President Muhammadu Buhari says he is ready for probe over his 2015 campaign funding or any corruption-related allegations at any time, and he is not prepared to spare any suspect implicated in the $2.1billion arms deals because the cash was illegally drawn from the public funds in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The President, in a wide ranging interview with select newspaper editors as he concludes his first year in office, vows to deal with militants in the Niger Delta and kidnappers holding the nation hostage.
To him, the National Conference organized by the Jonathan Administration, is nothing more than a waste of N9billion, and admits he has not even bothered to touch the report of the confab.
The report may end up in the archives, he says.
On the fate of the Naira, he says he has been under pressure on how to save the currency.
He prays God to continue to protect him from doing anything that will soil his image and explains that even if he has immunity from prosecution now that he is in office, nothing stops the anti-graft agencies from probing leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) suspected of abuse of campaign funds.
His words: “I don’t know whether I have some official protection. If I don’t have it, why haven’t you started the investigation? I see, very good. But then, it doesn’t extend to all the executives and party leaders and the party leaders are there.
“If anybody has received $100 million to give to the party, I think he should be asked to tell us where he got the $100 million.
I know those we would eventually successfully prosecute, they wouldn’t leave it, neither will they let their friends leave it.
We do not believe if we were so reckless we would get away with it. I don’t believe it.
“Do you remember the three and half years when I was in charge of the petroleum ministry, have you forgotten the $2.8 billion (issue)? If you have forgotten, I haven’t. Have you forgotten the PTF (Petroleum Trust Fund)?
“In the PTF, at one stage we had more than N53 billion at a time, we planned and spent it. It was investigated subsequently.
“So I assure you that I feel perfectly safe. But nobody is perfect, only God is perfect. But let me tell you, from being governor of the six states (the old North Eastern State) which was only for seven months, to the petroleum ministry, to Head of State, and to PTF, I tried not to expose myself, and I hope God will continue to help me.”
On the $2.3billion arms scandal, the President said his administration will not give up in fighting against graft.
He said: “How can you take $2.1 billion meant to fight insurgency and share among yourselves and think that nothing should happen?
Not to talk of when political money is being raised for elections and the Central Bank of Nigeria, NNPC, Customs funds are where the funds are collected from.
“We’ve made some progress in recovering this money, which I promised I will tell the nation in the next two or three days, just to show Nigerians that we haven’t given up and have no intention of giving up.
We’re giving the people the opportunity of fair trial.
“They took the money and paid into some persons’ accounts, and there are signatures of some persons who admitted that they had taken the money.
Somebody comes and calls another, saying ‘you’re a member of this party?’ The other person responds by saying ‘yes’.
Then, he’s told ‘take a N100 million to go and keep,’ and the other person doesn’t ask any questions. You take a N100 million and disappear, and subsequently you complain that you have received money for doing nothing?”
On militants and kidnappers he said: “Nobody would invest in an insecure environment.
Those who had been in Nigeria for so many years can conduct feasibility studies. But why do they put money paying militants or paying for corruption?
This means with all the goodwill we are winning, we may not be able to benefit in the long run because of the kidnapping and the actions of the militants.
“So it is a top priority for this government to address. Once we settle down to make sure that we deal with militants, we will deal with kidnappers also. We will secure this country.”
On the free fall of the Naira, he said: “I challenged Nigerian economists to tell me what benefits Nigeria has earned from the devaluation so far.
How many factories have we built by killing the Naira? I have to reluctantly give up because the so-called Nigerian economists come and talk things to me, and when I raise issues they talk over my head instead of inside my head.
“For us to lose over N300 (every year we’re losing the value of the currency by N100), what for? Let them tell me how many factories they’ve built.
I find myself in a very difficult state because the economists cannot tell me why we should continue to devalue our Naira.
People say import, and we find out that we are just importing food! We’re now planning to stop importation of rice, wheat, maize in three years’ time.
“On the value of the Naira I’m still agonizing over it, that the Naira should be reduced to such a disgraceful level over the last 30 years.
I need to be educated on this. But I’m not ruling this country alone. I’m under pressure and we’ll see how we can accommodate the economists.”