113 yet to return have for many, faded into history.

We lived in perpetual fear. I remember the story of the roadside Mosque in one settlement in which a black plastic bag was noticed by the congregation as the Imam led in prayer. The entire congregation fizzled out, the Imam realizing that he was left alone only from the eerie air of silence after everyone had quietly left.

Today, religious gatherings and crowded markets have resumed. Witnesses reported that Abuja and Kaduna witnessed the largest simultaneous assembly of people when the Tijjaniyya Islamic movement celebrated their Maulud a week ago without the fear of bomb blasts.

Cabinet meetings are now about how trillions of Naira are to be used to provide long delayed infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railway, power, drugs and equipment for hospitals. Grand corruption, by which ministers sat around the table to share money drawn from the treasury has been ended.

A majority of our people are farmers who depend on good rains, access to land and fertilizer to grow the food they eat and sell the surplus to make money for school fees for their children and where possible, add a wife or two and make the Hajj or other plans. This administration has broken the jinx of fertilizer shortage and its high cost and has put land clearing for agriculture on a priority.

Loans at low or no interest rates are being given by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Bank of Agriculture, the Bank of Industry and the Development Bank. It will take years to raise our rising population from poverty. Even in China, with the world’s fastest growing economy, this, still, is a work in progress.

The administration is doing so much for women, children and our enterprising youths. This is the first time anyone has given our country a social welfare scheme.

My Pact With Nigerians Still Stand; ‘I Belong To Everybody, Belong To Nobody’ – Buhari

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday revealed why he said “I belong to everybody and belong to nobody” during his swearing in after he won the 2015 presidential election.

Buhari who spoke at a state dinner organized in his honour by the Kano state Government reiterated his commitment to Nigerians saying they are the primary purpose of his government.

This was contained in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

He said, “My problem is Nigeria and I have been involved in almost all the instability Nigeria experienced – the civil war, the coups and counter- coups.

“That was why I said during my swearing- in that ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody’.”

Buhari further congratulated Governor Abdullahi Ganduje on his development strides in the state.

He called on other political office holders to emulate and support the state governor.

He added, “He is a great politician and I am afraid I am still learning.”

The President reaffirmed that his message at his inaugural address would continue to guide his stewardship to Nigerians.

Buhari’s Food Self-sufficiency Drive is the Real Independence by Garba Shehu

President Muhammadu Buhari undertakes the political ritual of Independence Day broadcast to the nation this Sunday morning, in a speech that highlights major strides in the pet themes of the administration: anti-corruption, war against terrorism, economic revival and infrastructure development.

The President comes before the nation with a better result than he had shown the year before.

This is an important year for Nigeria, not only because the economy has just exited recession. The fight against terrorism has turned the corner with Boko Haram pushed to the fringes of the Lake Chad, restricted to hit-and-run strikes. In this fight, Nigeria is no longer standing alone. We are being supported by our neighbours and the international community.

On the war against corruption, the President, in a story he told the cabinet, illustrated how far the war had come.

Fifteen years ago, he said, someone hinted to him that a day will come in Nigeria when they will show a man a house he owned and he will say “no, it is not mine,” denying thereby its ownership. Knowing Nigerians, the President himself did not apparently believe this will happen in his lifetime. But we are already there.

Nothing confirms this more than the eerie silence in the courtroom when the Lagos High Court judge, Justice Chuka Obiazor asked the question: “who owned that Diezani Allison-Madueke USD 37.5 million Banana Island property?” No one stepped forward to claim it. It was thereafter forfeited to the Federal Government. In the same way and manner several others are being so forfeited.

With serious efforts being made to improve the ease of doing business, government just instituted a visa-on-arrival scheme at our major airports. We may not be clearing goods in 24 hours at the ports just yet, but things have changed so much, to the point that importers no longer wait for eternity to remove their goods from the Lagos Harbour.

Violence in the name of religion and ethnicity is being tackled as effectively as can be done. The success against Boko Haram in the North-East is being matched with success in the North Central, troubled by farmers-herdsmen. There is now a gradual return of calm and order, in turn paving the way to the return of workers to the farmlands and increasing food production.

In the South-East, the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra has removed tensions in much of the country, bringing with it relief that the nation is not up in flames as its promoters had planned.

​The President comes before the nation against the backdrop of a bumper farm production that hit a new record high, impacting positively on the economy by hammering away at food price inflation.

In his speech, while presenting the 2017 ‘Budget of Recovery and Growth,’ President Buhari restated his abiding belief in the adage that a nation that cannot feed herself is a slave nation. He described this period as one of great opportunity.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) defined this as thus: “If you had to sum up our vision for the Nigerian economy in a few words, these would suffice. Grow what we eat, produce what we consume.’’

Speaking on the same issue, the Minister of State, Agriculture Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, who frowned at the nation’s $22 billion annual food import bill, said: “We are at a very critical time in our nation building. The cardinal objective of this administration is to see how we can feed ourselves in the shortest possible time because we can no longer afford the import bill of $22 billion on staple foods. So the objective of this government is to be able to produce enough food for ourselves and export.”

It will not amount to an overstatement to say on this day, October 1, the real independence we must be celebrating is freedom from enslavement to foreign food sources and the arrival of that moment that has seen us feeding ourselves as a nation. Government just won a major victory against food importation and food price inflation. It is a critical battle won with a direct bearing on the budget of all citizens. As a saying goes, the touchstone of a good administration of any government lies in the benefits that accrue to the last person.

The economic situation in 2015 when he took power was broken, characterised by mismanagement and corruption; a primitive type of corruption that weakened the ability of government to tackle poverty, at the same time holding the nation from the race towards development. At a time when oil earnings had dropped significantly, President Buhari inherited a country heavily dependent on food imports but he realised soon enough that for things to change, he needed to usher in an era of expansion in agricultural production.

Nature herself became more generous. The rains were good this year and last year and this, combined with government policies on local fertiliser production that is about to deliver 10 million bags by the year’s end and delivering credit to farmers on low interest. All these, coupled with the supply of improved seeds have together led to increases in crop and cereals production, fisheries, eggs, poultry and these are still getting better.

Local fertiliser production has led to annual foreign exchange saving of more than USD200 million and eliminated annual subsidies in the region of N60bn. The cost per bag of widely-used NPK brand dropped from N11, 000 to the current price of N5,500. Growth in agriculture has in turn translated to good fortune not only for farmers but also for producers of consumer goods due to increase in purchasing power. The National Hajj Commission said 80 per cent of this year’s pilgrims were farmers. In many of our towns and villages, young men are abandoning the occupation of driving okada and taking to the farms.

Following increased efforts by the security agencies particularly the Customs, this county’s agriculture is emerging from the strangulating competition of foreign food suppliers who have swamped our markets with foreign food at prices that are subsidised by foreign governments. When country neighbouring you with a population of less than 1/20 to this country’s becomes the world’s second largest importer of parboiled rice, you know that a new game is in play.

As we celebrate the 57th year of our political independence, which many radicals had derisively called flag independence, it is apt that the nation steps forward to mark the freedom from the political and economic shortsightedness of the past that tied Nigerians to the consumption of imported food.

With every day, month and year, government under President Muhammadu Buhari is unravelling problems that have absorbed the public mind for years without solutions in sight.

Government policy of economic diversification is leading to a multiplication of wealth and riches for those who have seized the moment.

As the President said in that budget speech, “Across the country, our farmers, traders and transporters are seeing a shift in their fortunes. Nigerians who preferred imported products are now consuming made in Nigeria products. From Argungu in Kebbi to Abakalaki in Ebonyi, rice farmers and millers are seeing their products move. We must replicate such success in other staples like wheat, sugar, soya, tomato and dairy products.”

Although Nigeria is not the only country to face the problem of food price inflation, the Buhari administration had in the past two years come under unprecedented attacks by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. However, now that the administration has overcome that volley, this talking point has suddenly disappeared from their lips. Month after month, the National Bureau of Statistics reported government as having put in place good policies and actions that are taming the monster of inflation.

The News Agency of Nigeria correspondents recently visited markets in Plateau, Benue, Nassarawa, Kogi, Niger and Taraba states and found that food costs have gone down. NAN found that nine tubers of yam, which used to cost an average of N3,000 were sold for between N1,300 to N1,500 depending on their sizes.

​The price of Garri, Cassava flour, according to NAN had come down from N380 and N400 per measure to between N220 to N260.

A farmer in the region attributed this change of food prices to good rains, return to farming by the youth and the security situations (which) has improved, making it possible for farmers to go to their farms.

Elsewhere in the country, reports show that a 100 kg bag of Guinea corn, maize or millet which cost N16,000 a year ago now sell for as low as N8,000. One hundred kilogram bag of home grown rice is down to N20, 000 from N32, 000. One hundred kilogram of beans is down to N26,000 from more than N30,000 a year ago.

What all these tell you is that government is aware of the problems facing the citizens and is working day and night to solve them.

President Buhari has a vision of building a new nation which resents and fights corruption, free of terrorism and a nation in which the poor have food to eat and a roof over their heads; a country in which the youth are job creators, not job seekers.

What it means to achieve food self-sufficiency is that the scarce foreign exchange available to the country can be used to procure plant, equipment and industrial machinery to drive the industrialisation of the country; that we will not be spending all the money we earn on food import but spare much of it to develop infrastructure as the administration is already doing with power, railway and roads.

The strive for the achievement of food self-sufficiency in two years of the Buhari administration is gradually ushering in the real independence for the people of Nigeria without any dramatic flair. In the coming years, government policy as manifested by the school feeding programme will take us from food security to nutrition security and hopefully, to a country in which no one is hungry. A country in which the people grow what we eat, and eat what we grow.

Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

The Ecological Fund And The Cans of Worms, By Dan Agbese

Mallam Garba Shehu put me to this. In an FRCN programme last week, the suave senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity asked us to get into the habit of interrogating our governors and local government chairmen on how they have been spending the ecological fund given to them every month.

My antenna went up. I do not know much about the fund. I have taken no special interest in it. Shehu said that the states and local governments receive 1.4 per cent from the federation account as ecological fund while the Federal Government takes only one per cent every month. And yet, when the ecology, in a bad mood, visits our communities with disaster, as in devastating floods in Benue and Kogi states, we tend to excoriate the Federal Government for either letting it happen or leaving the victims without succor or both. He thought it was unfair. I thought so too.

So, I set off on the trail of the ecological fund. And I stepped into a cesspit of opacity, lies, obfuscation, a web of mind-boggling corruption and criminal deceit in how the fund is supposedly spent in tackling the challenges of ecological problems caused by man or nature. In other words, the fund is infected with the Nigerian virus. The more we wish to know, the less we know.

First, I stepped a few steps back into the history of the ecological fund. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fund was a pragmatic response by President Shehu Shagari to what was then a problem that had the potential to grow and overwhelm the nation at a point in its development history. Shagari set up the fund through the federation account act of 1981. I think what triggered his immediate response to the ecological problems, real or potential, was the Bakolori dam crisis and the annual bad mood of the small stream that snakes through parts of Ibadan city, called Ogunpa. Every year the stream unleashed its unbelievable destructive power on the people living along its banks.

Under that act from which it derived its legitimacy, the fund was allocated one per cent from the federation account. This was considered adequate at the time as an intervention effort to ensure that Nigerians in areas prone to natural or man-made ecological problems would receive instant succor to begin the delicate and painful process of rebuilding their lives.

But because of the growing ecological challenges in the country, it became necessary to pump more money into the fund. Decree 36 of 1984 and Decree 106 of 1992 raised the percentage of the fund accruable to the fund from one to two per cent. A further modification to this was effected in the federation account order of July 8, 2002. This raised the total to three per cent. Under the law, the fund is administered on the instruction of the president through the Ecological Fund Office headed by a permanent secretary.

The sharing formula is 48 per cent to the Federal Government, 24 per cent to states and 20 per cent to local governments. Twenty per cent of the Federal Government’s share goes to NEMA. So, why do the states and the local governments still put the responsibility for tackling ecological problems entirely on the federal government? This is the question Shehu wants us to ask our state governments and local government chairmen. Good.

At its inception, the fund had the following four mandates: a) to reduce ecological problems nationwide to the barest minimum; b) to facilitate quality and effective implementation of the projects; c) judicious and equitable utilisation of the fund and d) effective management of the ecological fund projects.

I have gone to this length to show that the former president took measured steps towards managing the ecological problems he surely knew would be greater than the annual Ogunpa menace in Ibadan. Today, the country is beset with annual floods, oil spillage, air and water pollution, the sure but gradual encroachment of the desert in the northern parts of the country and destructive erosion, particularly in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones.

The problem is not that we have ecological challenges. No nation is without some form of these challenges. It is a matter of degree. The problem is that 36 years after the fund was set up with increased allocations, it has been turned into a feeding trough by the privileged few who are laughing to the banks and by their actions, condemn their unfortunate compatriots, victims of natural and man-made ecological disasters, to a life of agony, deprivation and poverty.

I tried to get information on the monthly allocations to the states through the Ecological Fund Office through its website. I found nothing. Should facts about the allocation of the fund to the federal, state and local governments be hidden from us, the citizens? I do not think so. The fund allocated to the ecological fund is a public fund. The public deserves to know whether the money allocated to the fund at the federal and state levels is spent in accordance with the core mandates of the fund. But the opacity of the operations of the fund points to this inescapable fact: corruption is the name of the game.

So here are some of the sordid facts about the fund that, in a normal country, would embarrass the state and shock the people. A senate committee looked into the operations of the fund a few years ago and was stunned by the unsightly worms wriggling in the can of the ecological fund. It found, and this has not been denied, that N154.9 billion of the money that accrued to the fund was spent entirely outside its mandate.

Here is a partial glimpse of where some of the money went to so far. In 2002, N928 million was spent on projects unrelated to the ecology; in the same year, N728 million was given to the Presidential Research and Communication Unit – and to be sure it was not researching into ecological problems; the following year, 2003, N1.9 billion found its way into non-ecological challenges; out of this money, N800 million was paid to the ministry of aviation for the renovation of the Aminu Kano Airport, Kano; Kaduna State government received N150 million from the money for the non-ecological problem of settling a sectarian crisis in the state.

In 2004, non-ecological expenditures gulped N2.1 billion; and 2005 saw a N2.77 billion drain on the fund for things totally unrelated to ecological problems. In 2006, Yobe and Ogun states were given a total of N16 billion grants from the fund for road construction. The Federal Ministry of Works took N24 billion from the fund in 2007 for the rehabilitation of the Shagamu expressway. The fund went to the rescue of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to fight food shortages deemed imminent at the time with a N5.7 billion largesse in 2008. I cannot remember if we experienced such food shortages at the time.

The litany of the misuse of the ecological fund is long but we cannot fail to note these: In 2009, the Federal Government took N44.9 billion from the fund to fund its third quarter expenditure warrant; the following year, 2010, the Federal Government again dipped its hands into the till of the fund and withdrew N34.6 billion for a non-ecological problem called ‘treasury management. And in 2013, the Federal Government withdrew N22 billion from the fund and shared it among some state and local governments for purely political reasons.

If you look further into this cesspool of corruption and can see through the web of corruption, lies and deceit, you would see that the building of the second Niger Bridge, on paper, benefited from the fund to the handsome tune of N2.078 billion. Don’t try to cross the river at the site of that bridge because, well, there is nothing at the site worth N2.078.

I could go on. But what is the point?

Buhari Sets Up Gambia Mediation Team

President Muhammadu Buhari has set up a Mediation Support Team to assist him in resolving the political impasse in Gambia.
The MST, headed by Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, will work with the team of the co-mediator, President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana.
Buhari and Mahama were mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to resolve the Gambian logjam.
Their mediation was one of the outcomes of the just-concluded ECOWAS Summit held on December 17, 2016 in Abuja.
The summit also listed the terms of reference to include ensuring the safety of the President-elect, Adama Barrow, the political leaders and the entire population; upholding the result of the Presidential election held on December 1, 2016 and ensuring that the President-elect is sworn into office on January 19, 2017, in conformity with the constitution of the country.
The Onyeama MST has begun immediate consultations with leaders in the sub-region as well as with international partners, Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media said today.
The main task of the Mediation Support Team is to undertake the first phase of the preparatory and support work that would lead to a high level meeting of the mediator, President Buhari, and the stakeholders.
“Buhari remains optimistic that a peaceful resolution of the problem, in line with the laws and the constitution of The Gambia, is possible before the January 19, 2017 inauguration date of the new president”, Shehu said.

Buhari Denies Media Reports On Ibrahim Magu

The presidency has denied media reports that it has authorised the sack of Ibrahim Magu as the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

FG Detects 50,000 Ghost Workers, Arrests Suspects

The Presidency on Tuesday said 11 persons believed to be members of a syndicate responsible for the presence of 50,000 ghost workers on the Federal Government’s payroll had been handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement said some of the suspects were already undergoing trial.

He explained that the Efficiency Unit of the Ministry of Finance created by the present administration was able to uncover the 50,000 ghost workers and saved the nation N13bn monthly during the year.

Shehu noted that the amount was taken off the government’s payroll from February to December.

The presidential spokesman said, “The flagship programme of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to rid the system of fraud and instill good governance is on course.

“Through a notable initiative, the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the government has embarked on the continuous auditing of the salaries and wages of government departments.

“When the committee was constituted in February 2016, Federal Government’s monthly salary bill was N151bn excluding pensions.

“Now, the monthly salary warrant is N138bn, excluding pensions. Which means that the government is making a monthly saving of about N13bn. That is from February 2016 to date.”

Shehu added that the pension bill which was N15.5bn monthly as of February had now been reduced to N14.4bn.

Nigeria May Face Famine In January, Presidency Warns

The Presidency on Monday warned that Nigeria could face famine in January if drastic steps are not taken now.
Nigeria, which is currently Africa’s largest producer of cereals and grains risks famine from early next year as a huge demand in the global market is targeting Nigeria’s surplus production.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu made the grim forecast in a radio interview in Kano on Monday.
Shehu told Pyramid radio that the “huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian grains across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of food by January next year.”
He said the Ministry of Agriculture has advised the President on the need to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the issue which, if not addressed promptly, could lead to a shortage of grains in Nigeria by January.
He said: “Over the past year, Providence has blessed Nigeria with a bountiful harvest of grains, more than enough to feed the country and to export to other countries. At present, there is a high demand for grains from Nigeria, from African countries as distant as Libya and Algeria, and from places as far away as Brazil.
“However, the ministry of agriculture has raised concerns about a massive rate of exportation, which could lead to a shortage of grains in Nigeria by January,” Malam Garba said.
He explained that Nigeria currently enjoys a free market situation.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is not in any way opposed to or intent on tampering with that. On the other hand, exporters also have a moral obligation to make their produce available to Nigerians who live within our country’s borders, to ensure that our citizens have access to food,” he added.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity informed the radio station that the ministry of agriculture estimated that no fewer than 500 trucks laden with grain leave Nigerian markets every week, headed for countries outside Nigerian borders.
“The major markets involved in this exportation are: the Dawanau market in Kano, Naigatari in Jigawa, Bama in Borno, and Ilela in Sokoto, as well as three other main markets in Kebbi State,” he said.
He further explained that President Buhari has on various occasions reiterated his plan for Nigeria to become a food-producing giant, self-sufficient to the point of depending very little on imported food.
“This noble plan could easily be defeated by the pull of the foreign market if food continues to leave our shores to feed people elsewhere. If care is not taken, Nigeria could face a famine by January,” he stressed.
“Building our country into the edifice we envision it to be will require sacrifice and strategy from every single Nigerian. Let us remember that charity begins at home,” said in the program.
Asked a question on what the government is doing to avert the frightening situation, the Presidential Spokesman said that President Buhari has asked the Ministry of Agriculture to present a quick plan for the purchase of surplus grains to be stored in warehouses across the country to save for the rainy day but opined that there was a need for moral pressure on exporters by traditional and religious authorities to curtail the depletion of the home market.

Presidency, Military Deny Payment Of Ransom For Chibok Girls’ Release

The Presidency yesterday denied the alleged payment of $21million to Boko Haram leadership for the release of 21 Chibok girls.

It said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had no such money to pay as ransom.

The presidency said negotiations for the release of more Chibok girls, possibly all the rest, were in progress.

The military high command also strongly denied paying any ransom.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity) to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, faulted some reports that the ransom cash was being used by Boko Haram insurgents to buy arms to launch fresh attacks on the country.

The statement said: “Over the past few days, some newspaper reports ascribing the recent terrorist attacks in Borno State to the government’s negotiation of the release of 21 Chibok girls, with a particular report alleging the exchange of US$21 million for the girls are false and should be disregarded by members of the public. This loose talk is journalism at its most irresponsible and it’s most dismaying.

“As a responsible government that is run on the basis of the constitution and budgets duly appropriated by the National Assembly, we have no such money under any allocation to pay out this outrageous sum of money as ransom.

“Beyond the call of journalism, the newspaper making this charge has a national duty to point how and where this money was paid, and to supply leads as to where the “powerful weapons” were bought by the terrorists.”

The statement said the girls regained freedom in line with the campaign pledge of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The statement added: “From the inception of President Buhari’s administration, the media, local and international groups, have persistently pressured the government to do everything possible to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls.”

The presidency however appealed to the media not to relent in their support for the military.

It said: “May I humbly, once again appeal to the Nigerian media to continue their unflinching support to the military and other security agencies as they fight to free our country from terrorism.”

In a statement in Abuja, the Defence Headquarters also said it has become worrisome that some sections of the media have continued to undermine national security by insisting a ransom was paid to Boko Haram.

Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. General Rabe Abubakar said the story carried by a national newspaper (not The Nation) is unsubstantiated, false and a deliberate campaign against the military. He said the report that the ransom paid is being used by Boko Haram to further carry out attacks is capable of undermining national security.

The DHQ however warns: “The DHQ wishes to once more remind the media to be cautious of such reports which has serious implication on national security and to further add that, as partners in progress, the media also has a stake in the ongoing efforts to restore lasting peace in the North East and the country in general.”

Don’t Link Buhari To Judges’ Arrest – Presidency

The Presidency at the weekend advised journalists and other Nigerians to stop linking President Muhammadu Buhari to the legal travails of some recently arrested Judges in the country.

According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, President Buhari would be the last person to authorize anybody to induce a Judge to pervert the course of justice.

He pointed out that the President had never used his personal familiarity with some court Judges to seek favours from them in 2003, 2007 and 2011 when he was challenging the fairness of the presidential election results, through the lowest to the highest courts in the land.

The Senior Special Assistant also explained that, as a politician, Buhari had never once ever suggested to his lawyers to approach any Judge for assistance to win his cases.

According to him, the President is living by this principle and has never deviated from it.

On the fate of the Judges facing corruption allegations, he said the President doesn’t tell Courts how to do their jobs and that anybody accused of corruption is protected by law to defend their innocence.

The purpose of the law, he said, is to punish the guilty and acquit the innocent, noting that the law projects the rights everyone.

Malam Garba Shehu said the President doesn’t have any powers to force any court to convict anybody who is innocent, arguing that in a democratic society, that cannot happen without resistance by the people.

Presidency Denies Vendetta Against Jonathan

The Presidency, Friday, described as “patently untrue” allegation by demonstrators in Bayelsa State that the federal government was after the family of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In a statement issued by Garba Shehu, presidential adviser on Media and Publicity, he said: “We have confirmed with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) that the former President and the other past leaders were paid their allowances up to the second quarter.

“The past leaders have not been paid third quarter allowances but will get their dues when remittances are received by the SGF from the Ministry of Finance.

“Also, the story of account closure is false. It is not known to the investigation agencies.

“The National Security Adviser to the President is not aware of this bank account closure; the DG SSS is unaware of it, the EFCC is unaware and the IG of Police is not in the know.”

He added that “With all of these agencies not being involved, how then could a thing like that happen? In a dream perhaps!

“To put it starkly, we believe there is a clear motive for the demonstration that is different from that which was being canvassed.

“This is a premeditated attempt to blame President Muhammadu Buhari for something he knows nothing about.

“These claims are false and poorly sourced to present a picture of vendetta; and they should be disregarded by well-meaning members of the public.

“President Buhari remains committed to the ideals of justice and fairness to all irrespective of creed, religion and political leanings. His administration will not engage in vendetta.”