President Muhammadu Buhari stated yesterday that the people of Niger Republic would defend him if anyone moved against him after leaving office.
He also said he deliberately shut the nation’s land borders to force Nigerians to patronise goods made in the country.
The President’s declaration, however, drew the ire of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere and Middle Belt Forum, MBF, which described his stance as non-committal to Nigeria and that Nigerians would not miss him when he exits office.
But Buhari, who spoke extempore at the commissioning of the new corporate headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, in Abuja, said he was speaking his mind, reiterating his earlier decision to be far away from Abuja at the end of his administration.
He said: “That is why when I became the President, my first visit was to Niger, Chad and Cameroon because, based on personal and national issues, the neighbourhood is very important.
“If you don’t secure the confidence and cooperation of your neighbours, you are in trouble, your children and grandchildren will be in trouble.
“So it is very good that I established a relationship with my neighbours. I said these few things about my personal belief because I have only six more days to go. And I try to plan to be as far away from Abuja as possible.
‘’Thank goodness, I come from an area which is far away from Abuja. I said if anybody forces me, I have a good relationship with my neighbours, Niger people will defend me.”
The President said he closed the country’s land borders to encourage Nigerians to produce food for their consumption, adding that though the move was initially criticised, Nigerians eventually appreciated it.
He said: “Please note that from Lake Chad to Benin is more than 1,600Km. Only God can effectively guard that border. So you need a person who will have the energy and the competence to effectively supervise it.
“I deliberately closed the borders because knowing Nigerians, they order rice and give some Niger address and then they bring the rice here. “We have our potential. We thank God Nigeria is so blessed with people, we have land, and we have weather. How many nations are so lucky like Nigeria in the world?
“Very few nations are as lucky as we are. We thank God for that. So closing that 1,600 km border from Lake Chad to Benin, Nigerians insist they have to help their neighbour and other people, they should eat foreign rice.
‘’I said you eat what you grow or grow what you eat or you die.I think I am trying to make my point. Later Nigerians will appreciate it because it provides more jobs. People go back to agriculture.
‘’We have the land and they will produce what we eat. And for people who think that our neighbours are going to lose, let’s continue to be with our neighbours. Those who are producing excess rice, let them eat their rice or go and sell it elsewhere.”
Buhari said he appointed Hameed Ali as Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, because of his experience and competence, adding that the late Sani Abacha, a former military head of state, gave Ali “problematic” tasks to accomplish.
He said: “As for Hameed Ali, I asked him to be in charge of Customs. No matter what people say about the late Sani Abacha, may his soul rest in peace.
“I knew him very well when somehow he became president of this country, head of state, the biggest problematic area was around Kaduna. He picked Colonel Hameed Ali and dumped the problems on him. My decision for Hameed Ali to come to Customs was a deliberate one. [I brought] Colonel Hameed Ali to ensure that I have peace of mind.
“The 100 per cent increase in the remuneration for officers and men of the service decisively made them less susceptible to corruption.”
The President also said he appointed only ladies as ministers of finance because of the cultural belief, as people would feel too big to go to them for favours.
According to him, “I made sure I gave the ministry of finance to ladies because of the cultural behaviours of Nigerians.
“Once ladies are in charge, people feel too big to go to them, so I am sure things will not be the same in the ministry of finance where people go and start lobbying for contracts to be paid. So they will feel too big to go to a lady. Therefore, I make sure a lady is in charge. That gave me a lot of peace.”