President Muhammadu Buhari will be facing a panel of journalists this evening in his maiden Presidential media chat.
TheNEWS will provide all the salient points of the question and answer session, live here.
The president will answer questions on a broad range of national issues.
One can join the conversation onTwitter using the hashtag #PMBMediaChat or simply writing President@MBuhari.
18.57: It’s now three minutes to the starting off the media chat, NTA has begun a countdown on its live streaming platform www.nta.ng/live
19.00: TVC Nigeria hooks up. Moderator comes on camera. He is Channels TV man, Kayode Akintemi. He introduces the President.
Introduces others Ngozi Anyaegbunam, Dan Ali of Daily Trust, Ibanga Osine of Premium Times
The Questions have started. As expected the first was on corruption.
Question: How do you think you are doing with the fight against corruption?
Buhari; Urges cooperation from citizens in the fight. Says times are different from when he was a head of state in 1984. Urges for patience.
Says money was found in private accounts.
Has money been collected?
Buhari: We cannot prejudge what the court will do. But we are presenting documents to the court. Money is being recovered. says the evidence of stolen money will be presented in the court.
President Buhari and the media panel
Anyaegbunam: Asks about the need to make the war a national movement, in which everyone will be involved. And plans to rejig anti-corruption agencies.
Buhari: We have to cross check our documents. Cross check records. For example NNPC, which ships loaded, where etc. We are going far. By the end of first quarter next year, we will tell Nigerians how far we have gone.
Question; How far can you go?
Buhari: I said at the beginning that I do not belong to anybody. I have sworn on the Quran. We are not going to put anyone above the law.
On NNPC probe:
Buhari: We are seeking the cooperation of banks, countries, to cooperate with us because Nigeria is in bad shape
Question: On his own asset declaration
Buhari: I have declared my assets four times. As Governor of North East state, member of Supreme Military Council and Minister of Petroleum, as Head of state, when I was removed, I could not declare because I was under house arrest for three years.
As elected President, I have also declared.
This information could be gotten from Ministry of Justice. If they cannot produce it, they have questions to answer.
Challenges the media to ask for the documents.
19.22: Question still on corruption; accusations that the fight is lopsided as members of his party who are ministers have cases in court.
Buhari: I do not tolerate corruption. I did not appoint any of the 36 ministers who has a case in court. Tell me one
Question: Have your ministers declared their assets/
Buhari: I expected them to have declared their assets. It is a constitutional issue.
19.25: Question moves to Chibok Girls, Boko Haram. When are we bringing the girls back?
Buhari; My fourth time of answering questions on Chibok girls, Mentions a Boko Haram contact that approached the government. We wanted the girls intact, but we are told they have been dispersed. We are still in talks, but we have made it clear without preconditions.
Question: Do you have intelligence that the girls are alive?
Buhari: We are still waiting for a credible Boko Haram leadership that will tell us that.
The question of Chibok girls is on our minds all the time. But we do not have any information on where they are. The Honest truth: we do not have.
Question: The IDPs going back home in first quarter of 2016. Are they going to be like sitting ducks? Any psychological counselling for them before they return home, their integration etc
Buhari: We have about 2million IDPs in various camps. Over 70 per cent of them are children and women. Over 65 per cent of the children are orphans. A committee was set up, the Danjuma Committee. Over N25billion was collected. If you recall, when I went to G7 meeting, I raised the issue, they asked me to send a shopping list.
They have come, with promises to help.
What concerned us most are the orphaned children. We are trying to find out where they come from. Mentions a committee headed by Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
Question: The Shiite clash with the army and the warning that if mismanaged it could be like Boko Haram:
Buhari:I am awaiting the army and the Kaduna state government to submit their report before the Federal Government takes a stand.
When it happened, I was in touch with the Governor of Kaduna State. The President of Iran called me , but I told him that we have a system that it happened in one of our states. The Army that was involved has its own system of investigation. I am waiting for the investigations to be concluded and the Police also have their own system of investigations. It is extremely serious. How can you create a state within a state? There are some teenagers I saw stoning Generals. I don’t want to talk too much about it. The deaths are not justifiable, but you have to wait till the end of the enquiry. I expect a judicial commission of enquiry to be constituted by the Kaduna State government.
The President says there are a lot of allegations against Shi’ites which he will wait for the enquiry to unveil
Pressed further: President says from some of the clues he has seen, How can a group constitute a state within a state?
Question: from where will the report come from?
Buhari: I expect a judicial enquiry from the Kaduna State government. There are a lot of allegations. But I will wait for the report.
19.48: Question; Boko Haram war being technically won and the terror unleashed in recent days
Buhari: What I said was that the Boko Haram ability to attack institutions, police posts, army barracks has been degraded. What they are doing now is using girls to carry explosives.
Hijab issue: Why has it not been banned in Nigeria?
Buhari: It may have to be banned if this killing continues. We are taking a lot of security measures. At the parks, they are using metal detectors to screen people.
19.51; The Shiite question comes on again
Buhari: says the people of Zaria came out openly to talk about what they have been going through in the last 20 years under the group. Still says the way to get to the depth of the problem is via a Judicial Commission of enquiry.
Moderator’s question; Big issue on foreign exchange, people taking their money out, devaluation of the Naira.
Buhari: I do not support devaluation. When we came 84/85, people did not know how much debt Nigeria had accumulated under four years of civilian regime. Don’t talk about foreign reserve. It had disappeared. the situation now is aggravated by downturn in oil prices, down now to 35, 36 dollars a barrel.
And we have a lot of commitments.
We are trying to reform NNPC, to know what goes in, what goes out.
We are using Treasury Single Account. We have N1.45 trillion in central bank.
The previous budget, over 92 per cent on recurrent. People just sit in government and chop money. We are in bad shape.
Devaluation question again:
Buhari: Devaluation of Naira against Dollar, pound sterling etc? In developed countries, when they devalue, their currencies become cheaper, their goods and services become cheaper. But in Nigeria, we import even toothpick. If we devalue, what are we sending out?
What we are doing is that we shall make money available to industries, the real sector, those who are going to produce goods and services, and employ people.
We need power. We need roads. We need railways. We want to fight insurgency.
Moderator raises Foreign Exchange problems again, including difficulties withdrawing money from domiciliary account:
Buhari: a promise to ask the CBN for clarifications.
Question on oil subsidy:
Buhari: says oil sector infrastructure destroyed by past regimes. Why can’t people maintain what they inherited? They failed to maintain tank farms, oil depots, refineries etc.
Today the cost of fuel is low, we are not subsidising any one now.
Our first priority is to get our refineries working. If we get them working, we can take care of 60 per cent of our needs. Then we use swap to take care of 40 %.
Buhari: we had 42 ministries, 42 permanent secretaries and only God knows how many directors. The new permanent secretaries have just taken over, the ministers have just taken over.
A lot of things cannot be done overnight.
8.15 pm: Budget; Nothing appears to have changed; the presidency and National Assembly have taken a chunk. What has changed?
Buhari: I will see if I can stop lawmakers from buying over N48 billion cars
The first thing I turned down were N400 million for vehicles when I came in. The vehicles I have is good enough for 10 years. But I understand we have to buy vehicles for protocols in case we want to host other Presidents. On the N50 billion for cars by the National Assembly, I think I will have to have a close door meeting with them. I hope they have not bought them yet. The President also said the National Assembly is not willing to be part of the TSA. The President said he will explore the possibility of stopping the National Assembly from using over N47 billion to buy cars in spite of the transport allowance they are getting.
Question of Forex comes on again: About People unable to get forex for their kids in school abroad.
Buhari restates the need to get our priorities right. Fix the infrastructure, insecurity, fix the economy. “It is a very nasty situation we are in. We cannot fold our hands, We have to do something. ”
He mentions the agreement on rail with the Chinese, Nigeria could not pay counterpart of 30 per cent, the Chinese are paying 70 per cent. It is the best deal you can get anywhere in the world.
20.25 pm: Moderator says floor is being thrown open to the social media, questions coming in through a hashtag #askBuhari.
First question on why government is borrowing to fund budget
Buhari: says government has no alternative, if it wants to create jobs and fix the infrastructure.
Question: Government position on Corrupt judges
Buhari:I think I will discuss that with the CJN. It takes two to tango.. There are allegations, but government needs to discuss with the judiciary itself. Judiciary is a sitting duck; it takes what the police bring to the, what the lawyers take to them.
When the Tribunals were to be established they were told to shun corruption. The Judiciary is a sitting duck, they work with what the Police and lawyers take to them. There must be participation from other institutions for the judiciary to be corrupt. It takes two to tango, somebody must be offering and somebody must be taking. You have to prove that there is corruption.
Question: will government sustain the N18,000 minimum wage
Buhari: says it is not a question he can answer off hand. When we came 27 states could not pay salaries. CBN had to use ways and means to get them money to pay salaries.
Will FG support merger of states?
Buhari; we have to look into the constitution on whether this can be done.
Question: How will government collect data on unemployed graduates?
Buhari: It is in our manifesto. says the Ministry of Labour and Productivity will handle this.
Buhari also promises to get CBN, Ministry of Finance and Education Ministry involved to sort out the forex needs of Nigerians now outside, so that they can complete their education.
Buhari: The standard of our tertiary education is poor. There is a number of things that need to be done in terms of building new classrooms, laboratories. New classrooms have to be built, the teachers have to be comfortable.
On agencies like NIMASA harassing NLNG:
Buhari: Promises to look into the issue. But adds:
The question of agencies likeNIMASA, NNPC earning money and giving government the change has to stop.
Moderator switches back to the panel: It’s 20.50
Ngozi Anyaegbunam has the first shot:
And she asks about government efforts to get civil servants mobilised to support government objective of change
Isine: Security agencies disobeying court orders
Buhari:Technically, you can see the kind of atrocities those people committed against the government. The former President just called the CBN governor to give him N40 billion. if they jump bail, it will be a problem for this country. On Kanu, he has two passports, one Nigerian, one British. He brought in sophisticated equipment for his radio Biafra. There is a treasonable felony charge against him. And I hope the court will listen to the case.
On Igbo Marginalisation:
I am limited by the constitution. Says every member of the Nigerian state is represented in government. Reels out the Igbo in government and asks ‘who is marginalising who?
President Buhari to round off, asks the media to do investigative journalism on important issues, rather than being sensational.