PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has rebuffed claims that he treats insurgents, bandits and other criminals in northern Nigeria with kid gloves while ruthlessly dealing with secessionists and other persons constituting threats to continued existence of the country in the South.
Citing Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states as instances, he said he had given the same treatment to all criminals across the country,.
He said this in an interview with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) on Friday.
Buhari had told rampaging members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) recently that he would treat them “in the language they understand.”
The statement was considered reckless by many citizens and was seen as reminiscent of 30-month-old civil war in the country, in which people of the South-East extraction lost millions of their kinsmen.
The statement triggered war between the Nigerian government and Twitter, a micro-blogging site, as the government suspended the platform’s operations in Nigeria indefinitely, after it had pulled down the president’s tweet containing the statement.
However, the president was quick to balance his threat, vowing to give same measure of treatment to bandits, kidnappers and other criminals tormenting the North, in an exclusive interview with Arise TV on Thursday.
Buhari is from Katsina, a state in Nigeria’s North-West that has witnessed a wave of banditry, kidnapping and other crimes in recent years.
Buhari said those criticising him were unfair.
He listed Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina as places where he had directed security agencies to deal decisively with criminals and trouble makers.
He said his expectation was to see a better Nigeria before he left office.
“Number one this is security. If you don’t secure the country, firstly, people will not want to invest. That was why those who organized #EndSARS, I sent the ministers back to their constituencies.
“Constitutionally, the ministers represent their states. I said they should go to their states. Let them speak to their governors. Let them speak to the political leaders. Let them speak to traditional leaders.
“And, very importantly, let them speak to the youth; because the Federal Government has no vacancy; every department is full; the same thing in the state, the same thing in the local governments.”
He said if youths promoted insecurity by burning institutions of government, nobody would invest in the country, noting that security in the country was in the interest of young people. “So, it is in their own interest to make sure Nigeria is secure.”
According to him, he wanted to leave a secure, prosperous Nigeria to whoever succeeded him. “This is very important because there are people, not even in Nigeria but outside, that are watching developing countries, the systems we are going through.”
He also recommitted to conducting free and fair election by allowing Nigerians to choose who led them.