By Ayo Kehinde with agency reports
President Muhammadu Buhari told Catholic bishops in Abuja today that he would take a second look at appointments made by the Federal Government to redress issues of nepotism and favouratism being raised. But the visiting Bishops led by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama took on the President on many issues plaguing the country from the violent herders and farmers clashes to the bad shape of the economy and rising mistrust among Nigerians
Buhari said the review will be done after a compendium of all appointments has been submitted to him.
He told the bishops, under the aegis of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, that no ethnic group or political zone has been deliberately marginalised in the appointments made so far by his administration.
President Buhari also explained that the policy proposed by Federal Government in response to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country is not meant to colonize any part of the country.
Buhari said the intention of government is to create grazing locations for cattle rearers, which has now been misconstrued as another form of colonization.
President Buhari regretted that the well-thought out policy of the Federal Government, which was conceived after wide consultations with stakeholders, had been largely misunderstood by a section of the public.
He, however, assured the Catholic Bishops that the Federal Government will continue to explore all opportunities and support initiatives to ensure peace and stability in restive areas.
Condemning recent spate of killings in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, and Zamfara states, the President said security operatives would ensure prosecution of perpetrators and all those found with illegal arms in the affected areas.
‘‘The impression created that I was sitting in an air-conditioned office and home, enjoying myself while these things happened, is dishonest.
‘‘At every step, I have tried to foresee these problems because I have the experience as a former military officer who commanded three out of the four divisions of the Nigerian army, in Lagos, Ibadan and Jos.
‘‘I am quite aware of the problems we have and I am doing my best to get law enforcement agencies to be on alert,’’ he said.
‘‘We have done very well on security in the North East, when you compare what the condition was before we came in and what it is now.
‘‘On the economy, particularly agriculture, I am very pleased that God answered the prayers of Nigerians who prayed for bountiful harvest.
‘‘People have taken advantage of Federal Government policies and programmes to return to the farm and they have not regretted,’’ he said.
On the fight against corruption, the President reiterated that government would be guided by the law in the investigation and prosecution of all graft-related cases.
‘‘People are being prosecuted systematically with evidence.
‘‘If a permanent secretary has five houses in Abuja, two in Kaduna and one in Borno and Sokoto and he can’t account for the properties and there are bank transactions linking him to the properties, the prosecuting agencies will not have difficulties to make progress on the case.”
Not wanting to be seen as paying a lip service visit to the President, the Bishops immediately released a prepared statement to journalists at the end of the visit.
The statement which was jointly signed by the CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama and the Secretary who is also the Bishop of Gboko, Most Rev. William Avenya, shows that the visiting clergymen took on Buhari on the serial crisis plaguing the country on many fronts, from the herders and farmers clashes to the bad shape of the economy and a divided nation due to snowballing ethnic mistrust and insecurity of life and property.
They said: “There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption.
“Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this goodwill is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government, which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders”
“Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones.
“There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous.
“Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country.”