President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, revealed that his administration had invested over $1 billion in the acquisition of weapons from the United States and other countries in the fight against insurgency since he assumed office in 2015.
Buhari, who went down memory lane, narrated how two-thirds of Borno State, half of Yobe State, and some local government areas in Adamawa State were under the control of terrorists. He accused some Nigerians of using personal religious beliefs to champion their political and economic interests.
The president, according to a statement issued by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, explained, “When I assumed power in 2015, Boko Haram held about two-thirds of Borno State, half of Yobe State, and a couple of local government areas in Adamawa State, all in the North-east of Nigeria. We have been able to retrieve these swathes of territories by investing over a billion dollars to acquire hard and soft ware weaponry from the US and other friendly countries to carry out sustained operations against insurgency since 2015.
“Our armed forces and those of our partners in the Multinational Joint Task Force (consisting of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Benin Republic and Nigeria) continue to demonstrate great bravery while paying the ultimate price in securing our collective freedom.
“Despite the difficult times we face, we continue to spend very scarce and lean resources to ensure that we have a well-resourced military force to take on this task.
“Ideally, these are resources could be spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure and other social services, but without peace, we have learnt the hard way that our children cannot go to school or seek good healthcare.”
Buhari charged African leaders to take immediate steps to find lasting solution to the over 10-year-old instability in Libya, which is having telling effect on neighbouring countries around it.
He stressed the need for the next Summit of the African Union to take a holistic review of the challenges that continued to fester in Libya with the hope of finding pragmatic African approach to resolving the instability in the country.
The president said the move was necessary to ensure that Libya no longer served as a safe-haven for all kinds of weapons and foreign fighters, whose profound impacts stared all in the sub-regions and Africa.
Buhari accused some Nigerians of using personal religious beliefs to champion their political and economic interests.
The president, who spoke yesterday, at Nouakchott, Mauritania, while meeting with United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, said some people hide under the canopy of religion to advance their economic and political agenda.
Buhari stressed that continuous education was needed so that the larger Nigerian populace would not be hoodwinked.
Recounting his private meeting at the White House with former President Donald Trump, the Nigerian leader recalled Trump asking him, “why are you killing Christians in Nigeria,” and how he proceeded to tell him that the issue in the country was not religious, but rather criminal, and a usage of religion by some elements to further their economic, and sometimes, political interests.
He said, “It’s a problem Nigeria has been struggling with for a long time, and it is completely unnecessary.
“Some people use religion as sentiment, but with adequate education, people are seeing through it now. Majority of the people just want to practice their religion without problem, but some people cash in on religious misunderstanding for their own ends.
“When people are educated, they are able to discern when others want to use religion for certain ends. They do it mostly for material reasons.
“Also, when some people are incompetent, they bring in all sorts of excuses, including religion.”
Ambassador Hussain said the United States of America was interested in partnering with Nigeria in the areas of formal and non-formal education, towards religious harmony.
He said, “There’s so much we can do together to promote peace, promote communal harmony. We love what you are doing, and we would be glad to assist as appropriate.”
Buhari also met with President of the Abu Dhabi Peace Forum, Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, on the sidelines of the African Conference for Peace, held in Nouakchott, Mauritanian capital.
Buhari, who had earlier been invested with the African Award for Strengthening the Peace, was described by the Shaykh as “a symbol and icon of leadership and integrity,” who would remain an inspiration even after leaving office as President.
Bayyah lauded the efforts of the Nigerian president to eradicate religious extremism, stressing that it was something the world must collaborate to do.
“You are doing a great job in that regard, and it is something we need to do wherever such rears its head round the world,” the respected cleric said.
Inviting the Nigerian leader to visit Abu Dhabi within the short time left for him in office, the Shaykh stated, “You have had varied experiences, as a military leader, a democratically elected leader for two terms, and your input will be appreciated in any society. We will be glad to receive you.”
Responding, Buhari recounted efforts made to extirpate the Boko Haram ideology in Nigeria, wondering why the group, along with Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) wants to split the country.
Buhari said. “All the grounds they seized before we came have been recovered, and the rebuilding process is going on well.”