…Cautions against divisive comments
…As Pastors vow to hand over clerics preaching hate
By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has said the insistence on probity, transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors is to secure the future of the country for all Nigerians, especially the youths.
The President also cautioned against divisive comments by religious leaders and highly placed Nigerians. This is as Pastors vowed to hand over clerics preaching hate over to constituted authorities.
The President who received a letter of Credence from the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria, His Excellency Ketil Iversen Karlsen, at the State House yesterday also explained that he refused to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) among ECOWAS countries because of the need to protect the economy, especially the industries and small businesses that currently provide jobs for majority Nigerians.
According to a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, Buhari said his administration will continually promote the culture of honesty and integrity in service, which will guarantee a better future for the youth.
“Our insistence on probity is to encourage people to be accountable, and accept honesty as a lifestyle so as to secure the future of our youths,’’ he said.
The President said more than 60 percent of Nigerians fall into the age category of youths and deserve to inherit a stable and prosperous country that they can be proud of, adding that the government will work assiduously to prevent waste and the depletion of resources by corrupt Nigerians.
He told the Head of Delegation of the European Union that Nigeria had been reluctant to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) among ECOWAS countries because of the need to protect the economy, especially the industries and small businesses that currently provide jobs for majority Nigerians.
The President noted that the signing of the agreement will expose the industries and small businesses to external pressures and competitions, which could lead to closures and job losses.
“We are not enthusiastic about signing the EPA because of our largely youthful population. We are still struggling to provide jobs for them; and we want our youths to be kept busy.
“Presently, our industries cannot compete with the more efficient and highly technologically driven industries in Europe. We have to protect our industries and our youths,’’ he said.
Buhari, who commended the EU for its support for the rehabilitation of the North East, noted that the Nigerian economy was already being repositioned to attract more investments that will create jobs.
In his remarks, Karlsen said the EU will continue to support Buhari administration in the key priorities it listed; security, economy and the fight against corruption.
He said the EPA was designed to accommodate and protect some economies that would find it difficult to compete. “We are hopeful that there will be a signature on the agreement,’’ he added.
The President also received Letters of Credence from the Ambassador of Italy, Dr. Stefano Pontesilli and the Ambassador of Spain, Mr. Marcelino Cabanas Ansorena.
In another statement, President Buhari called on religious leaders to work towards the broader goal of building a strong and unified nation and avoid insinuations that could divide the populace, especially along religious lines.
According to the statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, the President gave the charge while receiving a delegation of the Arewa Pastors Non-Denominational Initiative for Peace in Nigeria led by Bishop John Abu Richard.
The President said religious leaders have the responsibility of creating an enabling environment for peace and development to thrive.
“Some voices, for political or ethnic reasons, are making unguarded statements accusing the government and myself in particular of religious bias.
“Let me assure you, Honourable clergymen, that this is far from the truth. In my career as a soldier, administrator, and politician, I have never veered from my oath of office.
“When I had the honour to lead a Military Government there were more Christians than Muslims in the Federal Executive Council and the Supreme Military Council.
“This was not by design, but I appointed people on their merit without the slightest bias. The present Federal Executive Council is also evenly balanced; again not by design but by respecting and rewarding individual qualities,’’ the President said.
He noted that he was delighted at the proposition to hold a one day prayer and fasting meeting for the nation, April 26, 2018, assuring that he would direct the Inspector General of Police to provide adequate security for the gathering.
In his remarks, the leader of the delegation said more than 45,000 pastors in the Northern part of Nigeria have registered with the initiative to use their pulpits for the propagation of the gospel of peace, and shun political distractions.
He urged other pastors to support the administration, as it works towards ending the violence in various parts of the country and avoid politically coloured sermons.
The group, led by Bishop John Abu Richard, also dismissed the speculations that the he was prosecuting plans to islamize the country, and vowed to network with their colleagues across the country to locate and hand over to security agencies any of their colleagues preaching hate messages.
The Bishop said they acknowledged the good leadership the President was rendering to Nigerians in the area of restoring the economy, boom in the Agricultural sector, tackling of insecurity, fighting corruption and his genuine efforts of being a great father to all Nigerians both Muslims and Christians.
Richard in his speech said the group of 45,000 pastors is going “to counter those deceiving and poisoning Nigerians with fake news to destroy your good intentions for the country, especially those giving the impression that you are against Christians and some ethnic groups in Nigeria, which is a big lie.
“Some Pastors are using places of worship to preach hate; people using Church to preach violence. If you preach war and war broke out who will go to Church for worship?
“We will want His Excellency to link us with the relevant security agencies in our crusade for peace and fight against hate speeches and those dark walls that separate us, as we will network with our counterpart from the East and West to hand over those of our colleagues being used by the enemies of our togetherness to inject
confusion and false stories into the public space, resulting to the destabilization of peaceful co-existence we were enjoying in the country.
“We believed that the Mr. President has no lslamization agenda in Nigeria, because if he cannot do it as Military Head of State with a Muslim Deputy Head of State, how can it be done under Democratic government? This is just an opposition propaganda.
“About the killings around the country, we observed that it is not only Christian that are the victims. Both Muslims and Christians are affected, and the Government is doing everything possible to solve the problem. What we need to do is to come together, as a people, to support our government in order to bring an end to this circle of violence; and we assure Your Excellency that we will co-operate in exposing any information that will be available to us as regard to the perpetrators.”