Buhari not targeting Christians, opposition for persecution —Presidency

• Says terrorists, not FG, responsible for IDPs’ plight

THE Presidency has refuted allegations that President Muhammadu Buhari was targeting Christians and opposition elements, saying the claim was without foundation.

According to the statement, “as for claims that the administration is targeting Christians and the opposition, these are without foundation.

“Since assuming office, President Buhari has treated all Nigerians without bias for ethnicity or religion – as the composition of his cabinet and the policies and programmes of his administration demonstrate.

“To suggest his government as deepening Muslim-Christian division is not only untrue, but plays into the hands of Boko Haram who wish to divide Nigerians along religious lines. Fighting this group is key priority of President Buhari-led administration.

“Indeed, the international community has widely acknowledged his determination to defeat terrorism in Nigeria and the entire Lake Chad Basin.

“There is nothing to gain by attempting to mould public opinion against these facts. Therefore, we invite The Telegraph to visit Nigeria to witness firsthand, not only the challenges we face, but the administration’s determination to confront them.”

The Presidency also refuted allegations that the Federal Government was diverting international aid meant to fight terrorism and alleviate the plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), thereby compounding their problem, saying that rather than government being accused, Boko Haram insurgents should be blamed for their condition.

Reacting to a July 30, 2016 publication in London Telegraph, which made the claim, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement issued in Abuja, on Monday, that the situation of the refugees was bad, but it was not the doing of government.

He said: “The humanitarian situation in these camps is real. The administration remains deeply concerned about the medical, health and nutrition challenges and we are doing everything with the limited resources we have at our disposal to improve the situation.

“However, the blame for the plight of refugees lies with Boko Haram. They are its cause, not the Nigerian government.”

The statement denied that government had diverted United Kingdom’s (UK) development fund meant for defeating Boko Haram to other purposes, saying that UK did not give money to fund military operations against Boko Haram.

The statement read in part: “The London Telegraph’s article ‘Children Face Death by Starvation in Northern Nigeria’ (30th July) repeats a claim from an earlier piece ‘Nigeria Using UK Aid to Persecute President’s Political Foes’ (12th April), that Nigeria is diverting UK aid monies away from defeating the Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, towards those the newspaper identified as political opponents of the administration. This is as incorrect as it is unhelpful.

“These claims in both articles are attributed to an unnamed ‘source’ in the United States and ‘Western officials’. Yet, when the first article was published, it drew the condemnation of the US Embassy in Abuja as having drawn conclusions directly opposite to the position of the US government.

“To state the facts, the UK government does not give development aid to the Nigerian administration for use in military operations against Boko Haram. Where British military support-such as intelligence- is provided, it is precisely and only given for operations directly against Boko Haram.

“Similarly, the Nigerian government is in no position to divert aid monies used for emergency relief for refugees or IDP camps for any other purpose, as these are dispensed directly by DFID, USAID, the United Nations, the International Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and many other organisations – with which we enjoy excellent relations.”

The Presidency regretted the recent Boko Haram attack on a United Nations aid convoy and encouraged the world body to continue to render assistance.