PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has told the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), and similar groups in the region bombing oil and gas installations, that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
This is even as he informed those still in possession of public funds to return them for them to enjoy peace, saying his administration will not stop until all monies looted from the nation are recovered because the country is in dire need of resources for development.
He spoke at the Presidential Villa when he received a delegation of Abuja-based residents compromising Christians, Muslims as well as top government officials led by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Bello Muhammad, who came to pay the traditional Eid-el-Fitr Sallah homage to him.
The militants had resumed hostilities after a few days respite, demanding more share of oil revenue for the Niger Delta region. Their activities had further crippled oil exports and reduced the country’s external reserves.
The president recalled former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon’s famous quote, “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.”
Buhari said that after recording significant improvement in the war against Boko Haram insurgents, the government was now trying to get the leaders of the militant groups in the Niger Delta to stop their hostilities as he would ensure the region gets justice according to what the Constitution prescribes.
He said, “On security we have made a lot of improvement, boko haram, militants there is improvement. We are now concentrating on the militants to know how many of them exist in terms of groupings and leadership and plead with them to try and give Nigeria a chance. I assure them that the saying by Gen. Gowon that to keep Nigeria is a task that must be done. In those days we never thought of oil, all our concern was to keep Nigeria one. So please pass this to the militants, that one Nigeria is not negotiable and they had better accept. Nigerian constitution is clear as to what they should get and I assure them there will be justice.
On his anti-corruption crusade, the president said “please tell those with plenty of money that does not belong to them to try and negotiate and return it in peace so that both they and us will be in peace, otherwise, we will continue to look for it”.
The president acknowledged the myriad of socio-economic problems Nigerians are battling with but promised that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were working together to assist about 13 states produce enough rice to feed the nation.
“I know that there are a lot of problems in the country but is fortunate the minister of agriculture is not here, he is working very hard. The governor of Central Bank is helping him, borrowing him money outside the budget so that he can assist states especially the 13 states that can produce rice.
“That programmes is giving us confidence, it is getting the farmers into the field,” he said.
In his remarks, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who noted that the Ramadan fasting period had been a season of forgiveness, said the past one year has been tough because of the mess left behind by former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and that the current government was engaged in some cleaning up which will soon yield result.
He said, “We have had a year that many in our country will say has been a tough one and the reasons are very obvious. We have had clean up to do, so much of trying to clear the major problems that were left behind by the past administration in particular, the financial mess that we inherited.
“We thank God that things are looking up and that things will be better. There is no question about that, we have been elected and God has helped us to be here at a time like this to be able to do the things that are necessary to place our country on a strong footing and by His grace we will do so”.
The Vice President also used the occasion to pray that the President like the biblical Moses will enjoy strength as he grows older and the tenacity to govern the nation.
“I also want to say short prayer, there is a scripture in the Bible that says as your days are, so shall your strength be. That scripture means that as you grow older you will be stronger. The Bible tells us that Moses even at the age of 120 his sight was not dim and his natural force was not diminished. So I pray that you Sir will experience this strength and God will give you the tenacity as he had. The other meaning of that scripture is that no matter the challenges that the day brings, no matter the challenges that the time brings, you will have the wisdom, favour and the strength to be victorious and pray that will so for you and this government”.
The FCT Minister, who presented a giant Sallah card to the president, assured him that Abuja residents would continue to cooperate with his administration to translate his vision for Nigeria into reality in an atmosphere of rule of law.
Among the prominent persons in the delegation were Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Primate of the Church of Nigerian (Anglican Communion), Archbishop Nicholas Okoh; Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar; National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongunu; Acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; Dr. Kabir Adam of the National Mosque, Abuja, amongst others.