Outgoing President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday that he has a safe haven in Niger Republic, Chad and other neighbouring countries and would not hesitate to run there for refuge if disturbed by Nigeria after handing over on May 29.
He said one of the first things he did on assumption of office as president in May 2015 was to visit Niger Republic, Chad, and Cameroon to cement relationship with those countries. He also offered insight on some of his appointments and actions, which may not have resonated with many of his cronies.
Top on the list were his choice of women as finance ministers, which he said was a strategic way of repelling people, especially men, who naturally feel too big to disturb a woman for contracts and other favours. He spoke at the official commissioning of the N19.6 billion Nigeria Customs Service corporate headquarters in Abuja, yesterday. Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Mrs. Zainab Ahmed were two women who manned the finance ministry in the eight years Buhari ruled as president.
He said: “I deliberately appointed ladies so that it will give me a lot of peace. I made sure I gave the Ministry of Finance to a lady to exploit the cultural behaviour of all Nigerians: once ladies are in charge, people feel too big to go to ladies. So, I am sure peace will be allowed in the Ministry of Finance where people will go and lobby for their contracts to be paid and so on. So, they feel too big to go to ladies. So, I put a lady in charge. That gave me a lot of peace.”
Nigeria Customs Headquarters in Abuja he said his first choice of settlement would be his hometown Daura in Katsina State, which is far-flung from Abuja and closer to the Niger Republic, the country of his relatives. He said if one does not secure the confidence of his neighbours, he or his grandchildren would be in trouble.
“I said these few things about my personal belief because I have only six more days to go. And I try to plan to be as far away from Abuja as possible. I came from an area, which is far away from Abuja. I said if anybody with force moves, I have good relationship with my neighbours. Niger people will defend me.”
Buhari said he deliberately closed down Nigeria’s borders a few years ago to ensure Nigerians eat what is produced locally, citing the positive impacts to include encouraging local production, job creation and security.
He said: “I think I am trying to make my point. Later Nigeria will appreciate it because it provides more jobs. People have gone back to agric. We have the land, and they will produce what we eat. And for people who think that our neighbours can be a loser let’s continue to be with our neighbours. That is why when I became the head of state, that is president, my first visit was to Niger, Chad and Cameroon because based on neighbourhood, on personal and national reason, if you don’t secure the confidence of your neighbour, you are in trouble. If you are not in trouble, your children and grandchildren will be in trouble. So, it is very good I established relationship with my neighbours.”
He added: “Please note that from Lake Chad to Benin is more than 1,000km. Only God can effectively guard that border. So, you need a person who will have the energy and competence to effectively supervise it. And I deliberately closed the borders because knowing Nigerians, they order rice and give some Niger people address and then they bring the rice here. We know our potentialities.”
Buhari also gave reasons why he defiantly appointed Hameed Ali, retired Army Colonel, and former military administrator of Kaduna State, as Comptroller-General of Customs in 2015, despite deafening objections from various quarters, including the National Assembly. The president, aside applauding Ali for his dexterity, recalled how the late Sani Abacha assigned tough tasks to him to execute.
He said he loved Ali’s leadership style, prompting him to assign the task of restructuring and reforming the NCS. “As for Hameed Ali, I asked him to be in charge of Customs. No matter what people say about the late Sani Abacha, may his soul rest in peace, I knew him very well, when somehow, he became president of this country, Head of State, the biggest problematic area was around Kaduna.
“He picked Colonel Hameed Ali and dumped the problems on him. My decision for Hameed Ali to come to Customs was a deliberate one. I brought Colonel Hameed Ali to ensure that I have peace of mind.”
He explained that the CG has the energy and competence to effectively supervise the over 1,600 km Nigeria land mass from Benin to Lake Chad. President Buhari hailed the Customs’ boss for the gigantic edifice, saying it would boost the operations of Customs.
The Customs corporate headquarters, referred to as “Customs House” located in Maitama areas in Abuja, is a 12-floor tower with five floors on both wings and “bridges” linking the two wings. The project was conceived in 2002 to provide a comfortable and conducive working environment for staff and visitors to the Headquarters.