President Muhammadu Buhari has alerted Nigerians and the international community of threats by corrupt elements in the country to frustrate the smooth conduct of this year’s general elections, which begin with the presidential and National Assembly polls on Saturday.
He therefore charged the citizens and other stakeholders to be on guard to ensure that the elections are conducted in an atmosphere devoid of chaos so that Nigeria can forge ahead.
To the electorate, the president said that he still has much to offer them in the areas of good governance, security and economic prosperity and urged them to vote for him as they did in 2015 so that he can finish the “unfinished job.”
Buhari, in an article titled: “Corruption threatens Nigeria and its elections,” which was made available to LEADERSHIP, yesterday, said that his administration had made significant progress in the fight against corruption.
The president asserted that any policy programme which does not have fighting corruption in Nigeria at its core is destined to fail.
He noted that because of the vested interests at play in the country, fighting corruption had been difficult, stressing that by way of their looting, the corrupt have powerful resources at their disposal.
Buhari said: “On February 16, Nigeria will hold a general election. Four years ago, the country experienced its first democratic transfer of power to the opposition since 1999. The vote in a few days will be no less significant.
“As president, I have tried to judiciously exercise the trust vested in me to combat the problems of corruption, insecurity and an inequitable economy. All are important. But amongst them, one stands above the others, as both a cause and aggravator of the rest. It is, of course, corruption.
“A policy programme that does not have fighting corruption at its core is destined to fail. The battle against graft must be the base on which we secure the country, build our economy, provide decent infrastructure and educate the next generation.
“This is the challenge of our generation: the variable on which our success as a nation shall be determined. But the vested interests at play can make this fight difficult. By way of their looting, the corrupt have powerful resources at their disposal. And they will use them. For when you fight corruption, you can be sure it will fight back,” he said.
The president declared that corruption even threatens to undermine the February’s poll and – by extension – the country’s democracy.
According to him, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has raised concerns over laundered money being funnelled into vote-buying, noting that this is the problem of corruption writ large.
He added that “it illustrates how it lurks in all and every crevice of public life, manipulating due process in pursuit of self-preservation and perpetuation; protecting personal political and economic interests at the expense of the common good.”
President Buhari said that those who have criticised his administration’s anti-corruption drive are those who oppose its mission, adding that “though their lawyers may craft expensive alibis, they cannot escape that which binds them together: a raft of documents and barely legal (some clearly illegal) mechanisms – whether that be the Panama Papers, United States (US) Congress reports, shell companies or offshore bank accounts.
“Corruption corrodes the trust on which the idea of community is founded, because one rule for the few and another for everyone else is unacceptable to anyone working honestly. But as we have intensified our war on corruption, so we have found that corruption innovates to resist the law. This is not the sole domain of those Nigerians, but the international corruption industry: the unsavoury fellow-traveller of globalisation.
“Once the enablers are let in – as they have been in the past – the greed of those they collude with grows. We have closed the door on them, but unfortunately, there still remain individuals who are willing to open the windows.”
Stating that concrete progress has been made, he, however, added that there is still much to do, saying his administration had repatriated hundreds of millions of dollars stowed away in foreign banks.
He said that these funds had been transparently deployed on infrastructural projects and used to directly empower the poorest in society.
Buhari who said more is still to come from Nigeria’s international partners in France, the United Kingdom (UK) and the US, added that yet the hundreds of billions sifted out of the country for the best part of this century promise more.
According to him, “we have secured high profile convictions, but greater cases remain. Lawyers table endless objections to obstruct court proceedings, whilst their clients hope it lasts until a ‘friendly’ president is voted into office.
“We must continue to tighten the legal framework and ensure the authorities have the investigative powers at their disposal to secure sentences. Only then will we begin to neutralise the advantages the corrupt have,” he said.
He said that in the future, more ghost workers will be removed from government payroll as almost $550 million had been saved from identifying phantom employees.
The president said that more can be recovered through the federal government’s whistle-blower policy ($370 million has been returned since its launch in 2016), adding that “more is still to come. But, together, we shall prevail over corruption.”
…Promises To Protect Nigerians’ Interest
Also in video message yesterday, Buhari assured Nigerians that he would continue to protect their interest and deliver on his change agenda.
The president said that he would not take Nigerians support for him for granted.
According to him, “It’s been over three years since you gave me the mandate to oversee the affairs of our dear country. It’s not been an easy journey but with sincerity of purpose, perseverance, dedication and most importantly support from individuals like you, we have made great progress.
“Some of these achievements are visible for everyone to see, some are still in the works.
“I hereby humbly ask for your support again in the coming election to enable us to move to the Next Level and consolidate on the successes recorded in making our country a better place. I don’t take your support for granted. We will continue to work to protect your interest and deliver our mandate,” he said.
IGP Orders Watertight Security At INEC Offices
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, has ordered a watertight security for all Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices and facilities nationwide.
Adamu directed all the commissioners of police in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to put in place “adequate, functional and purposeful security arrangements” aimed at protecting all INEC offices and materials from all forms of crimes and mischief, before, during and after the elections.
Force public relations officer, Mr. Frank Mba, who announced this, said that zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) had also been mandated to monitor compliance level of commands under their jurisdiction with the IGP’s directive and ensure that no breach of security of any kind occurs within and around INEC facilities under their watch.
Presidential Candidates To Sign Final Peace Pact
As part of efforts towards achieving a smooth transition, the National Peace Committee (NPC) headed by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar will commit Buhari and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, into signing a final peace agreement on Wednesday.
Other presidential candidates participating in the Saturday’s election are also to sign the agreement at an event where former president of US, Bill Clinton, is billed to deliver the keynote address.
NPC said that it was mindful of the importance of peaceful elections and non-violent transfer of power which prompted it to engage various stakeholders in preparation for the 2019 general elections.
The NPC, which said it had engaged INEC, security agencies, 91 registered parties, the media and civil society organisations, explained that signing of the final peace pact would be significant.
“Considering some of the challenges faced, the committee organised the 1st signing of the National Peace Accord on 11th December, 2018 to support peaceful campaigns and political rallies.
“Flowing from this, the committee, led by former Head of State, Gen, Abdulsalami Abubakar, has organised the second signing of the National Peace Accord which would be held at the Abuja International Conference Centre on Wednesday, 13th February, 2019 at 10 am,” a statement by the Head of Secretariat, National Peace Committee and The Kukah Centre, Fr. Atta Barkindo, said.
Barkindo said that, “this signing is aimed towards committing stakeholders to accepting the outcome of the vote, as long as it is announced by INEC, the body empowered by law and is adjudged to be free, fair and credible.”
NPC said that it had invited Clinton, the 42nd president of US and the Secretary- General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Patricia Scotland, to the programme.
The committee said the world leaders would visit Nigeria from 12th to 13th February, 2019 ahead of the presidential elections.
“Both Bill Clinton and Baroness Scotland will deliver goodwill messages at the signing ceremony of the “National Peace Accord” which holds in Abuja International Conference Centre on 13th February,” the committee said.
It added that “former President Clinton would also hold meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar. As we move into Nigeria’s national elections, the threat of unrest has to be taken seriously,” Barkindo stated.
Relatedly, INEC has debunked rumours that its chairman held a secret meeting with Buhari.
The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr, Rotimi Oyekanmi, told journalists that there was no iota of truth in the alleged meeting.
“This is not the first time he (Timi Frank) is coming up with this particular story and one wonders why all he seems to have time for is to monitor meetings purportedly taking place in a particular place at night. Nigerians should disregard his lies,” Oyekanmi added.
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