President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday read the riot act to leaders who undermine the economy by denying workers their benefits while stuffing personal accounts with public funds, saying they will not escape the current anti-corruption dragnet.
Recalling that federal government’s bailout to states and the Paris Club funds were basically meant to alleviate the sufferings of the people, the president described the misappropriation of the funds as unjust and unfair to workers.
Speaking when he received an All Progressives Congress (APC) delegation from Benue State led by Senator George Akume at the presidential villa, Abuja, President Buhari noted that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had been monitoring the plight of workers across the country and the utilisation of the bailout and Paris Club funds by some states.
He stated: “I honestly don’t know how people sleep when workers have not been paid. The workers have to pay rent, buy food, send their children to school and they have healthcare to take care of.
“I assure you that my main interest is all Nigerians in all parts of the country. Therefore, if anybody tries to create any impression that I prefer any group across ethnicity or religion, let him dare me by being caught red-handed stealing public funds. I will deal with him’’.
A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, also quoted the president as saying the visit by the APC delegation from Benue State had revived government’s morale.
President Buhari said the federal government had made significant progress in diversifying the economy by investing in agriculture and encouraging more individuals and entrepreneurs to go into farming.
Pointing out that Nigeria would soon become self-sufficient in feeding its citizenry, he said, “We are proud of what we have achieved with resources at our disposal.”
Buhari listed ongoing road, rail, sea port, airport and power projects as hallmarks of his administration’s commitment to improving lives.
He said that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria will be further motivated to work together and support all interested Nigerians to take up farming on commercial scale.
On killings in some parts of the country, including Benue, Zamfara and Taraba states, he said they were carried out by “ungodly’’ people who had no religious or ethnic inclinations.
“We know about herders. The ones we knew carried sticks, and sometimes cutlasses to cut foliage for their cattle. We now have people who carry AK 47s and pretend they are herdsmen.
“We are working hard to secure our borders. We are going to see how the old cattle routes can be opened. We will control movement. Please beg our people to be patient,’’ he said.
The president pointed out that security personnel were already uncovering the network of the killers and arresting them.
In his remarks, the leader of the delegation, Akume, said the negative narrative in the state about the federal government was fast changing, as more people have discovered the good intentions of President Buhari to secure lives and property, and alleviate poverty.
“Your Excellency, Mr President, we know your commitment to Nigeria. We know how much you love the country and will be ready to die for the good cause,’’ Senator Akume said.
Akume, a former governor of Benue State, told the president that APC members have started sensitization and mobilisation of voters for the 2019 elections, noting that more have accepted the party and its manifesto in the state.
He commended the president for the flag-off of the dualisation of the Abuja-Keffi-Lafia-Makurdi road, even as he called for more attention on the Makurdi-Otukpo road and the water projects in Gboko and Otukpo.
“You have worked hard to stop herdsmen and farmers clashes in Benue. It is important to note that many people used religion and ethnicity to score cheap points. Religion was used in Benue for sinister purposes,’’ he added.
On corruption, Akume said the president has made significant difference by tackling perpetrators.