By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has raised afresh the allegation that former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent a whopping sum of $16 billion on power without commensurable results.
Buhari raised the query against his predecessor yesterday while addressing the leadership of the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) led by the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hammed Ali (rtd).
It would be recalled that the Ndudi Elumelu’s power committee in Speaker Dimeji Bankole led House of Representatives of the sixth Assembly conducted extensive probe into the same issue and indicted several government officials at that time.
The report of the committee was later shelved by the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
The President, who wondered why anyone would accuse him of ethnicism and religious bigotry when those he worked with in his four times attempt to become the President, especially his legal counsels while challenging his defeat at the courts, were mainly Christian Igbos, also challenged the members of the National Assembly to compare his administration spending on capital projects to what obtained in the past under opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While commending the members of the group for their steadfastness in his support since 2014, Buhari acknowledged that many of them got nothing from supporting him, stressing that they would get rewarded by God.
Talking about the rot he inherited from the PDP administration, he said “Between 1999 and 2014, Nigeria was getting 2.1 million barrels per day and average cost of 100 American dollars per barrel. It went up to $143. So Nigeria was earning 2.1m millionx100x16 years seven days a week. When we came, it collapsed to $37-38 and it was oscillating between $40 and 54 sometimes.
“I went to the Governor of Central Bank; thank goodness I did not sack him, he is still there. I went with my cap in my hand and say Oya. He said there was no savings, only debts.
“And you know more than I do the condition of the roads and some of them were not repaired since PTF days. No matter what opinion you have about Abacha, I agreed to work with him; and the PTF road we did from here to Port harcourt, to Onitsha, to Benin and so on. On top of other things in the institution, education, medical care and so on.
“You know the rail was killed; and one of the former Heads of State between that time was bragging that he spent more than 16 billion American dollars, not Naira, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power?”
He continued: “And now, we have to pay the debts; and this year and last year’s budget I took to the National Assembly was the highest in capital projects: more than 1.3 trillion Naira.
“Let anybody come and confront me publicly in the National Assembly. What have they been doing? Some of them have been there for 10 years. What have they been doing?”
Talking about the impact of his government’s fight against corruption, Buhari said
“Now, we get some of the people with houses here, and may be in Abuja or somewhere in America and Europe; they swear, some of them, to God that it doesn’t belong to them. But their accounts, through the banks, through their companies, it is their own. But they say it’s not their own. This is a terrible time; and the people are saying what are we doing? Why can’t you pick them up? And again, I went on by telling them that when I was in uniform, younger and rather ruthless, I got from the President downward. I locked them up in Kirikiri. I said you’re guilty, except you prove yourselves innocent. I myself was locked up; and those who misappropriated public funds had given back what they have taken away. Who did anything about it?”
Debunking allegations of ethnicity and religious bigotry, the President continued: “Then I decided to come and put Agbada. I tried one, two, three four times. God agreed. And the third time I came and met a statesman outside the Supreme Court. My chief lawyer was Mike Ahamba, Roman Catholic and Igbo man. He had witnessed in the box and asked the panel of judges that they should check on certain constituencies in certain states to bring us our register, so that we
can prove that the people that voted there were the people INEC submitted. They say ah we shall do it. They said no, you must write it. They wrote it. Whether they send to INEC or INEC refused them but when they came to give judgment. This issue was not raised.
“Another Igbo man, a Roman Catholic, he said that this is what happened. He was among the panel of the judges. He wrote a minority report in my favour. So, why this question of religion and ethnicity and so on? People are worshipping the dollars, the Sterlings not to even talk of the Naira.”
In his remarks, Hameed Ali said the group and majority of Nigerians were passionate about a second-term for President Buhari because of his integrity, honesty, love and patriotism.
The Customs boss said the Buhari administration brought prosperity, especially to farmers across the country.
According to him, only lazy Nigerians are complaining about hunger at a time when the President has entrenched fiscal discipline and prudent management of resources.
He said, “Last year, during the Hajj period when I went home, many farmers came to me and said that they have never had it so good, so much so that the first 25 people that paid up their money when Hajj fares was announced were rice farmers. What more can we say in terms of growth of wealth.
“People say ‘we are hungry.’ Of course the lazy must be hungry because if you do not work hard, manna doesn’t fall from heaven. So, when people say ‘we are hungry’, there was never a times in Nigeria that food is dropped in the mouth of the people, and there can never be.”