Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday confirmed that he had started receiving some documents which indicted some former ministers and other top government officials of massive fraud, including oil theft.
While describing the amount of money involved in the shady deals as mind-boggling, the President promised that his administration would use the indicting documents and others still being compiled to clamp down on the culprits and prosecute them.
He also said while many Nigerians nickname him ‘Baba Go Slow’ because of the delay in forming his cabinet, he would prefer to be ‘slow and steady’ in taking decisions.
The President stated these while speaking at an interactive session with Nigerians in the Diaspora at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, United States, in continuation of his four-day official visit to the country.
Buhari said the documents revealed that some top government officials moved as much as one million barrels of crude oil per day for their personal purposes.
He said such officials also opened as many as five bank accounts abroad for the purpose of laundering money.
He said by the time the process of compiling and identifying the shady deals and those behind them were completed, his administration would approach countries where the loots were kept to assist in repatriating them.
The President said, “We are now looking for evidences of shipping some of our crude, their destinations and where and which accounts they were paid and in which country.
“When we get as much as we can get as soon as possible, we will approach those countries to freeze those accounts and go to court, prosecute those people and let the accounts be taken to Nigeria.
“The amount of money is mind-boggling but we have started getting documents. We have started getting documents where some of the senior people in government, former ministers, some of them operated as much as five accounts and were moving about one million barrels per day on their own. We have started getting those documents.
“I assure you that whichever documents we are able to get and subsequently trace the sale of the crude or transfer of money from Ministries, Departments, Central Bank, we will ask for the cooperation of those countries to return those monies to Federation Accounts.
“And we will use those documents to arrest those people and prosecute them. This, I promise Nigerians.”
Buhari faulted the mode of operation of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, saying his administration would check the excesses of the corporation.
The President restated his position on the removal of subsidy, that it would bring more hardship to Nigerians.
He however said he would study the debate and take a decision based on his experience.
“Who is subsidising who? But, people are gleefully talking, ‘remove subsidy’. They want petrol to cost N500 per litre.
“If you are working and subsidy is removed, you can’t control transport, you can’t control market women: the cost of food, the cost of transport.
“If you are earning N20,000 per day and you are living in Lagos or Ibadan, the cost of transport to work and back, the cost of food. You cannot control the market women because they have to pay what transporters charge them.
“If there is need for removing subsidy, I will study it. With my experience, I will see what I can do. But I am thinking about more than half of Nigerians, who, virtually cannot afford to live.
“Where will they get the money to go to work? How can they feed their families? How can they pay rent? If Nigeria were not an oil producing country – all well and good.
“Our refineries are not working. We have a lot of work to do,” he added.
Buhari decried those he said had started calling him ‘Baba Go Slow’ because he had yet to form his cabinet, weeks after his inauguration.
He cited the example of previous government under the Peoples Democratic Party which spent more than two months to settle down during its 16 years of ruling the country.
He said he would prefer to go slowly and steady in administering the country.
The President, however, said though his administration might be accused of being slow, it would be steady in fulfilling its campaign promises to Nigerians.
Buhari said, “Within the past two weeks, I am being asked when I am going to form my cabinet. And in some quarters they are now calling me ‘Baba Go Slow’.
“I am going to go slow and steady. Nigerians should be patient to allow this administration put some sense into governance and deal with corruption.”
He also pledged to study the Diaspora Bill with a view to signing it into law as being demanded by Nigerians in the Diaspora.
The President advised those Nigerians in the Diaspora looking for government jobs back home to suspend their ambition as the nation’s economy was in a bad shape and it would take his administration about 18 months or more to resuscitate it.
He, however, promised that some of them would be engaged by the Federal Government as consultants to enable them contribute their quota to national development.