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Why It’s Taking Long to Appoint Ministers, Reform NNPC:Mr President BUHARI

Tobi Soniyi 
With the uncertainty over a clear-cut policy direction impacting on the economy, President Muhammadu Buhari monday again adduced a reason for the delay in the appointment of his cabinet, stating that he did not want to appoint people who have been compromised.
Speaking on the Nigerian Television Authority’s programme, “Good Morning Nigeria”, Buhari said if compromised people were appointed as ministers, “then we will be back to square one and Nigeria will be the loser”.
He said: “It is taking so much time because a number of knowledgeable people have been compromised.
“They have been compromised by people who will like to depend on them to damage our economy and security, a lot of them have been compromised.
“The worst thing that I think can happen is to get a compromised person to be in charge of institutions. There is no way he could be efficient or patriotic. Somebody behind the scene will be tele-guiding him at the expense of the nation.
“This is what we are trying to avoid and I assure you that so much damage has been done to Nigeria. We cannot rush to give this responsibility to people that have unfortunately been compromised.”
He said the country needed very patriotic, knowledgeable, experienced and committed Nigerians, who could work very hard to be in charge of ministries.
According to him, a lot of institutions in Nigeria were compromised, saying, “Everybody for himself and God for all of us,” describing this as most “unfortunate”.
He lamented that even though Nigeria has people – educated and experienced people – many of them, he regretted had been compromised.
He said: “It is as though everybody seems to be working for himself on how much they could get away with as soon as possible.
“We have to look for technocrats and politicians. We have to look out for decent people in this class to give them the responsibility of being in charge of ministries and important parastatals.
“We will try as mush as possible to avoid appointing hostages; by this, I mean people who have been in the system but compromised their personal and professional integrity.
“Because there is no way you can effectively supervise, let’s say 20 ministries; you have to give it to people you trust and you allow them to perform according to the constitution of the country.”
He also provided clarification on why his government was taking its time reforming the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), explaining that the federal government was trying to establish the magnitude of fraud and inefficiencies in the corporation.
He said: “Frankly, I read the stories too that I intend to break up the NNPC. I think the best way to go about it is to establish the fact of the magnitude of the inefficient ways the NNPC conducted itself. When we do that we will be on a higher moral ground to carry out whatever recommendations that have been made to us.”
He maintained that the NNPC has lost track of the number of accounts belonging to it, adding that his government was discreetly working with some Nigerians to ensure that perpetrators of fraud in the oil and gas sector are brought to book.
Buhari also criticised the crude oil swap programme, which he said had been used to defraud the country.
He alleged that a number of operators in the oil and gas industry had displayed a lack of conscience and love for the country.
“These individuals have refineries all over the world. The swapping is tied into a major killing ground for corrupt officials with an average evil to loot the country’s crude; (they) work out how much they can bring back to us and we pay for the transportation and for the refining.
“The swap programme is such a dishonest way in which Nigeria is consistently losing on a daily basis millions of dollars. I think the people who have been operating in the industry, a lot of them have displayed a lack of conscience and patriotism, and only God knows the amount of damage their actions have inflicted on Nigeria,” he said.
The president said the theft of crude of oil had continued even after he took office on May 29, adding that up till July 10, crude oil was still illegally lifted by people in government.
He said the United States of America and other countries that are destinations for crude oil stolen from Nigeria had pledged their readiness to help with the tracing of the proceeds from the stolen crude oil.
The president disclosed, however, that the countries are insisting on following due process and had advised Nigeria to get all the relevant documents for them before they could help.
He said: “For us to get the help of the developed countries, we have to get our fact: documents, complete and reliable investigation, take them to court and get these people prosecuted.
“Meanwhile, the theft continues. Up to the 10th of this month, our crude was still being illegally lifted by people who are in government. We are trying to get these documents; we are getting cooperation from the international community.
“We are going very soon to make sure that those who perpetrated this crime against Nigeria will be faced with facts and be taken to our courts.
“We have got the cooperation of some of the countries that are the destinations for our crude and we are discussing with them.
“We have to maintain high confidentiality so that we don’t risk some of the people in Nigeria that are helping us to trace the destinations of this stolen crude and then the accounts where the proceeds are being paid instead of the federal government account.
“I don’t think the NNPC knows how many accounts there are in which payments are made on Nigerian crude.  The monumental fraud has been going on for a number of years, a lot of Nigerians cannot comprehend it.”
Continuing, the president said western countries were willing to help but insisted that the process must comply with their own system.
“We have to get the documents, especially the shipping documents: how they load here in our terminals, the destinations. Some of them even change the crude or the destination on the high sea, and then change the account. Instead of the federal government account, they pay into individual accounts.
“The cooperation we need is that once we get those shipping documents and we are lucky to trace them up to the countries where they sold the crude and which account it goes, then we will submit the evidence in terms of loading, the payments made and the accounts.
“Once we do this, the countries are very willing to make sure that all those accounts are frozen and money repatriated to Nigeria. It is not an easy process but I assure you that we are working very hard.
“We cannot say we will wait until when everything is completed before you know. Whatever we are able to get in a couple of months, we will bring it out for Nigerians to know,” he stated.
On the crisis rocking his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the National Assembly, Buhari said he was very worried by what is happening in the legislature.
However, he said, he had to be very sensitive to the constitution of the country.
“I do not like to be told by anybody especially the legislators that I am interfering in their matter. There are three arms of government – executive, legislature and the judiciary. Over the last 16 years, they have developed the system of choosing their leaders.
“There is no way I can directly interfere. All I can do through the party is to appeal to their conscience that what I already observed, we should get over it as soon as possible. When I say we, I mean the APC. We cannot win the battle and lose the war.
“We must not allow individual personal ambition to succeed in dividing us and allow the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) to deal with us. This is what the National Assembly has allowed so far, the APC is giving the PDP the allowance to take over the government again. This is extremely disheartening and I am very worried.
“The only thing I can do is to appeal to the conscience of the APC members in the Senate and House. It took us time to get to where we are, I don’t want personal ambitions to scuttle our success and therefore fail to deliver on our promises to the nation,” he said.
The president also called on Nigerians to work together so as to wrestle the country from corruption, warning that the level of youth unemployment is so high that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder that could explode.
According to him, reliable data shows that more than 60 per cent of the Nigerian population is made up of youths and most of them are unemployed.
“This is a big keg of gun powder that the nation is sitting on. The economy is virtually in tatters because of corruption and inefficiency.
“The vicious cycle of corruption, insecurity and unemployment has to be broken, otherwise, they will break this country,” he cautioned.
He appealed to Nigerians at all levels to be very conscious of the situation the country is in and called on all to join hands to save the country.
He said: “We have to fight corruption because we have to get the infrastructure led by power. But the first thing, we have to secure the country before we can efficiently manage it. Without security, nothing will work. We are asking for the cooperation of Nigerians. No part of the country should think that it can go on its own. Nigeria has come to stay.”
He said that despite the huge budgetary allocations to the armed forces to fight Boko Haram, the Nigerian Air Force was virtually non-existent.
He said: “In spite of the money allegedly spent on the operations, the air force is virtually non-existent. The aircraft are not serviceable, the helicopters are not serviceable and they are few. There is the need for the air force to conduct a reconnaissance and support the ground troops.
“The arrangement made by the former government will soon expire. We have made this clear to America and the G7 and we need their cooperation.”
He explained that Nigeria has trained personnel but lacked the equipment with which they can work, noting that the insecurity problem was not just in the North-east but also in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said: “This problem is not only in the North-east, we have a problem in the Gulf of Guinea which you know is between Senegal and Angola and the incredible theft of the Nigerian crude on an average of more than 250,000 barrels per day which is being illegally loaded from our terminals by unpatriotic Nigerians that only consider their own selfish interests to get money.”
The president said that he had a comprehensive report on the havoc Boko Haram members created when they occupied more than 10 local governments in Borno State, seven local governments in Yobe and others in Adamawa State including the destruction of infrastructure in the three states.
“We have made a list of these and what it will cost to quickly rehabilitate them,” noting that in addition to the infrastructure there were about 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) mostly from the three states and some of whom had been moved to Abuja and Kaduna.
He said the extent of the damage in the North-east was verifiable, adding that it would be very expensive to rehabilitate the region in terms of revamping the towns like Bama, Baga and others that had been razed by Boko Haram.
In a related development, Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole yesterday rejected the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) criticism of Buhari’s trip to the US, saying that the opposition party should bury its head in shame for destroying the country.
Oshiomhole, who was a member of Buhari’s delegation to the US, spoke with State House correspondents in Abuja.
He said by all standards and in comparison with similar trips to the US by former President Goodluck Jonathan, the trip was a success, adding that PDP deserved to be pitied.
He said Nigerians should be happy that they now have a president who can talk with confidence unlike “a president that was blabbing and was not sure of what the issues were”.
The governor said no one should bother with what PDP has to say about the present administration, because the party was not expected to praise a government that was doing better than it did while in charge.
He revealed that members of Buhari’s delegation were told in the US that a minister under Jonathan’s government stole $6 billion and accused the PDP of successfully supervising in Nigeria’s liquidation.
Oshiomhole, however, failed to divulge the identity of the former minister who allegedly stole the $6 billion.
“The PDP destroyed the country. I mean from the lips of American officials; senior officials of the State Department said one minister under PDP cornered as much as $6 billion. The man said even by Washington’s standards, that is earth shaking.
“So PDP is a party that presided over the liquidation of our nation, destroyed all our institutions, converted the armed forces commanders to use them as if they were political thugs, converted NTA to a party megaphone, destroyed the SSS, went after the opposition as if we were rabbits to be pursued into our holes, compromised even student unions and destroyed everything that you can think of and elevated religion to a state affair.
“Under the party, Israel became a place you visited every week; they placed pastors against mallams, placed north against south, east against west just to retain power; elevated Obas and Obis with dollars.
“You guys were reporting dollars that were changing hands; when NNPC was spending much more money than is available to the Federation Account.
“We are a very patient people. If we were not a patient people, anybody wearing the tag of PDP ought to feel very unsafe because you are all victims – all of us here,” he charged.
According to him, under the PDP, there was no law, as the party members were a law unto themselves.
He also said that Jonathan did not know what the issues were and everybody was frustrated in his administration.
He said: “Mr. Carson, who was the Assistant Secretary of State, when we visited him in the company of Senator (Bukola) Saraki, then as chairman of the Governors’ Forum – that was on the eve of President Obama’s first visit to Africa – and we went to complain: ‘Why is Nigeria not on the list?’
“What he said for me was quite instructive compared to what he said last week. Then I was present when he said: ‘You know, we who see ourselves not just as friends of Nigeria, each time we think there is light at the end of the tunnel and it is time to encourage Nigeria to build on it, you would wake up the following day under President Jonathan to find out that even the tunnel has been removed.’
“Those were the words of Mr. Carson. Now last week, this same Carson chaired the president’s address at the US Institute of Peace and said: ‘We now have a man of enormous integrity; one that has shown so much faith in the democratic process; one that refused to be frustrated even in the face of massively rigged elections. He submitted to the judicial process and even when that was compromised he never gave up.  America has done its check and we are convinced that this president is the one that Nigeria needs at this time to regain its leadership of the African continent.  America now has a partner worthy of relations because they believe that every dollar that America provides to support Nigeria whether in the area of security, in the area of education, or encouraging American investors to invest in Nigeria, there is an enabling environment because what had been destroying the country was corruption’.”
He said he was at the State House to talk about the lingering crisis in the National Assembly, and expressed optimism that APC had what was required to resolve the crisis in the legislature.
“The Progressives Governors’ Forum asked both of us (Kebbi governor) to try and engage the APC caucus in the Senate on behalf of the forum.
“You are familiar with the situation that has produced a Senate President from the APC and a Deputy Senate President from PDP and of course the fact that many APC senators were not present when the elections were held and that they now have what they called quota – a technical issue about whether they formed a quorum or not.
“But whatever position you take, the truth of the matter is that majority of APC senators were in a location at the invitation of the party waiting for a party briefing when elections were held in the senate and that has produced an upset.
“Now the current effort is to try to see how we would have an all inclusive leadership in the senate; that those who were not present, not because they were sleeping, but because they honoured the party’s invitation.
“By the time they were done, their colleagues had the elections in collaboration with PDP senators that were present. So I feel the position now is look how do you ensure that having elected these two, that the remaining positions that are within the discretion of the APC caucus in the Senate are distributed in a way as to give the other group that was shut out of the process a sense of belonging.
“We are convinced that a winner takes it all in this case won’t work and that building peace is about making concessions, and power works better when it acknowledges that even the person who is powerless has a right to exist,” he said.
The governor said they had come to brief the president on their meeting with the APC senators.

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