By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah and Tunde Oguntola, Abuja –
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari is ardently concerned about delivering on his key campaign promises than re-contesting the presidency in 2019.
The issue of whether Buhari will run for the 2019 presidency had been a subject of debate in the public, with political analysts insisting that his body language is in the affirmative, especially now that the president’s support groups are drumming support for him.
But speaking during a courtesy visit to the corporate headquarters of LEADERSHIP Group Ltd in Abuja yesterday, the minister dispelled insinuations about the president warming up for 2019.
He maintained that Buhari is more focused on fulfilling his campaign promises of fighting corruption, dealing with insecurity as well as boosting the nation’s economy and would not want to be distracted with politics.
“Mr President is much more concerned about delivering the campaign promises of the current administration, and don’t want to be distracted. As government, our major concern is delivering the promises of the current administration. At the end of the day what we will campaign with is our achievements’’, Mohammed said.
He also reiterated that recovering looted funds from looters and cleansing the country from corruption, among others remains one of the cardinal points of the current administration.
The minister noted that unlike in previous administrations when recovered loot were being diverted, all recovered stolen funds in the current administration will be accounted for.
He recalled that President Buhari had on Wednesday inaugurated a three -member committee to audit all assets recovered by relevant government agencies.
The committee, he noted, is mandated to audit all remittances into the accounts in which the recovered assets were lodged up till April 2017 to ensure that reports submitted to him were accurate.
The minister said cash recovered in the current administration to date include N78, 325,354,631.82 (seventy eight billion, three hundred and twenty-five million, three hundred and fifty-four thousand, six hundred and thirty one Naira and eighty two kobo).
He also listed varying sums in other currencies to include $185,119,584.61 (One hundred and eight five million, one hundred and nineteen thousand, five hundred and eighty four US dollars, sixty one cents); 3,508,355.46 Pounds Sterling (Three million, five hundred and eight thousand, three hundred and fifty-five Pounds and 46 Pence) and 11, 250 Euros (Eleven thousand, two hundred and fifty Euros), all totaling about N144.9 billion.
He added that apart from this, recoveries under interim forfeiture (cash and assets) during the period include N126,563,481,095.43 (One hundred and twenty six billion, five hundred and sixty three million, four hundred and eighty one thousand, and ninety five Naira, forty three Kobo).
Other amounts in other currencies are $9,090,243,920.15 (Nine billion, ninety million, two hundred and forty three thousand, nine hundred and twenty Dollars, fifteen cents); 2,484,447.55 Pounds Sterling (Two million, four hundred and eighty four thousand, four hundred and forty seven Pounds, fifty five Pence) and 303,399.17 Euros (Three hundred and three thousand, three hundred and ninety-nine Euros, 17 cents), summing up to about N3.3 trillion.
On the whistleblower who went to court over his unpaid commission for the funds recovered from a mansion in Ikoyi, the minister recalled that when he made the announcement of the compensation for whistleblowers, he made it clear that whistle blowers will get between 5 to 2.5 per cent of the recovered funds.
He said the higher the quantum of money recovered, the lower the percentage, just as he explained that anything below a billion naira will get five per cent, while recovered loot above one billion will get less than five per cent.
Besides, he noted that fears of revealing the identity of whistleblowers have now being allayed, as the original whistleblower of the Ikoyigate has headed to court to seek redress.
On the recent alleged feud between operational staff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Directorate of State Security (DSS) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) over the abrupt halting of EFCC’s attempt to arrest former directors-general of DSS, Ita Ekpeyong and NIA, Ayodele Oke, the minister said it is not unusual for government agencies to clash over operational issues.
“When the chips are down the president will surely ensure that things are done right. It is not abnormal to have issues or conflict among government agencies’’, he said.
On the president’s directive that state governors should pay all staff salaries before Christmas, the minister stressed the need for state governors to heed to the president’s call.
“The federal government has intervened four times and I hope they (governors) will heed to the president’s request this time to pay up all workers owed their remunerations’’, he said.
On efforts by the federal government to ensure that the nation is free from all forms of insecurity and activities of the Boko Haram insurgents, he said the current administration is proud to say peace and security are steadily restoring in the Northeast, which was in the grip of the terrorists when Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015.
‘’We have put Boko Haram on the run. Occasionally, they attack soft targets, but even that is being tackled with intelligence-driven measures. We are tackling insecurity comprehensively, whether it is Farmers/Herders clash, cattle rustling or kidnapping. Only this morning, the federal government launched the Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism’’, he noted.
Mohammed said the current administration is also revamping the nation’s economy as can be seen in the various economic indices.
He continued: “The Naira is largely stable; we have raised foreign reserves from N23 billion to N35 billion within a year and we have pulled the nation out of recession. Our economy is on a growth trajectory once again, after contracting for five consecutive quarters. We have been named among the top 10 reforming economies in the world.
“We have leapfrogged 24 places in the ease of doing business rankings. We are taming inflation, which has fallen for eight consecutive months. We are building infrastructure and we are creating jobs. Also, I am glad to inform you that capital importation into Nigeria in Q3 2017 recorded a substantial increase, compared to the past few quarters, as the economy continued to recover from recession.
“The total capital imported in the third quarter was recorded at $4,145.1 million, more than double the inflow in the second quarter of this year, representing an increased value of 147.5% on a year-on-year basis’’.
On his part, the Chairman of LEADERSHIP Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, described Lai Mohammed as an astute politician and one of the most serious ministers in the current administration.
The media mogul however assured the minister of adequate support and coverage by the organization.
We Must Address Root Causes Of Violent Extremism- FG
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed yesterday that his administration will address the root causes of violent extremism and hate in the country.
He spoke yesterday at the launch of Nigeria’s Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism at the presidential villa, Abuja.
Expressing the determination and commitment of his government to tackle violent extremism, Buhari recalled that Nigeria was before now, a free, peaceful and enterprising nation.
He called on state and local governments to develop action plans for preventing and countering violent extremism at the grassroots.
The president said he had directed all ministries, departments and agencies to institutionalise mainstream measures to address the root causes of violent extremism, while implementing programmes that would build the resilience of Nigerians to recover from the consequences of violence.
His words: “We must now, while working together, focus on rooting out hate, misrepresentation of religion and violence in our society.
“I also call on states and local governments to develop action plans for preventing and countering violent extremism sat the grassroots”.
In his remarks, the National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Babagana Mongonu (rtd), said Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world that has developed the policy framework, which the country showcased on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
He recalled that in 2015, President Buhari directed the review of Nigeria’s countering violent extremism programme.
According to The NSA, the review showed the need for a complementary soft approach to the kinetic effort in dealing with terrorism based on principles of whole-of-government and whole-of-the society approach.
He said, “We also recognised that in line with our focus on transparency, accountability and the rule of law, we needed to build a policy framework that ensures the institutionalisation and mainstreaming on countering violent extremism across ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.
“While we were taking this step, the then United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Banki Moon in December of 2015, issued a call to member states to develop national plans to prevent violent extremism.
“It is in this context that l wish to thank His Excellency, Mr. President for endorsing the presidential directive on implementing Nigeria’s framework and national action plan for preventing and countering violent terrorism on the 24th or August, 2017.
“I wish also to inform Mr. President that Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world that have developed the policy framework which we showcased on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly held in September 2017 in New York”.
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