THE Presidency has said that granting amnesty to Boko Haram insurgents would make them drop their arms, embrace peace, stop bloodshed and save resources for the country.
The Presidency also explained that President Muhammadu Buhari has remained silent over his second term ambition because his focus was to deliver good governance to the country.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said in an interview in Abuja that President Buhari’s achievements would give him victory in 2019, if he decides to contest.
He also told some retired army generals that had ruled the country in the past, who had advised him to drop second term ambition, to summon the courage and contest against the president, stressing that President Buhari will defeat all of them. On the assertion that President Buhari was shielding killer herdsmen from prosecution and even begging them to accept amnesty, Shehu argued that if the terrorists should embrace amnesty, it would stop the killings in the polity.
However, some notable Nigerians, including Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Mohammed; Senator Femi Okorounmu, NBA Vice President, Monday Ubani; Niger Delta activist, Ann Kio-Briggs, and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, disagreed with government, saying Boko Haram insurgents have not demonstrated remorse to warrant amnesty.
But Garba Shehu said: “Well, I hope you also realise that the social media has brought a lot of good things to the world and it has also brought a lot of problems not only in Nigeria but everywhere in the world. “Nations of the world are talking about regulations and control, this is happening in Germany in the UK, even the US, you see that a lot of these technology companies are being fined for infringements that they cause.
“The thing is that there is a tendency to see things from a negative point of view when your point of view is shaped and coloured by the social media. “It’s always been heard that the default position of social media itself is to be negative, so people have turned out to ignore grand reality and project images that are very negative. “Otherwise I wonder, this is an administration that has done extremely well and to a President who has sworn to an oath to defend the constitution and protect every life and property, it is very unfair and uncharitable to say that he will shield anybody.
“In any case, the President controls only one layer of authority, what are the governors doing? Is the social media also saying that the governors are protecting the herdsmen from the law? Are they saying the local governments are also protecting them? “You see, it has to take everyone at various levels of authority to shield somebody from the law in those circumstances, and the President himself, his passion is for the country, this is a President whose passion is not even for the office, even when everyone is asking him to go for a second term, he is keeping quiet because his focus remains the nation and the problem of the country. “Whoever is peddling these rumours that Boko Haram is being granted amnesty and so on, I would ask them who doesn’t want to make peace with the enemy? In any case, as it is proverbially said, all wars end up in the boardroom.
“You can defeat people technically in the field but at the end, you must come to the conference room to resolve all issues. So, if Boko Baram would lay down their arms and stop fighting and stop preaching that negative ideology, the country should be able to embrace them, welcome all of them so that they continue to live normal lives and be useful to the nation.
“What that means is that we will be saving cost, saving lives that are being lost through bombing, killing of service personnel and we will be saving money that we are using to procure weapons so that such money can go into services and infrastructure and welfare of the citizens of this country. It is a win-win situation.”
On Buhari’s administration On his rating of the Buhari-led government since inception, especially in infrastructure development, Shehu said: “I want to say that the records are there for everyone to see, that no government, no past administration in Nigeria, has invested as much as we have done, or let me say we are currently doing in infrastructure development.
“From day one when he took power, the President gave a target of not less than 30% of annual appropriation devoted to infrastructure development. Without infrastructure, we cannot lay the foundation for growth. “When this administration came to power, between 95 and 96 per cent of public expenditure was going into overhead cost, leaving only about five or four per cent for infrastructure. The allocation of 30 per cent under this administration has led to tremendous improvement in the provision of infrastructure so far in the country. “Now there is a lot of work going on, building new rail lines and the rehabilitation of the old rail system networks; roads are being done all across the country; you only need to drive around to see for yourself.
“The amount of work this administration has done on roads, for instance the expressway, from Enugu to Port Harcourt, has not been done in the eight years of the previous administrations. We are hoping that within this year, before the next election, Lagos-Ibadan expressway will be completed. It’s a lot of money, we are doing it, government is laying the sod now for the construction of a six-lane road from Abuja to Kano. “So, there is so much that is going on in terms of that. We are doing power, you know that this administration has doubled availability of power in the country.
When we came in, it stood at about 3,000 MW, we have hit 7,000 MW and we are doing more, so it depends on what you are looking at. “This is a government that has spent N1.3 trillion in capital expenses under 2016 Budget and has also spent as much as that under the 2017 budget and it’s almost closing on records for last year which was N1.3 trillion.”
Also commenting on the allegation in some quarters that the President has failed in the area of security, basing their arguments on the farmers/ herders crises, Shehu said the problem between farmers and herdsmen predated the independence of Nigeria. He said: “If you read history, you will see that farmers and herdsmen had fought for space in this country, even when British colonial rulers were here, so this is not something new, I am not saying it is welcome but I think it is over amplified now.
“There is a media spotlight on it because the opposition cannot engage Buhari administration on any other issue other than this lacuna that they have found. “They cannot discuss the war against corruption because that’s a very uncomfortable area for them; they don’t want to discuss issues of infrastructure with Buhari, they don’t want to discuss economic diversification which this administration has achieved a lot of success. “Today, we have 12 million rice farmers in this country, six million new jobs are being created in other sectors by agriculture alone, food import has gone down by 95 per cent, we are feeding ourselves.
“This year, the government is planning a ban on rice importation. So we are doing so well moving from over reliance on oil to agriculture and manufacturing. Therefore, I am not saying that it is okay that the farmers and herdsmen are fighting but we are doing a lot.
Fielding question on the call by the President’s contemporaries in the military and former Presidents on him not to seek re-election, Shehu said: “My response to them is that if they like, they can come and contest against President Buhari. He will defeat them, all of them.”
Also on his advice for Nigerians who think that Buhari should not be talking about second term when people are hungry, he said: “With all the noise the PDP is making, even during their time, did they give breakfast, lunch and dinner to every citizen? Is there any country in which someone does not go hungry? “I am not saying it is perfectly in order but they are just politicizing these issues.
This is a government that has removed this country from the shame of food importation, every state of the country now is into rice production, and we are feeding not only Nigeria but west Africa.