President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday hosted his periodic presidential media chat, 5th in the series since his election in 2011 where he spoke on a wide range of topical issues including the ASUU strike, corruption, Apo killings, power sector and 2015, among others.
The president corroborated the accounts of the security agencies involved in the operation that they were first fired upon by suspected Boko Haram elements and in self-defense, they returned fire.
“Though innocent persons may have died,” he started, “there were confessions from arrested Boko Haram operatives that there were arms in that building.
“Some of the people that were arrested confessed and they were leading them to where they said arms were kept and there was an exchange of gunfire. In the process some people were arrested some died. I cannot say clearly that all those who died were members of Boko Haram but definitely there were Boko Haram elements there” he said.
The President betrayed the lack of proper coordination and information sharing between him and his security chiefs when he declared that he had not been briefed on Boko Haram leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau following claims that the Nigerian military goofed on its hasty declaration that the terrorist leader may have died from gunshot wounds.
“I do not know whether he (Shekau) is dead or alive. I do not know him and have never seen him before. You cannot have clear information on security operation; I’ve not been briefed,” he added.
“If he was talking regularly in the past and suddenly stopped, there should be speculations.”
Lingering ASUU Strike
On the deadlock in discussions between ASUU and the Federal Government, President Jonathan said: “Some of the issues in the 2009 agreement with ASUU, maybe those who sat down to do the negotiations were civil servants, there were certain things that some of them know and agree that cannot be implemented. How can they say that assets of government should be transferred to universities? The Federal Government has so many assets; government cannot take care of universities alone. So if we transfer all the landed property of government to the universities, what about the armed forces?
“We have been faithful to the agreement because after the 2009 agreement, there have been other strikes. So this strike is beyond the 2009 agreement because it is apart from those ones that talk about transferring assets of government to universities. You cannot just do that. Talking about infrastructure, the government was not forced into that but we on our side decided to go and take inventory of the infrastructure. So they should not capitalize on it, you cannot change this overnight but we are looking at this with serious commitment. We still have our challenges but you have seen the commitment of government.”
Giving no clear-cut solution to the ASUU impasse, the president pleaded with the university lecturers to call off the strike saying that government is committed to effecting the changes.
“Members of ASUU are our brothers and sisters, they should look at the country, they should look at the young men and women and they should also look at the commitment of government. We are very sincere and my commitment is total to make changes but you cannot make this overnight. If you see the sincerity in government and given the extra things government is doing, we are committed. You should not expect us to close down other sectors of government and bring all the money to solve the problem over night.”
Nigeria Not Broke
Dispelling recent allegations that the country is broke that is why the federal government has not been able to share oil revenue with other tiers of government, Mr. Jonathan said, “People play politics because for anybody to say that Nigeria is bankrupt, there must be some indicators. You just don’t wake up from your sleep and say Nigeria is bankrupt. Nigeria, as a nation, in terms of foreign direct investment, shows that the business environment is viable. More than 90 per cent of those who invest in our capital market are non-Nigerians. If Nigeria was bankrupt, the investors will remove their money overnight. Anybody who talks about Nigeria being bankrupt is just playing politics. If Nigeria is broke, there are parameters you use.”
The president also dismissed the often repeated claim that there is monumental corruption in the country saying, “When you talk of corruption in Nigeria, it is all about perception and index. Perception is like when you say something is wrong 100 times, it becomes true. There was a time we assembled civil society people and asked them to compare and contrast what the major problem of Nigeria was, I think corruption came third. I am not saying corruption does not exist in this country, corruption is existing and it is as old as the human race. What our administration is doing is to ensure that public funds are not exposed to people to steal.”
Privatization and Power Sector
“There is no selective privatization; you cannot privatize everything the same day,” President Jonathan said.
On the ongoing power sector reforms, he has this to say: “We are not talking about how many megawatts; that is not the issue. The real issue is how many hours of the day people in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and so on really have power, that is our interest because when we generate and you do not have the capacity to evacuate, then you have done nothing.
“As at the time we were talking about megawatt, we couldn’t even have done more than 5500 megawatts, but we are taking the whole chain, including the privatisation of Generating companies (Gencos) and Distribution companies (Discos).”
Petroleum Ministry/Oil Theft
The president dismissed the various corruption allegations against the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, saying those who want to get oil blocks or lift oil and are not able to do so, are the sponsors of such allegations.
“They will complain. Most of the stories are based on perception. Some of the stories are ‘molue’ stories. We are now paying a little less than a Trillion.”
On oil theft, Mr. Jonathan said this problem was not peculiar to Nigeria and that the swampy terrain of the Niger Delta makes it very difficult to protect crude oil assets.
“When something starts in a very small way, if it is not checked it will result in what we are seeing now. I can assure you that we will get it under control. Government is also working with other heads of states outside Nigeria. There is no reason why you should accept stolen crude oil. It is not done by poor people.”