President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, revealed his response to President Donald Trump over the American leader’s allegation that the Nigerian government was slaughtering Christians, telling him that the problem between cattle testers and farmers was a cultural thing rather than ethnicity or religion.
President recalled what he regarded as an awkward situation sitting alone with the US President when he honoured his invitation to the White House in April 2018 only for Trump to accuse him of the atrocity.
Buhari who was making his closing remark at the end of the two-day ministerial performance review retreat at the presidential villa, Abuja, said he explained to the American leader that the problem was caused by successive leaderships, which he said, had failed the country.
While applauding the first republic leadership as being the best the country has ever had, he accused subsequent administrations of encroaching on cattle routes.
Digressing from his prepared text, President narrated: “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries, the President of United States invited, and when I was in his office only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, he said ‘why are you killing Christians?’
“I wonder if you were the person how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion.
“So, I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and stagnant farmers I know is older than me not to talk of him (Trump). I think I am a couple of years older than him.
“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root to your water point, they will follow it, it doesn’t matter whose farm it was.
“The first republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle routes where they used meagre resources then to put earth dams, windmills even sanitary department.
“So, any cattle rearer that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm is arrested, taken before the court, the farmer is called to submit his bill and if he can’t pay, the cattle are sold, but subsequent leaders, VVIPs (very very important persons) they encroached on the cattle routes, they took over the cattle rearing areas.
“So, I tried and explained to him, this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing which the respective leadership was failing the nation.”
Speaking on the effort of his administration so far, President Buhari said he had done his best and urged elites to judge him fairly.
He added: “The next problem I want to tell you is how we found ourselves when I say us I mean members of the APC when we promised three things, security, economy and fighting corruption. We repeated the same thing last year.
“But I want the Nigeria elite please encourage us and judge us fairly when we came. Between 1999 and 2014, I will like you to please check the average (crude oil) production was 2.1m barrels per day, the average cost was $100 per barrel.
“When we came it collapse to $37 to $38 per barrel and the militants were unleashed on the administration, the production went down.
“I want you to please reflect what was the condition of the infrastructure then in spite of the earnings, the roads, there was no power and up to now there is no power. Where did the money go?
“So, please encourage your friends the elite to reflect on what this administration has done, what APC has done and what we have achieved. Well, I am doing my best, God has given me two chances.”
President Buhari directed Ministers, Departments and Agencies, to go on the offensive and defend the achievements of his administration, and not allow political opponents to spread falsehood.
He declared: “I have charged all of you to defend the government vigorously and not allow any irresponsible and politically motivated statements to keep spreading falsehoods about this government.
“Information to the public should be better packaged. Go on the offensive, we are proud of our achievements and we should blow our own trumpets.”
The President reiterated his earlier directive that meeting requests should be made through the Chief of Staff while all cabinet matters should be channelled through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
Buhari added: “Let me also reiterate that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests should be channelled through the chief of staff, while all federal Executive council matters should be coordinated through the secretary to the government of the federation.”
He also ordered the speedy release of N2.3 trillion stimulus funds by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National planning to MDAs and for capital projects.
On this, he said: “I have directed the minister of finance, budget and national planning, the governor of the central bank of Nigeria and all other responsible agencies to ensure speedy and timely release of funds to MDAs for implementation of the N2.3 trillion economic sustainability plan and the capital projects in the 2020 budget.
“I also enjoined ministers to ensure that funds released are utilized efficiently and transparently in implementing the programmes and projects under the line priorities areas of government.
“I hereby charged the ministers, permanent secretaries and all heads of parastatals to be continuously conscious of their commitment and responsibilities.
“On behalf of the people of Nigeria, I demand uttermost levels of performance, deliverables and results. I look forward to a result orientated year with tremendous benefits that will continue to change the lives of our people positively.”
The President also warned that the days of insufficient collaboration, coordination and synergy among implementing ministries, departments and agencies are over, saying: “I have directed that essential coordination delivery unit in the office of the secretary of the government of the federation should be revived to ensure we focus on results. The SGF is to ensure regular reports on progress submitted.”
While calling on the Nigerian elites to judge his administration with fairness, President Buhari stated: “I want the Nigerian elites, please encourage them, to judge us fairly,” positing that his administration has done more for the country with less resources.
He further said that he was “doing my best” to fight corruption by “trying to follow the system” in contrast to his brief military regime in 1984 when, he recalled, arbitrarily rounded up politicians, threw them in jail, and required them to prove their innocence.
“Now, I’m being called ‘baba go slow’,” he regretted.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. in his presentation at the retreat, lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the poverty situation in the country as well the economic distortions and hardship daily.
He has therefore stressed the need for relevant ministers and other key actors to expedite action on the N2.3 trillion stimulus package designed by the government to mitigate the effect of the crisis on the economy.
According to a statement issued by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, the Vice President, who spoke on the government’s economic stimulus plan, pointed out that it was already into Day 67, adding: “Nothing is going to happen by magic, we have to simply do this stuff.
“We have to ensure that we have the money and ensure that day by day, we are measuring our achievements and trying to ensure that we do the things that we need to do. And we simply are not favoured by time, every single day the poverty situation and the economic distortions deepen.”
It further Osinbajo quoted Osinbajo as saying that the only way out of the current problem is to fund production, enable consumer spending so that people can go and buy things, and we to put money in people’s hands.
He said under the mass agriculture programme, the government has enumerated four million farmers.
Under the mass housing programme, he explained that the government will build 300,000 homes across the country and will ensure that their prices do not exceed N2m.
Osinbajo added that all the components of the plan were designed to create jobs.
“Agriculture requiring N637.2bn funding will provide 5,000,000 jobs; the solar power project funding requirement is N152.4bn is expected to provide 250,000 jobs; the mass housing programme with a funding requirement of N217.3bn is expected to create 1,500,000 jobs; while public works funding is N52bn to provide 774,000 jobs: and N100bn is required to provide 500, 000 jobs in the SMEs,” he said.