President Muhammadu Buhari regretted yesterday that many good Nigerians who would have been qualified for ministerial positions had been compromised.
He, however, noted that even though for want of credible persons, the ministerial list is being delayed, he will not risk appointing such people into his cabinet because it would amount to taking the country back to square one.
Buhari who said this when he appeared as a guest on Good Morning Nigeria, a breakfast network programme of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), also assured that the federal government is perfecting the necessary documents with which to prosecute crude oil thieves in the country.
He said up to the 10th of this month, oil thieves continued lifting crude oil illegally, adding that the culprits are people in government.
On the ministerial appointments, the president said the process is taking too long because capable persons in the country have been compromised by people who planned to use them to destroy the country’s economy.
He said, “From what I have seen so far, we need very patriotic Nigerians, Nigerians that can work very hard with knowledgeable experience, committed Nigerians to be in charge of ministries. A lot of institutions in Nigeria are compromised, everybody for himself and God for all of us. It is most unfortunate.
“We have people, educated and experienced people, but everybody seems to be working for himself on how much they could get away with as soon as possible. We have to look for technocrats and politicians. We have to look out for decent people in this class to give them the responsibility of being in charge of ministries and important parastatals”.
Noting that no compromised person will make it as a minister in his government, Buhari said, “We will try as mush as possible to avoid appointing hostages; by this, I mean people who have been in the system but compromised their personal and professional integrity. It is taking so much time because a number of knowledgeable people have been compromised.
“They have been compromised by people who will like to depend on them to damage our economy and security; a lot of them have been compromised. The worst thing that I think can happen is to get a compromised person to be in charge of institutions. There is no way he could be efficient or patriotic.
“Somebody behind the scene will be tele-guiding him at the expense of the nation. This is what we are trying to avoid and I assure you that so much damage has been done to Nigeria. We cannot rush to give this responsibility to people that have unfortunately been compromised.
“Because there is no way you can effectively supervise, let’s say 20 ministries, you have to give it to people you trust and you allow them to perform according to the constitution of the country. If you appoint compromised people, then we will be back to square one and Nigeria will be the loser”.
President Buhari further said the level of corruption in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is terrible to the extent that the corporation does not even know how many bank accounts it operates.
He said, “The multiparty democratic system for developing countries has its advantages and relative disadvantages in the sense that for us to get the help of the developed countries, we have to get our facts: documents, complete and reliable investigation, take them to court and get these people prosecuted.
“Meanwhile, the theft continues. Up to the 10th of this month, our crude is still being illegally lifted by people who are in government. We are trying to get these documents; we are getting cooperation from the international community. We are going very soon to make sure that those who perpetrated this crime against Nigeria will be faced with facts and be taken to our courts.
“We have got the cooperation of some of the countries that are the destinations of our crude and we are discussing with them. We have to maintain high confidentiality so that we don’t risk some of the people in Nigeria that are helping us to trace the destinations of this stolen crude and then the accounts where the proceeds are being paid instead of the federal government’s account.
“I don’t think the NNPC knows how many accounts are there in which payments are made on Nigerian crude. The monumental fraud has been going on for a number of years; a lot of Nigerians cannot comprehend it”.
He added that the moment Nigeria complies with the requirements of the benefitting countries, “they are very willing to make sure that all those accounts are frozen and the money repatriated to Nigeria. It is not an easy process but I assure you that we are working very hard.”
On the leadership crisis in the National Assembly, the president explained that he decided not to interfere because doing so will be against the principle of separation of powers.
He regretted, however, that because of selfish ambitions, the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the federal legislature allowed the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take advantage of the crisis and relegate the ruling party to the background.
His words: “I have to be very sensitive to the constitution of the country. I do not like to be told by anybody especially the legislators that I am interfering in their matter. There are three arms of government: executive, legislature and the judiciary.
“Over the last 16 years, they have developed the system of choosing their leaders. There is no way I can directly interfere. All I can do through the party is to appeal to their conscience that what I already observed, we should go over it as soon as possible.”
“When I say we, I mean the APC. We cannot win the battle and lose the war. We must not allow individual personal ambition to succeed in dividing us and allow PDP to deal with us. This is what the National Assembly has allowed so far, the APC is giving the PDP the allowance to take over the government again.
“This is extremely disheartening, I am very worried.The only think I can do is to appeal to the conscience of the APC members in the Senate and House. It took us time to get to where we are, I don’t want personal ambitions to scuttle our success and therefore fail to deliver on our promises to the nation”.
On reports that he was planning split the NNPC into two, Buhari who noted that he also read the reports noted that the best way to go about it is to first establish the fact of the magnitude of the inexplicable way the NNPC conducted itself.
He also blamed the protracted fuel scarcity in the country on corruption which he said had killed all important public institutions.
He said, “When we do that, we will be on higher moral ground to do whatever recommendations made to us. The problem of fuel scarcity is one of the problems. We all know we used to have four refineries refining daily on the average of about 450,000 barrels per day.
“We had 25 depots all over the country from Maiduguri to Ilorin, from Gusau to Yola, from Makurdi to Port Harcourt to Ibadan. All these infrastructure have virtually been vandalized amd Nigerians are forced to buy products from world markets as if Nigeria hasn’t invested in the industry.
“This is sheer corruption and inefficiency. This situation cannot be undone overnight. Firstly, we have to organize with our partners who had been developing the petroleum sector. Nigeria was constituency losing on a daily basis millions of dollars.
“I think those who have been operating in the industry have been displaying lack of conscience and patriotism. Only God knows the amount of damage done to Nigeria”.
On whether the United States is willing to sell arms to Nigerian following the President’s four day visit to the country, Buhari said his administration had been able get clear cut assurance from the US that it assist Nigeria in many ramifications.
“Americans are willing to help us, they understand our problems, they sympathize with us”, he stated.