While fielding questions from a handful of journalists during his maiden Presidential Media Chat which was broadcast live on television, on Wednesday, Buhari talked about all the issues affecting the country, his fight against corruption, devaluation of naira and insecurities.
Stressing his administration’s zero-tolerance for corruption, Buhari said he was careful not to choose anyone that would embarrass his government on account of corruption as minister.
The President said he would take responsibility for any of his ministers found wanting for corruption.
I have been a democrat since April 2002. I don’t think I picked anyone that will embarrass my government. But if you have got any evidence against any of my ministers, I accept responsibility for the 36 ministers that I have.
I don’t think I picked anyone that has a case in court on corruption; tell me one out of the 36. I know that I have never appointed anyone that is in court for corruption. I don’t think I would have deliberately made that kind of mistake.
If anyone is caught, I will not only sack but I will ensure that the case is taken to court.
Commenting on the schoolgirls abducted in Chibok community of Borno State on April 15, 2014, Buhari said there was no intelligence report to show if the girls were alive and in one place.
I am working with Niger, Cameroon and Chad. There is no firm intelligence where those girls physically are and in what conditions they are, but what we learnt from our intelligence is that they (terrorists) kept on shifting them around so that they are not taken by surprise and get freed.
And a whole lot of them are not in one place and we don’t know how many divisions they (Boko Haram) have and where they are. There is no intelligence to say that the girls are alive and in one place. That is the honest truth.
He disclosed that some perceived leaders of Boko Haram wanted to negotiate with the Federal Government.
We want to ensure that they are complete; 209. Although some of the parents are rather desperate; they would rather see their (girls) graves than the conditions some of the children are reported to be in.
We are still keeping our options open, that if a credible leadership of the Boko Haram can be established and they tell us where those girls are, we are prepared to negotiate with them without any precondition. We have made this absolutely clear but while they are keeping the girls, they should not assume that we will not keep fighting.
Expressing the possibility of placing a ban on the use of hijab, the veil worn by Muslim females, the President said the covering could be outlawed if Boko Haram continued to use hijab-wearing girls for bombing.
If you go to Maiduguri, especially motor parks, people with bomb detectors are put there (hijab). Banning the hijab is not enough but it would have to be banned if this continues because it is about the safety of people. The indoctrination is something else. If people do not mind taking their lives, then it is very serious.
Commenting on the refusal to honour the bails granted a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, Buhari said:
Technically, if you see the kind of atrocities that these people committed – I am very sorry to say this in public – against the country; we cannot allow them to jump bail! The former President just wrote to the Governor of Central Bank to give N40bn to so, so and so person and then he (Dasuki) goes to court and you give him bail and ask him to go and see his doctor in London when you have two million IDPs, half of whom do not even know their parents! What kind of country do you want to run?
And the one that is being called Kanu; do you know he has two passports; one Nigerian, one British and he came to this country not using any passport? Do you know he brought in sophisticated equipment into this country and was broadcasting for Radio Biafra? Which kind of government do you want to have? You want him to be granted bail to go away? That is treasonable felony and I hope the court will listen to the case.
On the recent bloody clash between the Shi’ite group and soldiers in Kaduna, the President confirmed that the President of Iran spoke with him on the matter.
He said he had explained to the Iranian President that Nigeria has a system of investigation.
Buhari said as the incident occurred in a state, he would wait for the report of the investigations conducted by the state government and the Army before taking a position on the matter.
He ruled out the possibility of the Federal Government setting up its own panel of enquiry on the matter.
How can a group create a state within a state?
The military that was involved too has a tradition of investigation. And I, as the head of Federal Government, I have to wait for official report before I can come out as the head of the Federal Government and make a statement.
So I am allowing the Army and the Kaduna State government to submit their own reports of inquiry. The police, the SSS, though they are not directly involved, also they are doing their own constitutional role of finding out the cause of the matter.
But all I know is that whether it is the police, the military, the civil authorities, where there is evidence that lives were lost and property destroyed, there is a standard way of investigation; it depends on how serious it is.
Buhari restated that his government was in possession of documents that showed that the nation’s crude oil was lifted illegally and proceeds from the illegal transactions lodged in personal accounts.
We have some documents where Nigerian crude oil was lifted illegally and the proceeds were put into personal accounts instead of the Federal Government’s account and, of course, we have started going to court.
We got evidence and we are taking the people to court and whatever is in the court, we will not comment until we see what they do with the documents we present. They are terrible cases of corruption and we can only appeal to Nigerians to be patient.
On those returning loot, he said:
Money has been recovered but the fact that whatever we recovered, we have to end up in court because Nigerians are entitled to know the truth and the truth will be what the court has discovered by submissions made to them in terms of documentation, including the bank statements where it was lodged; how it was lodged; whether it is petrol, money from NNPC or money from Customs, or money directly from the Central Bank.
When we do that, Nigeria will be better.
The President added that he turned down a N400m bill to buy new cars for the Presidency, adding that he would meet with the National Assembly on the report that the lawmakers were planning to buy new cars for themselves aside their transport allowance.
For all I know, the first time, I turned down a N400m bill for cars for the Presidency. I said the vehicles I am using are good enough for the next 10 years.
As for the National Assembly, we are having problems with them on the TSA, everybody has to subject himself to the TSA as long as federal money is involved.
But I turned down about N50bn for vehicles, I think I have to hold a closed-door meeting with them and I think they have not bought them yet.
I can’t see the National Assembly spending more than N40bn to buy cars on top of transport allowances they collected. I have to revisit this story. They get N100bn for their allowances.
The President who disagreed with certain arguments that the people of the South-East (Igbo) are marginalised on the national scene, said:
We have Boko Haram and then Biafra. Help me define the extent of marginalisation. Who is marginalising them? Why? How? Do you know? The constitution says there must be a minister from each state. Who is the Minister of Petroleum? Is he not Igbo? Who is the Governor of Central Bank? Is he not Igbo? Who is the Minister of Labour? Who is the Minister of Science and Technology? Who is the junior minister of education?