President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday rationalised the treatment of retired Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, saying that he dealt with him for having in his possession undeclared foreign and local currencies.
Speaking when he received some Yoruba leaders led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the presidential villa, Abuja, he said he had to do what he did to the former CJN even though reluctantly.
The President said: “But anybody who cannot account for what he has and for refusing to declare it, we will have to do something about it.
“I will tell you as, that was why I had to deal though reluctantly with the former Chief Justice because there were millions of dollars, euros not to talk of naira which were not declared.
“I wonder what sort of conscience some of us have. How can you seat and preside over and lock people up for years and even sentence some to death and yet you are not doing what the constitution said you should do by occupying that vital institution.
“So, I stopped getting worried so much, sorry to admit it, when I found out that I could play hoop, step and jump. What I mean is that if it is America, they will do it this way. If it were in Europe, they will do this way but if you go there after 250 to 400 years, how old are we?
“So I realize that I don’t want to go back to into detention again.”
Buhari, who recalled how as a military leader he clamped suspected looters into detention until they proved themselves innocent, said that these days, suspects deny their property until they are shown their bank accounts.
The President maintained that he had decided that property seized from suspects would be sold and the money kept in the treasury to prevent future administrations from returning them to their owners.
Buhari added: “Now, what I do is when a person cannot justify what he has or fails to declare as the constitution specifies, some of them swear to Almighty God that their property doesn’t belong to them until we show them their bank accounts and their companies then we have some peace.
“So, we are recovering as much as we can under the system and this time around I said the properties will be sold and the money put in the treasury.
“The last time they were giving back their properties but this time around whoever comes after me no matter how generous he is, he cannot take money from the treasury give it to individuals. It will be impossible.”
The President also recalled his campaign promises and the effort his administration had made to meet them with success.
Buhari thanked the group for the visit, saying: “So, institutions like yours when you have secured your constituency constitutionally and materially, you can help establish this country. And really this country needs you and you need this country with the future generation because of the population explosion we are going through and the limited resources and the deficits of infrastructure.”
In a text read by Chief Olabiyi Durijaiye, on behalf of the group, told the President his group helped to elect him into office.
He said: “We are proud of our contributions to your victory through the Yoruba Summit Conference held at the University of Ibadan International Conference Centre on January 29, 2019. There, we passed a well-applauded motion urging all the people of Western Nigeria origin of voting age to vote for your re-election by virtue of your people-oriented and welfarist APC political programmes and performance and performance.
“We are happy the people complied.
“Attached to this script is a copy of our motion for your support and congratulatory message published in the Nation newspaper on 28th May 2019.”
We made some requests of the President on security, education, youth employment, federalism, power supply and agriculture.
Durojaiye said on security, “The huge cost not-withstanding, it may be considered worthwhile to take a bold step in combating crime and improving on security by improving on the apparent shortage of the manpower in the Nigeria Police Force and by extending control of the Police from the State to Local Government level.
“By this, we humbly suggest that Mr President should reflect deeply and consider recruitment, training, equipment and deployment of Nigerian Police on the basis of 774 Local Governments listed in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Added to this is training the general public on the need to improve on their individual vigilance and awareness of the movement of strangers passing through or moving into their neighbourhood. Imbibing such habit and practice will be a tremendous help or service to the Police and other security agents as regards ‘Intelligence’ support especially now that moment st people have access to individual means of communication (telephone handsets).
“Mr President, Sir, please permit me one more observation on the issue of security. In apparent desire to supplement your efforts, the newly elected Governors of Western Nigeria extraction, have this very day, Tuesday the 25th June 2019, held a meeting in Ibadan to map out strategies to eradicate kidnapping and violent attacks. They and other states will surely need more financial subvention and support.
“Education: Free Universal and Compulsory Education“ had been practised with remarkable success in some parts of Nigeria in the past. Mr President may consider re-introducing the programme and make it compulsory at all levels and all over the country as a lasting gift to Nigeria in his final term in office. Such a bold step through very expensive will revolutionize and catapult the entire nation to the next higher level.
“Youth Employment: One of the obvious advantages that will accrue from Education Programmer referred to in paragraph two above which will include Basic, Technical, Skill Acquisition, Digitalization and ICT Programmes will be to Open wide gates to Youth Employment in Nigeria and in the Diaspora.”
On Federalism, he stated: “We seriously recommend clinging to the spirit and letters of our Federal Constitution. This is one sure way of achieving the desired goal of unity even in diversity, mutual respect, tolerance and giving true meaning to the opening phrase of our Constitution that is, ‘We the people.’
“We will be a greater nation if we sincerely practice true Federalism and think and act as Nigerians rather than as champions of the smaller units we were born into. Our big size is an asset worthy of preservation. Good examples of big size, hard work and prudent spending are the USA, China and India. It is not with violence or hate speeches but with mutual trust, self-respect and tolerance that we will speedily achieve the lofty destiny of this great country, Nigeria.
“Power Supply and Agriculture: We have already commended your Administration on its remarkable achievements in the field of agriculture. But the country asks for more, especially in the Field of afforestation, irrigation and revival of those agricultural products like Cocoa, Groundnut, Cotton, Palm Products and processing them for domestic consumption and export as Malaysia which borrowed seedlings from us has now gone far ahead of us.
“As to Electricity, we are aware of your efforts which must be more than doubled to improve on the pace of industrialization, productivity and more comfort for all Nigerians.”
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, Tinubu explained that the visit was to congratulate the president.
He said: “The essence of the meeting is to thank the President, congratulate him on the election and the first step on the security of the country, to really see a way out to stem any speech of hate; intolerance across the nation and look at the problem of security holistically and from the grassroots level; including the fact there is a shortage of police personnel and there is the need to look at the recruitment from 774 Local Governments and be able to effectively have information.
“it takes time to train people; you equally create employment from such action; I mean employment for the people and strengthen security intelligence from the grassroots.”
On whether Yoruba elders were united in support of President Buhari, the All Progressive Congress (APC) national leader said: “Sure. I don’t want to be clannish or sectional. The question is that we want to build a nation and always believe in our diversity for prosperity, not from adversity and progressives like the president will join hands to build the country.
“No matter what, we have nothing but one country and that is the only way that we can stimulate growth and understanding among various nationalities; it is not by division; it is not be promoting religious conflict; religious differences.
“Nobody has control when they were born; what they will be, how they will be raised and how their fate will affect their lives and we must remove that from our political setting; set it aside, build a nation and concentrate on trust and development.”