Angry Buhari blasts critics of his World Bank request for North

Buhari, World bankThe Presidency, on Friday, came down hard on critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to the World Bank to shift its focus to the North, describing them as ignorant and mischievous.

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, had on Thursday, while addressing journalists in Washington DC, United States, said the bank had concentrated its interventions in the country on the North, in consonance with President Buhari’s request to the Breton Wood institution.

Kim was reported to have said: “In my very first meeting with President Buhari, he said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern region of Nigeria and we’ve done that.  Now, it has been very difficult. The work there has been very difficult.”

The statement, expectedly, generated very caustic criticisms among a cross section of the Nigerian people who criticised the president for unjustly tilting development to the North, where he comes from.

But in his response to the criticisms, Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to the President, Mr Femi Adesina, in a statement, described the critics as “ignorant and mischievous people, who twist everything for their vile purposes.”

He added that the critics were making it seem that it was a calculated attempt to give the North an unfair advantage over other parts of Nigeria.

The statement reads in part: “The truth of the matter is that President Buhari, right from his first week in office in June 2015, had reached out to the G-7 in Germany that Nigeria needed help to rebuild the Northeast, which had been terribly devastated by insurgency. He said the country would prefer help in terms of rebuilding of infrastructure, rather than cash donation, which may end up being misappropriated.”

“Also, during a trip to Washington in 2015, and many other engagements that followed, President Buhari sought the help of the World Bank in rebuilding the beleaguered Northeast, which was then being wrested from the stranglehold of a pernicious insurgency. It was something always done in the open, and which reflected the President’s concern for the region.”

Adesina explained that since 2009, when the Boko Haram insurgency started, schools, hospitals, homes, entire villages, towns, cities, bridges, and other public utilities had been blown up, laid waste, and lives terminated in excess of 20,000, while widows and orphans littered the landscape.

He added that the president sought help from international community after breaking the back of insurgency in the region.

The media aide said that “President Buhari has a pan-Nigerian mandate, and he will discharge his duties and responsibilities in like manner. Any part of the country that requires special attention would receive it, irrespective of primordial affinities.”

Earlier, the Presidency had taken to twitter to defend the action of the president.

The Presidency, in a series of tweets on @PresidencyNigeria, its official twitter handle, provided insights into why President Buhari sought the assistance of the World Bank for the North-East.

According to the tweets, the current government “inherited a Northeast beset by a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions: villages, and towns laid waste; more than 20,000 dead.”

It added that “Northeast Nigeria has always been a priority for President Buhari, right from when he campaigned to be President.

“From the start of the administration, President Buhari has consistently highlighted the need for international support to secure and rebuild the N/East.

“The Northeast has featured prominently in all of the President’s engagements with the international community.

“It featured in his first meeting with the World Bank, in July 2015, at which the bank pledged financial support.”

The Presidency added that “We remain grateful for the show of support from the international community, regarding the security and humanitarian situation in the N/East.”

However, in a statement issued by the World Bank on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 after a meeting between the World Bank President, Kim and President Buhari at Blair House in Washington, the bank indicated that “Nigeria has up to USD $2.1 billion of uncommitted resources from the International Development Association (IDA) as well as other support from IBRD, for addressing the development challenges of Nigeria, including in the North East and the North, in particular.”

The statement quoted Indira Konjhodzic, who was then Acting World Bank Group Country Director for Nigeria, as saying that “We are going to work closely with the Government of Nigeria to determine the best way to support their priorities in the context of our Country Development Framework and our commitment to ensure the continued growth and development momentum in Africa’s biggest economy.”

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