Buhari rejects naira devaluation, says no clue on Chibok girls
DESPITE mounting pressure from internal and external interests, the Federal Government will not devalue the nation’s currency, the naira.
It has also defended its restriction on foreign exchange (forex) procurement . But it is ready to relax the restriction for foreign students and industries producing essential goods.
These are some of the positions articulated by Muhammadu Buhari during his maiden presidential chat yesterday .
Disapproving of moves to devalue the naira, Buhari noted that his administration was more interested in enhancing government earnings and reviving local industries through investments in infrastructure, power and security of lives and property.
He said that his administration was interested in making existing refineries operational rather than subsidising the consumption of petrol.
His words: “Personally, I don’t want to support devaluation of the naira. I need to be convinced before I can approve the devaluation of the naira. I need to be convinced. If you devalue the naira, against what currency? Dollar, pound sterling, yen, franc? If we are exporting, yes we can devalue, because we will export more, produce more, create more jobs. But we are at the receiving end.
We are stretched economically, but our priorities are correct. We want to get infrastructure done. We need power; we need to get roads done. The Central Bank of Nigeria will sit with factories and ask what essential raw materials and machinery they need, and provide forex. We need power to make our projects realisable. We need roads, railways and still have to fight insurgency. That is our focus.
“We don’t have enough forex. Those importing rice and toothpicks and textiles should go and look for their own forex. How much forex are we earning? We set priorities based on the earnings and we will look at industries employing people and producing goods.”
Unemployed youths to work for N5000 stipend
Buhari also hinted that unemployed youths may have to work for the N5,000 stipend promised by his administration in the light of the existing circumstances in the nation’s economy, while adding that the Federal Government may not have the capacity for an upward review of the minimum wage.
According to him, the economic situation in the country has been aggravated by the downturn in the petroleum industry with his administration working to ensure that there is a renewed focus on infrastructural development to drive the revival of local industries and investment in the real sector.
Govt renegotiating infrastructural project terms
On rebuilding the nation’s collapsing infrastructure , Buhari said his administration was renegotiating the terms of infrastructural projects embarked upon by the previous administration for sustainability and to ensure that work continues on abandoned projects.
On the issue of fuel subsidy, Buhari noted that market dynamics would shape events in the months to come as there may not be the need to subsidise petrol with the gradual decline in crude oil prices.
“None of the refineries is working efficiently as I am talking to you compared with when I was in government in 1984 when we were producing 150,000 barrels per day and the four refineries were working. We won’t be talking about subsidy by the end of the next quarter because the cost of crude oil will drop. I’m hoping our refineries will start working and that will give 60 per cent of our requirement and 40 per cent will be done with the swap”, he said.
On NASS proposal to spend N4.7billion on cars
The president was unequivocal on the need to cut down on vehicles procurement, noting that he may persuade lawmakers not to buy cars worth over N4.7 billion.
“The first thing I turned down when I assumed power was N400 million budgeted for vehicles for the Presidency. The vehicles I have are good enough for 10 years.
“But I understand we have to buy vehicles for protocols in case we want to host other Presidents. On the N50 billion for cars by the National Assembly, I think I will have to have a closed door meeting with them. I hope they have not bought them yet. I will exercise some veto power to stop them from buying such vehicles having accessed their transport allowance.”
Recovery of looted funds
The President said the government was doing quite well in the fight against corruption, considering the circumstances.
Buhari who swore to bring to book all those who stole public funds urged the support of the international community to support the country quest to recover stolen public funds. He assured Nigerians that “treasury looters will eventually end up in the courts.”
Admitting that the mind-boggling revelation on the diversion of monies meant for the procurement of arms was a tip of the ice berg of what was stolen from the public funds, he noted: “The problem about the NNPC is that it has to do with the involvement of international financial institutions, shipping lines, insurance companies. It is a tip of the ice beg.
“Some of these developed countries where these monies are lodged, their financial institutions are involved, their customs and excise are involved.
“They would have to work on papers. If the insurance papers say a shipping line has brought a million tonnes of bonny light or Akwa Ibom crude costing about $15 million and it went into a certain account rather than a Federal Government account, then you have to ask for the cooperation of those countries to give you those shipping documents and maybe the bank account of where the money went to make your own prosecution in the country because this is what the system accepts and this is what the system of the country we are requiring their cooperation accepts.”
Boko Haram and Chibok girls
President Buhari admitted there is no reliable intelligence on the location and state of the Chibok girls because the insurgents continue to move the girls from one place to another. He said the government was prepared to negotiate with the insurgents.
“But we are looking for a credible Boko Haram leadership that will convince us that the girls are alive,” he said.
He expressed concern about the amount the National Assembly earmarked for vehicles in the 2016 budget, saying, “I cannot see the NASS spending N45billion to buy cars on top of the transport allowance they collect.”
On his ministers
He said : “If you’ve got any evidence about any of my ministers I accept responsibility. You have the right to take them to court but I don’t think I picked anybody as a minister that I know will embarrass my government.
He said that he had declared his assets four times.
President Buhari said he would only comment on the Shi’ite/military crisis after receiving reports of investigations by the police and the Kaduna State government.
He disclosed that the President of Iran spoke with him about the situation “but I told him that as a government we have a system we must follow. As the Head of the Federal Government, I told him I would have to wait for the official report from the Kaduna State government from their investigations “to be fair to both sides, we have to wait for the report of the inquiry.
“I expect the Kaduna State government will bring the report on the inquiry because the crisis happened in its domain. There are all sorts of allegations. So, we just have to wait for the report.”
‘Nigeria may ban Hijab’
On the ban of Hijab, Buhari said if suicide bombing persists the government my have to ban it.
According to him, “When I said that the war has been technically won, I said the capacity of Boko Haram to unleash attacks from camps and barracks had been stopped.
“If Hijab is found to be a problem, the government will have no option than to take a decision on it. The people will have to consider between it and their security. “If this thing (suicide bombing) continues, Hijab would have to be banned.”
Detention of IPOB leaderJustifying the continued detention of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, the President said Kanu who had two international passports, British and Nigerian, entered the country without either .
He also said Kanu “imported sophisticated equipment into the country with which he started broadcasting.”