Despite pressure from some elite to soft-pedal on the anti-corruption crusade, President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that his government’s resolve to rid the country of the menace would know no bounds.
Speaking at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday at a meeting with members of the diplomatic corps, Buhari said the anti-graft war would be total and relentless.
President Buhari rode to power last year May on the back of campaign promises to “kill” corruption before it “kills” Nigeria.
Re-affirming this position yesterday, he said because corruption in Nigeria was pervasive, it had become necessary for his government to wage a relentless war against it, warning that without so doing, it would be impossible to build a stable and prosperous Nigeria that would be at ease with itself.
“Building such a country will not be possible where corruption is pervasive …So long as corruption holds centre stage in the affairs of Nigeria, the country will continue to suffer incalculable harm.
“You are witnesses to the preliminary findings that have emerged in the past few weeks from our investigations into corrupt practices in different sectors of Nigeria’s public service.
“I will leave no stone unturned in the effort to rid Nigeria of corruption. I must however, add that in doing this, we shall operate within the ambit of the law.
On foreign policy, he said Nigeria could not afford to be an island unto itself.
“It is for this reason that the foreign policy vision which we are currently pursuing is anchored on meaningful engagement with our neighbours, the African continent and the world at large”.
On the Boko Haram insurgency, Mr. Buhari said when he assumed office, the insurgents were fully in control of 14 local governments in the Northeast but that today they held no territory.
He added that they are now hiding in the Sambisa forest and “occasionally undertake cowardly attacks on innocent citizens in soft targets”.
He noted that within the past eight months of his Presidency, the nation had witnessed resurgence in morale among the troops to dislodge the terrorists from their bases – a feat he attributed to the changes in both the command structure and operational tactics, which brought about significant gains on the ground.
He added that the military had been given specific instructions on the rules of engagement to treat captured terrorists humanely and avoid civilian casualties.
President Buhari noted that the security situation in the North-Eastern part of the country had dramatically improved such that internally displaced persons were gradually returning to rebuild their homes, communities and livelihood.
He said his government would spare no effort to support them with robust programmes and projects to hasten the process of rehabilitation and resettlement.
The president, however, noted that his administration was quite aware that “the war on terror will not, and cannot be won by military means alone”.
“We need a soft approach that speaks directly to the human mind. Poverty and hunger do not only incapacitate, but they can lead to desperation”.
He said his government was also aware that poverty and marginalisation, among other factors, could easily create room for indoctrination and co-option into violent extremism.
“Job creation and provision of quality education are key areas that are already receiving our attention”, he stated.
“We are also convinced that there is no alternative to democratic governance, adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights and adherence to constitutional order.
“We owe it a duty not to hand down to the next generation a world that is deeply divided and threatened by nature.
“We are under no illusion that achieving these objectives will be easy. We are however, undaunted in our resolve to overcome. We will continue to do all we can to make life safe for our citizens and all residents of Nigeria.
“We are open for business. We invite those who are ready to come to invest in Nigeria. We will protect their persons as well as their investments”, he stated.
President Buhari further said his government would take the necessary steps to overcome new and old challenges, enhance “our national unity, internal cohesion and ultimately, give our country the image that will be a pride to our people and our friends in Africa and beyond”.
Earlier in his remarks, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Salladeen Abbas, commended Buhari for his government’s fight against corruption and terrorism, Abbas, who is the High Commissioner of Cameroon to Nigeria said: “In your fight against corruption, your perception in the international community is very positive. The whole world will cooperate with your government”.