Presidential spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu said much as President Muhammadu Buhari would have liked to let Nigerians know how much has been recovered, it will be impossible for now.
He said the money recovered is in the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), adding that “the issue of how much has been returned has been there. The money retrieved has to be used as evidence in court. The President said two things; we will recover and we will prosecute. So, as it is now, you don’t go and bring all these billions returned out.
“I am aware that there is an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where some of these funds are being kept and are evidence for a judge to see. It is not for public display. I think that is the challenge we have at the moment.”
Shehu said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will soon hit the road travelling around the country to address town hall meetings, explaining government policies and actions. The town hall meetings, he said, will hold in the first instance at zonal levels before going down to state capitals.
Shehu said: “ Government realises that there is a need to take information to the people and there are steps that are being taken in order to ensure that this is done.”
Explaining the delay in the reconstituting government agencies, Shehu said President Buhari wanted to be fair to every chief executive of government agencies. “If he wanted to fire people on assumption of office, he would have done it and would not have violated any rule. But he decided to give everyone a chance to see whether they would imbibe the change mantra, and be prepared to come along.”
He said with offices in the 774 local governments and state offices, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) needed to do more to enlighten Nigerians on the government’s policies.
“I will say with all sincerity that I know that the NOA has worried us in government. The people and the leadership never believed in what we are doing; they never believed in change and so, they just folded their arms and watched us in the last eight to nine months. When they are there, I believe the new leadership will begin to formulate things for agencies like that.”
While admitting that the government needs to do more in public enlightenment, Shehu said “to be fair to Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, I have never seen somebody as hardworking as that gentleman even as minister. You find out that he doesn’t miss the talk shows on radio, from one radio station to another and then he will move to a television station, to a newspaper and all of that.
“I believe that more needs to be done. I agree with you. We have an agency like NOA with 774 offices nationwide; each has not less than five to seven officials and well-equipped. But you know also, sometimes democracy has its own dark side.”
On the fight against insurgency, Shehu congratulated Nigerians on the achievements so far recorded by the Buhari administration, adding that at the moment, no city in the country is under curfew, while military road blocks have been dismantled.
He said the biggest challenge facing the government in the fight against insurgency is rebuilding damaged facilities, adding that now that the budget has been passed into law, the much- expected implementation of the government’s campaign promises will begin to unfold.
“So, in effect, money available will be spent from the moment the budget is signed. I believe that those who have fasted can now begin to enjoy, I mean money would be unleashed into the country and there would be a lot of activities that would go forth the moment the budget is signed”, he said.
Speaking on alleged secret recruitment by some government agencies, Shehu said: “ I would stay out of this because I know that the parliament is investigating this and I believe we should wait for the outcome of the investigation by the House of Representatives.
“I have been approached by a number of people who say ‘can you give me a note to so or so agency?’ A lot is happening in this country and I keep saying that Buhari’s government is not a government of notes. I guess that whoever is found doing that would get himself in trouble. He is not a nepotist and I think you know that.
“So, I think that the parliament should be allowed to look into it. I have personally called one of these agencies mentioned to ask whether it is true that they are recruiting and he said no, but the parliament can call for any documents and testimonies from anybody and they can determine whether it is true .”