Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to citizens with evidence against corrupt officials in government to make it available to anti-corruption agencies through whistleblower channels for immediate action.
President Muhammadu Buhari spoke on Wednesday night while appearing alongside Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a live televised debate-styled townhall meeting in the capital, Abuja.
They were present as candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 16 presidential election which is less than four weeks away.
Buhari was reacting to allegations that his government’s anti-corruption war has shielded top members of his government and the ruling party like former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, who was sacked on corruption allegations but is yet to be formally charged to court after an indictment by a parliamentary sub-committee on the displacement of people in the war-ravaged northeast, chaired by Senator Shehu Sani.
In reply to questions from the live audience, President Buhari responded that the onus was on the opposition or other citizens making such allegations to provide concrete evidence on why the accused should be prosecuted rather than basing their accusations on hearsay.
“That is not fair criticism of the government. I don’t think there is anybody who has been pointed out as corrupt in the last dispensation and we looked in the other direction,” he said.
“I told you why I have to be careful and the public should help us, if there are strong allegations that is backed up with evidences, bank accounts, names of companies floated, contracts awarded, then we take them before the courts through EFCC and ICPC and we have to trust the system and allow them to complete investigation. We can’t just take people in as was done during the military and lock them up, the present multi party democracy does not approve of that,” Buhari added.
The Nigerian president disclosed that anti-graft agencies have been asked to prosecute all corrupt officials irrespective of their leanings to the presidency or ruling party including the sacked SGF.
“If you accuse any person, you have to provide evidence in court for him to be prosecuted, So, if there are strong allegations, the government may decide to ask people to go like the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation was asked to go. The matter is already before the EFCC and I believe that a directive has been issued to charge him and all persons who have cases before the EFCC,” the Nigerian president stated.
The town hall meeting had ministers and top officials of the Nigerian government in attendance. Several issues concerning the resurgence of terrorist attacks by Boko haram in the northeast which have seen soldiers being killed or fleeing battlefields and displacement of tens of thousands of citizens, dominated the discourse.
Vice President Osinbajo also had a field day explaining why Nigerians should re-elect the ruling party. Osinbajo touched on results of the micro and macro-economic policies of the government including social safety net programmes such as the school feeding programme introduced to encourage enrolment in schools and curb rising poverty that has seen Nigeria taking over from India in 2018 as the country with highest number of poor people.
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