We Are Seeking Obama’s Assistance Over Security Challenges - Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan Sunday disclosed that his government was seeking United States President Barack Obama's help to overcome the nation's current security challenges.
He also said Nigeria had approached other world powers like France, United Kingdom and China for help to tackle the insecurity in some parts of the country.
Speaking during the latest edition of the presidential media chat - a radio-television live interview – Jonathan said: "The United States is number one. I have talked to President Obama at least twice" concerning the nation’s security challenges.
Nigeria has been battling insurgents in the nation’s North-east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe which are currently under state of emergency. However, despite the deployment of huge military assets to the affected states, the deadly militant sect, Boko Haram, has been carrying out a campaign of terror, with the latest being the abduction of over 100 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State - a development that has attracted global outrage.
But as the search for these abducted girls continues and following the controversy surrounding their actual number and names, President Jonathan has called on the parents of the girls to come forward with their photographs to enable the military rescue them from wherever they are.
He said while he sympathised with the parents of the girls, they needed to assist the military with their identities so that they could be rescued.
Jonathan, who also decried the politicisation of the matter, called for the cooperation of all concerned so as to bring an end to their tragic abduction.
According to the president, “The security personnel have searched everywhere but because of the situation on ground, people are not seeing their efforts. We have deployed sophisticated equipment to scan the area and we will continue to do so. I sympathise with their parents because girls of that age in that kind of situation is depressing.
“I have met with the principal of the school, the state commissioner of education and the governor of the state and we have had reasonable discussion on the matter. Let me assure all Nigerians that we are doing our best. Reports that we are not doing enough are not true. All we are asking for is the cooperation of all including the parents of the abducted girls.
“Today, there are conflicting figures as to the number of girls that have returned. While the police said 44 of them have returned, their parents said 55 have returned. Notwithstanding, I am going to do everything I can to ensure that those girls are returned to their parents and the perpetrators will face justice.”
Jonathan also denied that his government was negotiating with the abductors, stressing that no group has claimed responsibility for the act.
On how long Nigerians would have to wait before the girls are freed, he stated that government needs every assistance it can get to resolve the matter.
“The whole world has been searching for the missing Malaysian flight MH370 with the best technology available without results. We are doing everything we can and will continue to do so until the girls are freed,” he said.
He said rumours that the girls had been married out were misleading because nobody had come out to say who they were married to.
“These are rumours that cannot be substantiated. I enjoin locals in Chibok to come and give us useful information because we believe the girls must be around that area,” he stated.
On claims that helicopters were dropping supplies for the terrorists, he said Nigerians sometimes play politics with serious national issues by making wild claims.
He said he had personally asked for photographs or a video clip of a helicopter delivering supplies to the terrorists, stating that nobody had come up with any evidence.
Concerning the ongoing National Conference, which some Nigerians have expressed concerns over its legitimacy; the president reiterated that the conference was legitimate, though he agreed that if it would bring about the modification of the existing constitution or bring about a new one, there would be need to go to the National Assembly, a move he suggested could come after the conference must have had fruitful deliberations.
According to him, what is most important is for the conference to come up with agreement on issues after which its decisions would be pushed through the parliament, noting that any attempt to get legislative approval for the conference would meet a brick wall at the National Assembly.
“It is legitimate because the constitution of Nigeria empowers the president to set up committees. What we want is for our people to come up with what is best for the people. If the conference comes up with anything that is agreed by 70 per cent of the delegates, we would push it through with the parliament. But if you try to get a law now, it would not go through,” he said.
The president, who again declined to declare whether or not he would be contesting the 2015 presidential election to seek a second term in office however allayed fears that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may face financial crisis ahead of the 2015 elections.
“I’ve said that the issue of my declaration should not be a problem to Nigerians. The issue should be how I manage the country, the security and the developmental projects till May 2015.
“Don’t worry about the budget; what I can promise Nigerians is that INEC would conduct the election. The executive and the legislature will work together to ensure that elections are successful,” Jonathan assured Nigerians.
He also seized the opportunity to give a hint on when the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would emerge. He said his party would only come up with its presidential candidate for the 2015 elections after the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has named its own.
“PDP is not in a hurry to name its presidential candidate when APC has not done so. Remember that PDP is still the champion,” Jonathan said.
He said the reality on the ground now shows that PDP and APC are the major parties that are likely to contest the 2015 presidential election.
The president also spoke on the World Economic Forum (WEF) which kicks off this week, noting that it portends considerable economic gains for Nigeria.
“We have made giant strides in power, security, roads, agriculture and other sectors of the economy. The WEF will help us showcase these achievements. A number of people coming have never been to Nigeria. They are global businessmen who want to invest.
“Two of them have already shown interest in bringing a $250 million investment into the country. Another one is ready to invest $150 million. IMF and the World Bank would come to say what they can do for Nigeria. The key actors will come,” he said.
On the running battle between the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and members of the House of Representatives, the President said the minister did not go to court to stop the House from probing her over the use of private jet.
He said the ministry of petroleum had always been hiring jets and would continue to hire jets because of the nature of its functions.
“I don’t think she has gone to court; I am not aware that the Minister of Petroleum has gone to court to stop any investigation. The issue of parliament, especially House of Representatives and the government, those are issues that are to be sorted out,” he said.
He stated that the minister had appeared before the National Assembly more times than any minister, department or any arm of government.
“In fact, some of my ministers have spent five per cent of their working hours in the parliament. No country can progress when the ministers spend a fair percentage of the days in a week, appearing before parliament. So, the minister has not gone to court to stop them. The information I had is that quite a number of some organisations are beginning to question some of the rationale behind the probes. Sometimes, you see that some of the things are politicised. Whether you like it or not, the parliament of any country is made up of politicians and they play politics with whatever they do. If you have been following issues in the House of Representatives, you will know that there is more of politics than work,” he said.
On the allegation that some fuel marketers have adjusted their pumps to shortchange customers, he said he would set up machinery to investigate and bring perpetrators to book.
He stated that he had not and would not change the pump price of petrol through the back door.
“If somebody is manipulating his pump price to exploit Nigerians, it is criminal and since you have said so, I will set up machinery to investigate. It is a criminal offence for you to manipulate your machines to exploit Nigerians; it is stealing. I remember once we are meeting and everybody was talking about corruption, whenever they go to court, conviction is usually an issue. I called a meeting of the key actors in the judiciary, executive and the legislature to discuss how to work together to change the country’s perception on the issue of corruption so that the court will handle issues of corruption with dispatch,” he said.
On the issue of the alleged missing $20 billion from the Federation Account, President Jonathan said the issue of the missing money had become a phenomenon in Nigerian government.
“In every regime, there is always missing oil money. I do not want to mention regimes but there is always the story of missing oil money. The Governor of Central Bank came up and said that Nigeria lost $49.8 billion, approximately $50 billion in 18 months time frame, between 2010/2011 or 2012. The time frame he gave was actually 18 months and not up to 24 months and we lost $50 billion. It rattled so many people; we got calls from all over the world. The foreign aid that came into Africa within that 18-month period is not up to $50 billion. So, we even lost more money than the total foreign aid that came into Africa within that period. Even some Nigerians asked questions. $50 billion is a lot of money and if you take $50 billion, America will know; it is their money. Where will you have $50 billion? Dangote celebrated as the richest person in Africa; if you ask Dangote to bring $10 billion, he will not bring $10 billion in cash,” he explained.
“The figures are quite frightening but the CBN governor is not an ordinary Nigerian. He is the governor of the CBN, the reserve bank of Nigeria. People raise issues and within a month, he changed it to $12 billion. After some weeks, it was $20 billion that was missing. I do not know the figures to believe. Probably, if he is still there, he could have mentioned another figure now but because of the suspension, no other new figure has come out,” he added.
He said it was not possible for anybody to steal $50 billion without people knowing, adding that the audit is ongoing.
“America will know and they will tell you where the money is,” he said.
He called for patience to enable the executive and the National Assembly conclude investigations on the matter.