President Goodluck Jonathan said last night that he fired Defence Minister Haliru Mohammed Bello and National Security Adviser (NSA) Gen. Owoye Azazi because he needed people with fresh ideas to tackle the country’s security challenges.

Speaking during the third Presidential Chat aired on national television, the President said Dr. Mohammed and Gen. Azazi were not sacked because they were not hard-working.

He said they were relieved of their duties because he wanted people who could do things differently.

On why it has been difficult to end the activities of the Boko Haram sect, Jonathan said: “They (Boko Haram) change their tactics every day, and their aim is to destabilise the government.

“So, we brought in people who can do things differently, not that those who were there did not work hard,” he said.

Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) replaced Azazi at the weekend. There is no replacement yet for Dr. Bello.

Dasuki is a former Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to ex-Military President Ibrahim Babangida.

The President said it would be impossible to negotiate with the sect because it is faceless but would encourage third party dialogue.

“Boko Haram has no face. Government will not dialogue with a faceless group. I don’t know what they want except to destabilise the country. The target of any terrorist group is to destabilise. By attacking churches, they try to instigate Christians against Moslems.

“Soon, if they don’t succeed with that, they may attack mosques so that Moslems will attack Christians. But we are working very hard and we will stop it.”

He said if members of the group state its grievance, he would encourage those who have been in touch with them to go ahead and pacify them and make them see why they must stop the killings.

“The Boko Haram members are Nigerians and I will rather not want to lose the life of any Nigerian. Boko Haram has no face. Government will not dialogue with a faceless organisation.

“Security is a global challenge; just like the economic meltdown. Government is on it. Boko Haram changes their tactics every day, we are also changing and we will continue to adjust.”

“We will encourage those with access to them to dialogue with them. Even (Islamic leader, Dr) Datti Ahmed has access to them, we will encourage him,” he said.

The President also defended his decision to attend the Earth Summit in Brazil soon after the last round of bombings in Kaduna and Yobe states.

“I have no regrets going to Brazil,” Jonathan said. “I sympathize with the people who lost loved ones. I feel the pain. When I hear that one person dies, I feel so sad.

“But the government in Nigeria must not stop for a second because of terrorists. Boko Haram and their sponsors will not stop government from functioning. The Vice-President, the Senate President, the Speaker, all must keep faith with their engagements. The country must move on.”

“I have no regrets going to Brazil. I feel the pain when I hear that some people died. Those who were worried got worried out of ignorance. Part of their plans is to muzzle government. The government of Nigeria must not stop for a moment; government must function. It would have communicated something too negative and the consequences would have been bad for the image of the country. It would have meant that the country was unsafe.

“I could have sent the Vice President or any other person, but the day the international community gets to know that even the President could not travel, then we would be in serious trouble. All arms of government will keep faith with their national and international engagements. We sympathize with the level of damage, but we must bring it to an end.”

Jonathan said the fight against corruption has not been lost. Asked about the allegation that anti-graft agencies wait for the President’s “body language” before bringing corruption charges against suspects, Jonathan said it was not true.

“I give them the latitude to do their work. If a person is doing a job and is waiting for the President’s body language, then he is not committed,” he said.

The President said he picked the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde, even though he investigated him when he was governor of Bayelsa State because Nigerians have confidence in him.

“Nigerians have confidence in Larmode and I also believe in him. I have confidence in Lamorde.”

The President also, for the first time, spoke on the on the sacking of former EFCC boss Mrs Farida Waziri. He said she was sacked due to loss of confidence as there were many allegations against her.

He, however, said sacking her was not an indication that all the allegations against her were true. He said it was better for the head of an anti-corruption agency not to be tainted or seen to be tainted

The President said because Nigeria practices English law, sometimes it is not easy to obtain the 90 per cent proof to secure a criminal conviction.

“The burden on these agencies is enormous. It takes time to build a case file,” the President said.

Jonathan, who also pleaded that the anti-graft agencies be given time to work, denied being part of the alleged sting operation to nail Hon. Farouk Lawan.

He also noted that before the House probe, the Federal Government had earlier set up a panel to look into the subsidy issue, adding that “if we have something to hide, we would not have brought in Nuhu Ribadu who contested against me in the last presidential electuion”.

He also said that before now, he had asked for an international audit firm to audit NNPC.

Citing the reported case of money transfer in the United States concerning the Nigerian Embassy, the President said he has asked the EFCC to investigate the report. “If I get report even in a newspaper, I give directive to necessary security agencies to investigate.

Regarding the oil subsidy probe by the House of Representatives over which the Presidency is accused of orchestrating a sting operation that led to the suspension of chairman of the probe panel Farouk Lawan for collecting $620,000 from oil baron Femi Otedola, Jonathan said he had nothing to do with it.

“I have nothing to hide,” the President said. He said he would not have appointed former opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Presidential candidate Nuhu Ribadu head of petroleum revenue task force if he was not sincere about ridding the petroleum sector of corruption.

“If I want to do a sting operation, why would I use Femi (Otedola)? The fact is that criticising Jonathan is a big business in Nigeria,” Jonathan said.

On why he has not declared his assets, the President said: “It is personal and I don’t give a damn about that. The law is clear about it and so making it public is no issue and I will not play into the hands of the people. I have nothing to hide. I declared under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua becuase he did it, but it is not proper. I could be investigated when I leave office. You don’t need to publicly declare your assets and it is a matter of principle. It is not the President declaring assets that will change the country. We should go after issues that will develop the country.


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