President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed doubts about the loyalty of some key members of his administration. However, the President did not name these officials. The President spoke to Al-Jazeera during his recent visit to Doha, Qatar, an interview that was aired on Saturday.
According to Punch report, when asked to be specific on his submission, which suggested that there were saboteurs in his government, Buhari replied, “Certainly!”
He said it would be wrong to assume that government officials, especially those who his government inherited from the Peoples Democratic Party will be 100 per cent loyal to his government.
The President said, “People who want to be fair to us to sit and reflect; from the President to the ministers to the permanent secretaries, they were all taken over after eight successive governments of those who are now in the opposition. So, we cannot assume that all of them are 100 per cent loyal to this government.”
He said his government had put machinery in place to reduce the cost of governance.
He cited the drastic reduction in the number of ministries as one of the ways his administration had reduced the cost of governance.
“I will like people to assess Nigeria, especially this government, on where we found ourselves. When we came in, we found out that there were 42 ministries and we found out that the economy could not take 42, so we reduced it to 24. We also removed 21 permanent secretaries,” he said.
Buhari also ruled out the creation of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria, saying the country under his watch would not tolerate it.
He said those who were currently agitating for Biafra were not being guided by history.
He spoke on the challenges the country is currently facing such as the dwindling value of the naira, the Boko Haram war, his anti-corruption crusade and the new agitation by Biafra secessionists.
There has been renewed agitation for Biafra in recent times. The move is spearheaded by the Independent People of Biafra led by detained Nnamdi Kanu.
But Buhari said in the interview that those behind the agitation were joking with security.
He said it was unfortunate that people could be agitating for Biafra after about two million Nigerians were killed during the Biafra war.
He said it might be that the pro-Biafra protesters had not been born during the period.
“At least two millions Nigerians were killed in the Biafra war. And for somebody to wake up, may be they weren’t born. Looking for Biafra after two millions people were killed, they are joking with security and Nigeria won’t tolerate Biafra.”
Buhari said he would not reconsider his position that his administration would not devalue the naira despite the advice by the International Monetary Fund.
He said since Nigeria imported virtually everything from rice to toothpicks, it could not afford to devalue its currency.
“If it is against our national interest, why can’t we go against the IMF advice?” Buhari asked.
Buhari also said despite the drop in the international crude oil prices, which he said was affecting Nigeria negatively, the country would not quit the international oil-producing cartel, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. He said it was in Nigeria’s best interest to remain within OPEC.
“We were unable to diversify our economy, hence we are much more disadvantaged by the lower oil prices. I value the institution of OPEC and Nigeria will make the necessary sacrifice to remain in OPEC,” he said.
When asked if he was prepared to consider devaluing the naira, Buhari said, “No. I have explained that countries that play around with their currencies are countries that have enormous production capacities. They have factories in place. Their infrastructure, in terms of power, communications, and security, are virtually perfect. Nigeria imports virtually everything from rice to toothpicks. Now, if we don’t have the money to import those things, what is the value of further devaluing our naira?”
The President said he had not failed in his promise to put an end to the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
He said Nigeria under his watch had successfully dislodged the sect from the 14 local government areas it was holding at the inception of his administration.
“I have not failed. When we came in, Boko Haram was effectively in 14 local governments. Nigeria has 774 local governments. They hoisted their flags and they said they had a certain caliphate but today they no longer have the capacity to hold any local government,” Buhari said.
When confronted with the fact that members of the sect were still killing people in parts of the country, the President said they had resorted to attacking “soft targets.”
Although he admitted that such kinds of terrorism would be difficult to eliminate because of technology, he boasted that Boko Haram could no longer hold any local government or attack military installations as they used to do.
He said, “They have reverted to improvised explosive devices blowing soft targets, and that will be a kind of terrorism which will be difficult to eliminate because it is technological, but they cannot hold any local government again.
“They are using technology but they cannot carry out organised attacks, overrun police post, attack military installations, they cannot do that now.”
The President also spoke on the ongoing probe into the diversion of funds meant for the procurement of arms and ammunition for the Nigerian military to fight the insurgency.
Buhari said, “The fact that people that are identified as taking public funds without going through the normal system of getting public funds are being detained and they are being interrogated so that there will be successful convictions. If people are in a hurry, what have they been doing in the last 16 years? Didn’t they know what was happening in the last 16 years?
“We are part of it because we have got terrorists in Nigeria that everybody knows which claims that they are Islamic. So if there is an Islamic correlation, to fight terrorism, Nigeria will be part of it because we are casualties of Islamist terrorism.”