President Muhammadu Buhari has accused people he described as “past looters of the treasury” of supporting and sponsoring militancy in the Niger Delta region.
“Those who stole Nigeria dry are not happy. They recruited the militants against us in the Niger Delta, and began to sabotage oil infrastructure,” the president said.
“We lose millions of barrels per day, at a time when every dollar we can earn, counts. It is a disgrace that a minimum of 27 states, out of 36 that we have in Nigeria, can’t pay salaries.”
According to a statement by Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, the president made the remarks during a meeting with a select audience of Nigerian professionals living in the United States of America.
The meeting was put together by, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Matters and International Relations, who described participants at the audience as“15 of the best people God ever created.”
They include Top flight aeronautics engineers, physicians, I.T experts, a Judge, a top policewoman, entrepreneurs, an Import Specialist at Customs and Border Protection, professors, two straight A students, and others.
President Buhari briefed the audience on how and why Nigeria got into trouble, assuring them that together with Nigeria’s best brains in the Diaspora, the country’s economic challenges would soon be over.
He said: “We got into trouble as a country, because we did not save for the rainy day. For example, between 1999 and 2015, when we produced an average of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, and oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel, we did not save, neither did we develop infrastructure. Suddenly, when we came in 2015, oil prices fell to about 30 dollars per barrel.
“I asked; where are the savings? There were none. Where are the railways? The roads? Power? None. I further asked; what did we do with billions of dollars that we made over the years? They said we bought food. Food with billions of dollars? I did not believe, and still do not believe,”he declared.
Buhari noted that failure to invest in infrastructure was one of Nigeria’s greatest undoing.
He reminded his listeners that the Nigerian military earned respect in places like Burma, Zaire, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, “and then, suddenly, that same military could no longer secure 14 out of 774 local governments in the country.”
The president added that his administration has restored the pride of the military with help from some western countries, by changing the leadership, re-equipping and retraining them, which has culminated in the decimation of terrorists in the Northeast.
Buhari said he was committed to bringing positive change to Nigeria because “I prayed so hard for God to make me President.”
“I ran in 2003, 2007, 2011, and in 2015, He did. And see what I met on ground. But I can’t complain, since I prayed for the job.”
The president narrated that he rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Major-General in the army, and even became military governor in 1975 “over a state that is now six states”; got detained for three years, and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
“After 16 years of a different party in government, no party will come and have things easy. It’s human. We need quality hands to run Nigeria, and we will utilize them. I will like to welcome you home when it’s time. But I’ll like you to be ready.”
The Nigerian professionals promised to do their best to help the government of the day in its efforts to return Nigeria to the path of growth.