NIGERIAN President, Muhammadu Buhari, said the present socio-economic crisis rocking Nigeria would have been avoided if the country had saved its oil revenue from 1999-2015 when oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel.
Buhari said this at an interactive session in New York with a 15-man group of Nigerian professionals which comprised of top-flight aeronautics engineers, physicians, Information Technology experts, a judge, top policewoman, entrepreneurs, an import specialist at Customs and Border Protection, professors and two straight-A students among others.
He added that the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region was orchestrated by those who looted Nigeria’s wealth in order to frustrate his efforts at rebuilding the country.
The president also disclosed that he would not complain about the burden of responsibility the present times placed on him because he prayed to God for the job.
According to the statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adeshina, the forum was a platform for Buhari to update the diasporans on his efforts so far at getting the country back on its feet soon.
The statement read: “I am very pleased with this meeting. Wherever you go in the world, you find highly competent and outstanding Nigerians. They not only make great impact on their host countries and communities, their financial remittances back home also help our economy, particularly at a time like this, when things are down.
“We got into trouble as a country, because we did not save for the rainy day. For example, between 1999 and 2015, when we produced an average of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, and oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel, we did not save, neither did we develop infrastructure. Suddenly, when we came in 2015, oil prices fell to about 30 dollars per barrel.
“I asked, where are the savings? There were none. Where are the railways? The roads? Power? None. I further asked, what did we do with billions of dollars that we made over the years? They said we bought food. Food with billions of dollars? I did not believe, and still, do not believe.
“In most parts of Nigeria, we eat what we grow. People in the South eat tubers, those in the North eat grains, which they plant, and they constitute over 60 percent of what we eat. So, where did the billions of dollars go? We did a lot of damage to ourselves by not developing infrastructure when we had the money.
“Talking about our military, they earned respect serving in places like Burma, Zaire, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, and then, suddenly, that same military could no longer secure 14 out of 774 local governments in the country. Insurgents had seized them, calling them some sorts of caliphate, and planting their flags till we came, and scattered them.
“We raised the morale of our military, changed the leadership, re-equipped and retrained them. USA, Britain, and some other countries helped us, and today, the pride of our military is restored.
“Boko Haram ran riot, killing innocent people in churches, mosques, markets, schools, motor parks, and so on. But if they truly knew Allah, they would not do such evil. Neither Islam nor any other religion I know advocates hurting the innocent. But they shed innocent blood, killed people in their thousands. Now, we have dealt with that insurgency and subverted their recruitment base.
“Those who stole Nigeria dry are not happy. They recruited the militants against us in the Niger Delta and began to sabotage oil infrastructure. We lose millions of barrels per day, at a time when every dollar we can earn, counts. It is a disgrace that a minimum of 27 states, out of 36 that we have in Nigeria, can’t pay salaries.
“But I prayed so hard for God to make me President. I ran in 2003, 2007, 2011, and in 2015, He did. And see what I met on ground. But I can’t complain since I prayed for the job. In the military, I rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Major-General. I was a military governor in 1975 over a state that is now six states. I was Head of State, got detained for three years, and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which had N53 billion of that time in Nigerian banks.
“God has been very good to me, so I can’t complain. If I feel hurt by anybody, I ask God to help me forgive. He has done so much for me.
“After 16 years of a different party in government, no party will come and have things easy. It’s human. We need quality hands to run Nigeria, and we will utilize them. I will like to welcome you home when it’s time. But I’ll like you to be ready.”