• As Buhari counts gains of economic diversification
By Ese Awhotu, Lawrence Olaoye Abuja and Mika’il Tsoho Dutse
The federal government has said that the $320 million stolen funds by the late military head of state, Sani Abacha, would be channeled to poverty alleviation to support the poor.
President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed this yesterday while declaring open the 8th Commonwealth Conference of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa, saying that the recovered loot would be spent on the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme of his administration to support the poor.
This is just as the President has said that the diversification programmes of his administration have begun to yield the desired results
Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said the use of the looted funds to support the poor was one condition given by the Switzerland authorities for the repatriation of the funds.
He revealed that The Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) after its inaugural meeting in Washington, DC, in December 2017, had facilitated efforts toward asset recovery and return.
“The GFAR saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and the Government of Switzerland for the return of an additional $320 million of the Sani Abacha loot.
“Included in that agreement is the commitment that the funds would be invested in one of the Nigeria’s flagship social investment programmes, the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable households in our country.’’
The president declared that corruption had continued to be one of the greatest challenges in the continent and called for international collaboration to stem the “scourge”.
Buhari noted that the cost of corruption imposed on all African countries and governments a moral obligation to fight it with vigour and political will.
He said it should be done by strengthening all institutions and systems involved in law enforcement as well as in promoting a culture of transparency and accountability.
The president urged African countries to come together to keep the issue of asset recovery and return on the front-burner of international discourse and also work hard to build cooperation and mutual understanding with global partners.
“We must insist that recovered stolen assets be returned to the country of origin, without any preconditions, in line with Article 51 of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC),’’ he added.
Buhari said that states should agree to apply the highest standards possible of transparency at all stages not just of the recovery and return process, but also in the management and disposal of recovered and repatriated assets.
He also called on governments of African States to adequately fund their anti-corruption agencies as the fight against corruption was far more sophisticated, vicious and nuanced than ever before.
On diversification, the President, according to a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, who was in Jigawa state on a two-day working visit noted that his agricultural revolution was not only real but also on course.
Speaking at an event to mark the commencement of the rehabilitation and expansion of the 6,000-hectare Hadejia Valley irrigation project, Buhari assured Nigerians that his administration would sustain the positive momentum in the sector by implementing the right policies and providing the needed financial resources for people-oriented projects.
He expressed delight that the Federal Government’s economic diversification and inclusive growth programmes were yielding positive results, particularly in key food-producing states.
The President applauded the World Bank’s assistance to the project, which when completed would increase water availability for all-season farming in the State and beyond.
Also speaking, the Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Suleiman Adamu explained that works on the phase one of the project which started in the early eighties during the administration of President Shehu Shagari and received some funding under the Petroleum Special Trust Fund had suffered frequent abandonment due to lack of funds.
Adamu said with N9.6 billion allocated under the $495 million World Bank-assisted Transforming Irrigation Management in Nigeria (TRIMING) project in five different irrigation locations in Nigeria, the project would be completed by 2021.
‘‘By the time the project is finished in three years, there would be about 6,000 hectares of farmland and the Jigawa State Government also plans to key into the project that will benefit over 25,000 farmers,’’ the Minister said.
In Jigawa, the President commissioned the 42-kilometre Tasheguwa-Guri Road and the 32-kilometre Abunabo-Kadira-Guri road constructed by the State government to facilitate easier movement and evacuation of farm produce.
Buhari also commissioned the 250,000 solar- powered water supply scheme.
The project is one out of nine of such projects which will add nine million litres to daily water supply in Dutse and environs.
Meanwhile, our reporter in Dutse reports that the 114km roads that covered Tasheguwa, Guri, Kadira to Abunabo were constructed at total cost of N11 billion and awarded to CGC construction company.
While speaking at Hadejia palace, President Muhammad Buhari commended the state Governor, Muhammad Abubakar Badaru for his effort to execute projects that would have direct positive impact to the common man.
He equally expressed disappointment with the manner with which he was prevented from meeting the people directly despite their efforts to troop to the occasion to see him.
“ I was enveloped in a dark vehicle which prevented the large number of people that came to see me, I could also see the disappointment on their faces when they could not even guess the vehicle that conveyed me .”
“I hope when I’m going back they would put me in an open vehicle so that my people will see me and I will also wave them,” Mr. President said.