Kerry in Nigeria, meets Buhari, Sultan, 5 Northern govs

• Says corruption costs the world $2.6trn annually

THE United States (US) Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry, on Monday, said the world lost $2.6 trillion to corruption annually.

Kerry made this known when he visited the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, in his palace in Sokoto, on Tuesday.

He said the money being lost to corruption across the world was enough to provide decent livelihood for people.

“This is money that can be used to improve the living standard and provide decent livelihood for them.

“Corruption is not only a crime, but very dangerous and it must be tamed,” he said.

Commending President Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts in fighting corruption in Nigeria, Kerry pointed out that corrupt officials, anywhere in the world, were crooks.

He said Buhari understood the danger of corruption in a country, adding that Nigeria was already a regional leader in the fight against corruption.

“Nigeria is also a role model in the ongoing global efforts to fight corruption,” he stated, acknowledging measures being applied by Buhari to entrench morality, transparency, honesty and good governance in the country.

Kerry particularly commended the Federal Government for its efforts at recovering stolen funds, stressing that there was need for all government institutions, including military, other security agencies and the judiciary to support the anti-corruption campaign.

“US is also fully committed to fighting corruption and entrenching good governance globally. One of Nigeria’s strength is diversity of culture and religious tolerance. Former leaders of the defunct Sokoto caliphate and others like the late Sir Ahmadu Bello had stood by the virtues of peace, unity and tolerance,” he said.

On insurgency in Nigeria, Kerry also commended government’s determination in combating the menace and other crimes across the country.

Condemning terrorism in the country, he said “Boko Haram boasts of no agenda more than to burn schools. They also kill and maim people, especially teachers and it is the opposite of any religion.”

He said the US was deeply committed to working with partners like Nigeria to build counter-terrorism capacities, disclosing that his government had worked out counter-terrorism strategies that would be implemented globally.

Meanwhile, President Buhari also met with Mr Kerry, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, pledging that the anti-corruption crusade in the country would be deepened and institutionalised to last beyond the life of the current administration.

He said the necessary structures would be put in place in the public service to ensure that they struck to instruction.

In fighting the war he reiterated, his administration would be fair and just.

Buhari stated: “We will insist on the standards we are establishing. We are laying down administrative and financial instructions in the public service that must be obeyed. Any breach will no longer be acceptable.”

“We will retrain our staff, so that they understand the new orientation. And those who run foul of these rules will be prosecuted, no matter who is involved..

“But we will be fair, just and act according to the rule of law. Anyone perceived corrupt is innocent till we can prove it. We will work very hard to establish documentation for successful prosecution and those in positions of trust will sit up.”

President Buhari appreciated the intervention of the US before the 2015 polls, demanding free and fair elections in Nigeria, saying “America did not do it because of what it stands to benefit from us. You did it for the Nigerian people. It tells so much what the US stands for in the world.”

On the Boko Haram insurgency, President Buhari thanked the US for both hard and soft military help.

According to him, “the training and intelligence that we could not muster ourselves, we received. The training has made Boko Haram less of a threat to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin region, while the military hardware has given our troops added confidence.”

President Buhari said though militancy in the Niger Delta had impacted negatively on the economy and affected the positive intentions of international and local investors, government was showing restraint not to use real force, “except when constrained to do so.”

On the economy, the president assured that the focus of his administration was on the diversification of the economy, having learnt our lessons from years of overdependence on oil.

In his remarks, Mr Kerry commended the courage of President Buhari in fighting corruption, saying: “We applaud what you are doing. Corruption creates a ready-made playing field for recruiting extremists.

“You inherited a big problem and we will support you in any way we can. We will work with you very closely. We don’t want to interfere, but will offer opportunities as you require.”

The American Secretary of State also pledged to assist in tackling the humanitarian challenges in the North-East, adding that his country would get the United Kingdom, France and others “to augment the support.

“Nigeria is priority for us. We won’t miss the opportunity to work together, because you are making significant progress.”

The envoy had, earlier in Sokoto lauded the efforts of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, in promoting religious tolerance and understanding among Nigerians.

He lauded the plan by the Sultanate Council to establish an all-women university, saying girls, women, children and other vulnerable groups “must be educated, given jobs and opportunities to explore their potential.’’

He said that the United States would continue to identify itself with the Sultanate in strengthening religious tolerance and understanding among Nigerians.

In his remarks, the Sultan commended Kerry for the visit and his “inspiring speech,” saying the gesture would “encourage us to redouble our efforts for a stronger, united and prosperous Nigeria.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that Kerry had a closed-door meeting with the Sultan and some leaders of the two major religions.

Also, northern governors have requested the US government to assist in tackling poverty, which they say is the underlying factor in the Boko Haram insurgency raging in the North-East.

Following Kerry’s meeting with President Buhari, five northern governors under the aegis of Northern Governors’ Forum met with him at the Presidential Villa, on Tuesday, seeking assistance for the region to overcome its numerous problems.

At the meeting were chairman of the forum, Kashim Shettima (Borno), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Mohammed  Abubakar (Bauchi),  Ahmed Abdufatah (Kwara), Jibrilla Bindow (Adamawa) and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto).

Briefing State House corespondents, Shettima disclosed that they explained to Kerry that poverty was the underlying factor in Boko Haram insurgency and, therefore, asked for support for job creation, improvement of health facilities and the development of renewable energy sources.

Shettima, who said the meeting was at the instance of the US government, also spoke on the military action against Boko Haram, noting that even though government was desirous of negotiation and some of the insurgents were amenable to that, there were diehard elements among them.

According to him, the action was necessary to ensure that government was in a position of strength in the event of any negotiations.

Shettima also said government was hoping to resettle all the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in their homes by May 29, 2017, pointing out the dangers of allowing people to remain in IDP camps for too long, saying there could be issues of criminality.

In his remark, Tambuwal noted that the US had given commitment to assist in the areas of health, renewable energy and education.