President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday disclosed his willingness to negotiate with terrorist group Boko Haram for the safe return of the girls of Government Secondary School Chibok abducted last April.
He spoke in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, where he maintained that his administration was determined to restore security, fight corruption without sacred cows, among others.
On the president’s requests to the United States in the fight against terrorism and the response he got from President Barack Obama, he said: “United States in the meeting of the G7 promised to do what they can to help Nigeria. So, we have brought our request in terms of training, equipment and Intelligence gathering for Nigeria to be able to fight Boko Haram.”
On the economy, falling oil prices and how he intend to deal with them, since it is what Nigerians really want, Buhari said: “Firstly I believe my people want security in the country to be stabilised so that normal life both in the southern part of the country where militants are sabotaging oil installations, kidnapping people and demanding ransom; and the northeast of the country where Boko Haram is still active. This is main occupation of Nigerians now. There should be a way of looking at things. Nothing will work until the country is secure.”
On the killing of at least 400 people by Boko Haram since he assumed office despite his vows to tackle the sect; the Amnesty International’s allegations of human rights abuses against the Nigerian military; the military’s loss of credibility and trust of the people and whether there would be platform for Boko Haram’s grievances, the President said: “Well, I have just mentioned that under the Lake Chad Basin Commission, we have agreed to form a multi-national Joint TaskForce. So, whatever happens, further decisions will be taken. We have to allow further investigations to verify the question of human rights abuse and with that, we must have known the decision taken by this government, the Federal Government of Nigeria, in changing the military command.”
Asked about the over 200 Chibok girls kidnapped last April and whether the government will be willing to trade them with Boko Haram captives in line with speculations that the group may make such demands, Buhari replied: “We have to be very careful about the credibility of various Boko Haram leaderships coming up and claiming that they can deliver. We have to be very careful indeed so that they won’t be taking our time because we want to bring them safely to their parents and school.”
Not satisfied with the response, Amanpour categorically asked the President if in principle, he was against negotiations or would consider it if the credibility of those who approach the government can be verified and Buhari answered: “I cannot be against be against it. I told you our main objective as a government is to secure those girls safe and sound back to their school and rehabilitate them to go back to normal life. So, if we are convinced that the leadership can deliver those girls safe and sound, we will be prepared to negotiate what they want.”
On how he intends to keep his promise to do better than the last government in all regards , the President said: “I think I can be held to my promises for the next three and quarter years I have and I think 12 months also is too early for anybody to pass judgment on my campaign promises.”
Asked if he would clamp down on his party members and associates if they are found to be corrupt, Buhari stated: “I just have to. There is not going to be a party member or any personality that can escape justice.”
On whether he was disappointed that Obama once again, won’t visit Nigeria, the biggest and most economically powerful country in Africa, Buhari replied: “I wouldn’t say I am disappointed but how I wished he would change his mind and go to Nigeria.”
Asked if he asked Obama if he would come to Nigeria? Buhari replied: “Well, I asked him and I would send a formal invitation.”
On his opinion on the trial of former Republic of Chad leader, Hissane Habru in Senegal instead of the International Criminal Court , Nigeria’s President said: “Justice is justice whether in Africa or elsewhere of the world . The important thing is that justice be done. Whichever evidence the prosecution has concerning him, I think they should proceed and make it available to the world and prosecute him, according to international laws on human rights.”
Again, Amanpour wanted a straight answer and asked Buhari if he supports the process. Buhari replied: “I support any process that is based on justice.”