*Says Local Govt System Has Been Killed
*Defends $1.9bn Nigeria-Niger Republic railway project
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that it’s been extremely difficult fighting corruption under a democratic setting in the country.
The President in an exclusive interview Thursday morning on Arise TV, emphasised that it had not been easy for him to fight corruption since he became a democratically elected President six years ago.
He, however, stressed that his administration had succeeded in easing out corrupt public officials without making noise about it.
President Buhari recalled that much was achieved in the fight against corruption when he was military Head of State in the early 80s “when a lot of people were sent to prisons before I was also booted out”.
He expressed concern that the local government system was almost non-existent in the country as the governors had continued to starve them of funds, saying “in a situation where N300 million is allocated to local government and they are given N100 million is not fair”.
While responding to a question during the interview, he said, ”Devolution of powers, you have to define it. Well, actually the local government system has been killed.
The federal, state and local government if they agree to flow properly we won’t have all these problems. But the problem is the local government has been virtually killed and this is not good for this country because those who became the local government chairman have been compromised. If your local government is entitled to receive 300 million and later you are only given 100 million.”
The President, Muhammadu Buhari also defended his decision to construct railways and roads extending into Niger Republic.
He said borders were arbitrarily drawn by the French colonialists without taking into cognisance the cultural similarities of the people of Niger and Nigeria even as he revealed that he has first cousins in Niger Republic.
He argued that the people of the South-West similarly have cousins in neighbouring Benin Republic.
The President said another reason the railway is being constructed is to boost the friendly relationship with Niger which has helped Nigeria to prevent Boko Haram terrorists from gaining unfettered access into Nigeria.
Buhari added, “If you recall, when I came, I went to Chad, I went to Niger, I went to Cameroon. Look at what happened with Boko Haram. If we were not in a good relationship with Niger, Chad and Cameroon, Boko Haram would have done worse things to us and you say I am going to Niger.
“I told you the border between us and Niger is 1, 500km. And Niger (sic). I spoke to one French man and I had to tell him this. He spoke nonsense and I told him look, in 1885, you sat down and drew lines (boundaries). I said I have first cousins in Niger. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in Niger Republic just as there are Yorubas in Benin. You can’t absolutely cut them off.”
He argued that the new rail would help Nigeria to compete with Benin Republic which has cornered entrepot trade in the region.
Buhari said Niger, which is a landlocked nation, has discovered oil, and Nigeria does not want them to do trade through Benin Republic.
“We want them to come through Nigeria. We want them to send their exports through Nigeria,” the President said.