Statement by His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari at the reception for members of the diplomatic corps, on Thursday, February 18 2016
I am very delighted to have you at this reception organized principally, to provide a relaxed atmosphere for an informal interaction at the early stage of the New Year. Although the year is somehow far gone today for me to say Happy New Year to all of you, but it is not too late to convey my very best wishes for your well-being, joy and peace in the rest of 2016.
2. Only last week the Chinese celebrated their New Year with pomp and pageantry, a year dedicated to the monkey; and come September, the Ethiopians will celebrate their New Year to complete the cycle of New Year celebrations in the world this year.
3. These festive occasions often offer us the opportunity to reflect soberly on our lives and review events that have taken place in the preceding year. For some, each New Year propels them to make personal resolutions, some of which may or may not be kept in the end. For others, they see no reason to celebrate at all because of their personal circumstances. Life can be truly a mixed grill.
4. It is almost eight months since I assumed office. In this time, we have witnessed resurgence in the morale and will of the Nigerian Armed Forces to dislodge Boko Haram from their bases in the North East. The changes in both command structure and operational tactics have brought about significant gains on the ground. The Armed Forces have been given specific instructions on rules of engagement to treat captured terrorists humanely and to avoid civilian casualties
5. It is worthy to note that when I assumed office on May 29, 2015, Boko Haram had full control of fourteen (14) Local Governments Areas in the North East, but today, the group holds no territory in Nigeria. They are hiding in Sambisa forest and occasionally undertake cowardly attacks on innocent citizens in soft targets.
6. This has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the security situation in that part of the country. You are, in fact, aware that people who were once internally displaced from their homes for years are gradually returning to rebuild their homes, communities and livelihood.
7. As the security situation continues to improve, and as more people return to their homes, government will spare no effort to support them with robust programmes and projects to hasten the process of rehabilitation and resettlement. The General T.Y Danjuma-led Committee has been saddled with the responsibility of coordinating these efforts.
8. May I use this occasion to once again thank our friends and partners for the invaluable support they have and continue to render in our fight against Boko Haram.
9. We are quite aware that the war on terror will not, and cannot be won by military means alone. We need a soft approach that speaks directly to the human mind. Poverty and hunger do not only incapacitate, but they can lead to desperation. We are also aware that poverty and marginalization, amongst other factors, can easily create room for indoctrination and co-option into violent extremism.
10. Accordingly, we are paying attention to those economic programmes that will lead to empowerment of the people and thus provide an alternative lifestyle of fruitful engagement rather than resort to extremist and terrorist activities. Job creation and provision of quality education are key areas that are already receiving our attention.
11. We are resolved to build a stable and prosperous Nigeria, a country that is inclusive of all her diverse peoples and a country that is at ease with itself. Building such a country will not be possible where corruption is pervasive. Mindful of this, it has become necessary to wage a relentless war against the cancer of corruption. So long as corruption holds center stage in the affairs of Nigeria, the country will continue to suffer incalculable harm.
12. You are witnesses to the preliminary findings that have emerged in the past few weeks from our investigations into corrupt practices in different sectors of Nigeria’s Public Service. I will leave no stone unturned in the efforts to rid Nigeria of corruption. I must however, add that in doing this, we shall operate within the ambit of the law.
13. In a similar fight in the past, and armed with the might of military muscle, I led a government that required persons presumed to be corrupt to prove their innocence. Today, as committed democrats, and in a culture of deepening democracy, we respect the law that presumes all persons innocent until they are proven to be guilty.
14. Nigeria has no choice, nor can the country afford to be an island in itself. Against this backdrop therefore, since my assumption of office, I have demonstrated my commitment to interact with my colleagues in Nigeria’s neighbours and beyond. This is consistent with the pledge that I made at my inauguration to steer the affairs of the country in a manner that will allow us to play the role that is expected of us.
15. It is for this reason, that the Foreign Policy vision which we are currently pursuing is anchored on meaningful engagement with our neighbors, the African continent and the world at large.
16. We would continue to build strong partnerships, strengthen regional ties and promote global solidarity. Nigeria will remain a responsible and active member of the international community; promoting tolerance, accommodation, reconciliation and pacific settlement of disputes. We will also continue to shoulder responsibilities in peace keeping under the auspices of the United Nations.
17. We have benefitted from the dividends of democracy. We have enjoyed an unprecedented period of civil rule, reaching a milestone in our last election, which ushered not only a new government to office, but also witnessed the peaceful transfer of power from a ruling party to an opposition party. Without a doubt, Nigeria’s democracy is growing and gaining in strength.
18. We are also convinced that there is no alternative to democratic governance, adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights and adherence to constitutional order. Upholding these values remains the essential for peace, stability and development.
19. We owe it a duty not to hand down to the next generation a world that is deeply divided and threatened by nature. It is therefore, most commendable that in the last quarter of 2015, the world celebrated the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Today we can celebrate these great achievements in the hope that full implementation and delivery on the promises of these frameworks, will lead to growth and development.
20. I want to assure you that under my watch, Nigeria will accord priority to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the commitments of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
21. We are under no illusion that achieving these objectives will be easy. We are however, undaunted in our resolve to overcome. We will continue to do all we can to make life safe for our citizens and all residents of Nigeria. We are open for business. We invite those who are ready to come to invest in Nigeria. We will protect their persons as well as their investments.
22. We will take the necessary steps to overcome new and old challenges, enhance our national unity, internal cohesion and ultimately, give our country the image that will be a pride to our people, our friends in Africa and beyond.
23. I would like to conclude by thanking you for making the time to be here today. I would also like to wish you a pleasant evening with the hope that you will continue to work hard to strengthen the ties of friendship between Nigeria and your respective countries and organizations.
24. I thank you for your attention
President Muhammadu Buhari
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