Wednesday, September 16, 2015 6:02 pm
President Muhammadu Buhari has linked environmental problem to the crisis in the North East region of Nigeria, especially, Lake Chad that is shrinking. If this is fixed, it will help resolve the problems in the area.
Buhari stated this when he fielded questions today on a television station, France 24 in Paris. In his words: “One of the things to be done is related to a study initiated by a London University Professor in 1925 that unless rivers are diverted into Lake Chad, it will dry up. We have seen the seriousness of that; it affects farming, fishing, cattle rearing. If that project is executed, two million Nigerians will benefit, I believe that in Niger, Chad and Cameroon, over one million people will also benefit. This is one of the projects that the Lake Chad Basin Commission can ask the G7, led by France, to help execute so that 5 million people can be settled.”
On why Nigeria seems to get more cooperation from Francophone than Anglophone neighbours, Buhari explained that Nigeria is immediately surrounded more by Francophone than British former colonies.
“Nigeria is immediately surrounded more by former French colonial countries and France has maintained a strong relationship with its former colonies, so Nigeria gets more security and economic advantages by France still being in charge of those countries. France’s deployment of its troops in Mali, Niger and Chad give us opportunity for more necessary intelligence and equipment.”
Buhari further assured everyone that the much awaited ministerial list will be ready by the end of the month, adding that he will send the list to the National Assembly:
Here is the transcript of the interview:
What was the outcome of your meeting with your French counterpart, especially on Boko Haram and Chibok girls?
France is in a strong position to know our problems. There is the Lake Chad Commission comprising Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Nigeria used to be the base of Boko Haram until, with French encouragement, Niger and Chad came to dislodge Boko Haram insurgents even from Nigerian territories until Nigeria came to replace their military and fortify the areas.
The re-organisation we carried out in the military and at the war front helped. We moved the Tactical Headquarters from Abuja to Maiduguri. We can see the results now.
I think we are making progress. Our main concern is now how to recover the Chibok girls and ascertain their current condition. We are much occupied with that decision and at this level matters concerning them have to be kept confidential. We are not sure of the genuineness of the Boko Haram leaders we are negotiating with to get those girls released. It is difficult, we have to identify those who claim to be leaders of Boko Haram, and they know where the girls are and their condition.
You mentioned other French countries, are you saying Francophone countries cooperate more than your Anglophone neighbours?
Certainly, for two reasons, Nigeria is immediately surrounded more by former French colonial countries and France has maintained a strong relationship with its former colonies, so Nigeria gets more security and economic advantages by France still being in charge of those countries. France’s deployment of its troops in Mali, Niger and Chad give us opportunity for more necessary intelligence and equipment.
What would you do to restore faith in the government for the people of the North-East?
One of the things to be done is related to a study initiated by a London University Professor in 1925 that unless rivers are diverted into Lake Chad, it will dry up. We have seen the seriousness of that; it affects farming, fishing, cattle rearing. If that project is executed, 2 million Nigerians will benefit, I believe that in Niger, Chad and Cameroon, over 1 million people will also benefit. This is one of the projects that the Lake Chad Basin Commission can ask the G7, led by France, to help execute so that 5 million people can be settled.
Now this is about Abuja. You don’t have a government yet, when will you set up your cabinet?
We have a government, but we do not have a cabinet. I don’t know how you defined that. We have a government, that is why I am here. As for the cabinet, we will have one at the end of the month. End of the month is almost here. I will stick to the end of the month promise. Constitutionally, I will send the list of ministers to the National Assembly.
Some people said the country could run better without ministers...
When you started to introduce me, I was around in 1983, 1985, even then we had ministers, so under this system, we must have them.
There is volatility now in the bond market, when it comes to Nigeria, does the delay in naming your minister hurt?
We learnt this from the western world. The civil service provides continuity in government. Civil servants are the technocrats who do most of the work. Politicians make a lot of noise but the real work is done by the technocrats. They are there and provide the continuity. If you see my team, you will see perm secs, finance, trade and industries, and others. They provide the continuity, dig into the records as long as possible, they guide us. They have been there, some for 15, 20 years. I think that this custom of ministers is political. People from different constituencies want to see their own sons and daughters in government and see what they can get out of it.
Cabinet or not, you are going to be dealing with low price of oil, will one of the measures be to devalue the Naira?
The Naira has been devalued. It used to be N160 to the dollar but it is now around N200 and above. I don’t think it is good to devalue it further. That is why we want to continue to make some modifications in terms of making foreign exchange available for essential services, industries, raw materials. However, Nigeria can produce enough toothpick and rice. We don’t need to give our hard currency for those who want toothpick from China; they can source for the hard currency and buy it.
You are back at the Presidential Palace after thirty years. Is it the same place?
It was not the same place. The last time I was there, I was in the barracks. This time I am in a palace. At times, I can’t find my way around. It is so big so much that it must be expensive to maintain. But it is there, it cannot be removed.
Apart from operating at a different setting, are you a different man?
I don’t think basically, I am a different man. I came back to power under a different system.
A better one?
Yes, a better one because this is what works. I say it often; I was convinced as far back as 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. I keep saying an empire collapsed in the 20th century without a shot being fired. Now it is 18 republics. This is why I believe that multi-party democracy is the best form of government. There is a big caveat; elections must be free, fair and credible.
Please listen to President Buhari’s interview here: France 24