The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday, described the Boko Haram attacks in the North-East as occasional problems.
He, therefore, appealed to his critics to be fair when criticising his regime. The President said they should compare his achievements with those of his predecessors and the problems he inherited.
The President, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said these while receiving the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, Rev. Yakubu Pam, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In the statement titled “Criticise us fairly, President Buhari appeals to Nigerian elite,” Buhari asked his critics to consider the resources available to the Federal Government under his watch while criticising him.
But groups, including the Middle Belt Forum, Chibok community, the Borno Concerned Elders and Coalition of Northern Groups, in their separate reactions, faulted the President.
Appealing to his critics, Buhari said, “Those criticising the administration should be fair in terms of reflecting on where we were before we came, where we are now and what resources are available to us and what we have done with the limited resources.
“We had to struggle paying debts, investing in road repairs and rebuilding, to revamp the rail and try to get power. This is what I hope the elite, when they want to criticise will use to compare notes.”
Buhari also gave his regime a pass mark on the security situation in the North-East.
Although he admitted that there were still what he called “occasional Boko Haram problems,” the President said there was a lot of improvements when compared to the past experience of the residents of the affected states.
He added, “What was the situation when we came? Try and ask people from Borno or from Adamawa for that matter and Yobe. What was the condition before we came and what is the condition now?
“Still, there are problems in Borno and Yobe, there are occasional Boko Haram problems, but they know the difference because a lot of them moved out of their states and moved to Kaduna, Kano and here (in Abuja).”
But a Chibok community leader and spokesman for Kibaku Area Development Association, Dr Manasseh Allen, dismissed the claim by the President that security had improved in the North-East.
In an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja, Allen said attacks and abductions were happening daily in the communities in the region.
He said the President should visit the region to have first-hand knowledge of happenings rather than relying on what he was being told by the security chiefs.
Allen stated, “What is his (Buhari’s) definition of security improvement? We don’t know. Maybe, that is the first thing we need to talk about. We want a stop to people’s lives being taken indiscriminately.
“People are paying ransoms to abductors every day. A few days ago, we raised ransom to free our aged father-in-law and the President is sitting there in the villa, he doesn’t even know what is happening in Abuja. Let him go to the North-East and see for himself whether security has improved or not.”
The National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Porgu, dismissed the President’s statement as untrue.
Porgu, who is an indigene of Chibok in Borno State, who spoke to The PUNCH in Jos, said security situation in the country had worsened since Buhari assumed office.
He stated, “I think he is being misled by those he entrusted with the security of the country, if not he would not be saying what he is saying. Let him visit Borno and all those areas that he claimed had improved security wise and see that that things have actually generated for the worse.”
On his part, the Dean of Borno Concerned Elders, Prof. Khalifa Dikwa, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the President’s statement was not true.
He stated, “When people were killed at Auno (in Borno State) last year, instead of the President to commiserate with the people, he pushed the blame on them that they refused to comply with instructions.
“He did not do his investigation. He is not being told the truth. The Presidency is not real. There is no Presidency. They are only reactive. They don’t take actions on situations until the people act.
“Those people are not telling him the truth. Although Maiduguri is safe compared to Kaduna and Katsina states, but you cannot go beyond five kilometres from Maiduguri town. The city is safe, but what about the villages?”
On his part, the CNG spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, in a chat with The PUNCH, said he was not surprised by the President’s comment.
He said, “Nigerians must by now have become used to the present leadership that shies away from its responsibility by refusing to look into the huge demands that had been made for the President to address serious shortfalls in nation’s policing and security institutions.”
The Director (Publicity and Advocacy) of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said Buhari was removed from reality.
He stated, “If he is still living under the illusion that any Nigerian is more secure today than they were five or six years ago, it will explain his resistance to improve his leadership of the fight against widespread insecurity.
“I wish there is a way the President will hear from the people of Borno and Yobe states what their security situation is. But he will not because he prefers to create his version of our circumstances which is quite possibly reinforced by those with responsibility to tell him.
“The fact is that our fellow citizens living in Borno and Yobe states live constantly under attacks on roads, in homes, at work and wherever they are. Millions, more in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger and many parts of Nigeria, have never known insecurity until this President assumed the responsibility to protect us.”