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The All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), on Thursday, ruled out amnesty for Boko Haram insurgents if elected President on March 28.
He said the activities of the sect which has so far killed over 13, 000 people since 2009, had become a source of worry to many people within and outside the country.
Buhari was at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London, where he addressed the world on various issues concerning the rescheduled general elections.
He said, “I think I will not go to that office with that promise. I have said in my address how, at least 13,000 Nigerians have been killed by Boko Haram, how millions of them have been displaced and are now kept in different camps called Internally Displaced Persons camps.
“Schools have been burnt, there is so much disruption to normal life; people cannot farm and where they are able to farm, they cannot harvest. So, granting amnesty to Boko Haram will be unfair to the system.”
Buhari, who described himself as “a former military ruler and a converted democrat,” however stated that any insurgent caught would “be given the chance in civil courts to be properly prosecuted.”
He added, “We will secure Nigeria. At no other time in our history has Nigeria been this insecure. Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals, displacing millions internally and externally, and at a time holding on to portions of our territory the size of Belgium. What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency.”
He accused the current administration of allowing Boko Haram to operate with ease by failing to provide what he described as “a multi-dimensional response” to its activities.
“In the matter of this insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem,” the former Head of State said.
Asked how he planned to tackle the violent sect if elected President, Buhari said his government would “pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, give the military adequate modern arms and ammunition and improve intelligence gathering to choke its financial and equipment channels.”
The former Head of State also said his regime would look into the root causes of insurgency “by intiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas.
The APC presidential candidate gave assurance that the world would have no cause to worry about Nigeria any longer if given the mandate to rule the country by Nigerians.
He said, “Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa, and no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy.
Buhari also said the global interest the Nigerian general elections had generated was not misplaced. He therefore urged the international community to continue to focus on the country at this very critical moment.
The Katsina State-born general expressed the view that the elections should be conducted on the rescheduled dates of March 28 and April 11 and that their outcomes should be respected by all parties.
He, however, warned that any further extension of the elections under whichever guise would not be tolerated.
The APC presidential candidate also flayed President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for the poor management of the country’s economy.
According to him, waste and corruption thrive under the Jonathan administration.
Buhari, who expressed his distaste for corruption, promised to run a transparent government.
He said, “There will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process.
“Revenue producing entities such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.
“But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I am running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity. Nigerians can be respected again.”
He said the rebasing in April last year which rated Nigeria’s economy 26th in the world did not affect the lives of ordinary Nigerians .
Buhari said, “After the rebasing exercise in April 2014, Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Our GDP(Gross Domestic Product) is now valued at $510bn and our economy rated 26th in the world.
“Also on the bright side, inflation has been kept at single digit for a while and our economy has grown at an average of seven per cent for about a decade. But it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on account of mismanagement, profligacy and corruption, has not translated to human development or shared prosperity.
“A development economist once said three questions should be asked about a country’s development: one, what is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening to unemployment? And three, what is happening to inequality?
“The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery. Even by official figures, 33.1 per cent of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That’s at 60 million, almost the population of the United Kingdom.
“There is also the unemployment crisis simmering beneath the surface, ready to explode at the slightest stress, with officially 23.9 per cent of our adult population and almost 60% of our youths unemployed.
“We also have one of the highest rates of inequalities in the world. With all these, it is not surprising that our performance on most governance and development indicators (like the Mo Ibrahim Index on African Governance and the UNDP’s Human Development Index) are unflattering.
“With the fall in the prices of oil, which accounts for more than 70 per cent of government revenues, and lack of savings from more than a decade of oil boom, the poor will be disproportionately impacted.”
He dismissed the persistent report by the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, that he was not fit to rule, saying that his doctors had declared him healthy.
According to him, the development(fitness) will prompt him to carry out a final onslaught on the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
Identifying joblessness among Nigeria’s youths as one of the issues that would grab his attention, Buhari said, “Sixty per cent of Nigerians are youths and most of them are unemployed. This is a problem we will tackle.”
Buhari also promised to provide robust security for investors to do their business.
When asked his position on Sharia, he said, “The Nigerian constitution is superior to any other law. Sharia is on the same level as customary laws. Sharia is limited and anybody who wants to change this will need to change the constitution. ”
The APC presidential candidate, who had been variously be accused of dictatorship, said he took responsibility for whatever happened under his watch as the head of state between 1983 and 1985.
He said, “Standing before you is a retired general, but now a converted democrat I cannot change the past, but I can change the present and the future. Standing before you is a retired general, but now a converted democrat.
“Nigeria lacks the right leadership. I, Muhammadu Buhari will lead from the front. I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.”
Pro and anti-Buhari supporters almost clashed outside the venue of the event but for the intervention of policemen.
Both groups arrived the arena with placards expressing their opinions of the presidential candidate.
The anti-Buhari group, which called itself Civil Society and Support Groups-Diaspora, was said to have been bribed with $20,000 by a force against Buhari’s bid to wrestle power from Jonathan.
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