- Presidency: Details of recovered loot to be released within 48 hours
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari monday said he was shocked when former President Goodluck Jonathan called him to concede defeat while votes were still being collated during the 2015 presidential election.
Buhari made the disclosure at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, when he hosted the State House press corps to lunch as part of activities marking this year’s Democracy Day.
“When he made that famous call at 4.45 pm and said ‘Good evening Mr. President, I have called to congratulate you and I concede defeat’, I was silent for quite a while because I was surprised and he said ‘Did you hear me’,” the president said.
Buhari said he was shocked because for someone who was a deputy governor, governor, vice-president and president for 16 years to concede that easily showed Jonathan’s “great sense of patriotism”.
Buhari added that a former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, advised him to visit Jonathan to reciprocate for his “statesmanship and decision to save the Nigerian state from crisis”.
Buhari said Jonathan belonged to a party that was at the helms of affairs for 16 years and for him to have gone ahead to concede defeat “was definitely not an easy decision”.
The president added that during his visit to thank Jonathan, General Abubakar again advised that in order to make for an easy transition, he (Buhari) should set up a committee to meet with the outgoing ministers to begin the process of handing over at that level.
“Jonathan sincerely agreed to the suggestion and I got one of the best bureaucrats in the person of Ahmed Joda and told him to look round the country and come up with a team for the task.
“However, when Jonathan told his ministers what he had decided, they simply refused and said: ‘How can you hand over to Buhari when he has not been sworn in,’ and that was the end of that good intention,” the president recalled.
The president said when he assumed office, he trimmed the number of ministries from 42 to 24, while many permanent secretaries were also dropped for one reason or the other.
He however said his government was still shocked when it realised that “those below were still living in the past”, which he said led to the infamous budget padding.
According to him, the budget padding saga was a nasty experience for him and many ministers who were new in government.
“We had to work day and night to correct the ills and I noticed that some of them were actually losing weight,” he said.
The president also spoke briefly about his inability to release the list of those who looted the nation’s treasury.
“We realised that we can’t talk too much or technicalities would come in and we may not realise what we should have realised,” he said.
The president advised the reporters covering the State House to “always conduct research on those visiting him whenever they plan to ask them questions, so that when next they come, the visitors will come well prepared”.
Speaking earlier, the chairman of the press corps, Kehinde Amodu, said yesterday’s event was the first time that a serving president would host the State House press corps to lunch and thanked the president for the gesture.
He also said the reporters covering the president were willing to contribute their quota to his change agenda, adding that the reporters would not ask for incentives from the president so that it would not be misconstrued as asking for gratification.
He however called for “improved working conditions” for reporters covering the State House.
The oldest journalist covering the State House, 80-year-old Ladan Abubakar, was specially recognised at the event.
Meanwhile, the president’s media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu, also revealed yesterday that the details of returned stolen state’s assets would be made public by tomorrow or Thursday.
Shehu, who spoke on Channels TV, said the directive by the president was that monies with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should be disclosed.
He said: “There are several accounts that have been frozen by the investigating agencies. The Office of the National Security Adviser is doing that, the EFCC, the ICPC and the police are involved.
“We will expect that there would be a snapshot on the present position of the ongoing investigation and the recoveries when the disclosure is made.”
He said he was surprised by the enormity of the criticism that followed the failure by the president to keep to his promise to disclose the details of the recovered loot.
“The important point to make is that the president did not cancel his decision to announce the seizures that have been made. What he said is that the Minister of Information would make a pronouncement on the issue and this is going to happen when work resumes from Tuesday. It is likely to be out Wednesday or latest by Thursday.
“The president has given authorisation that these assets that have been taken back from those who took from the treasury should be made public.
“My view is that nothing is lost. The president did not at anytime say he was going to name names. Of course we have read it in the press. The office of the president deserves all of the protection it can get,” Shehu stated.
He said that there are things that could be done on behalf of the president, adding that Buhari does not have to do everything.