For the umpteenth time, the National Peace Committee (NPC), led by former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, on Tuesday denied that it is trying to shield certain people from the hammer of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war or attempting to water it down.
Rather, the committee declared not only its total support for the campaign, but insists that the President should not hesitate to bring anybody in, including members of the body itself found culpable in any form of corruption, no matter how long the crime had been committed.
The group, which visited the President, last week, had come under intense attacks from some Nigerian’s who interpreted their visit and the pronouncements thereafter that they were trying to pour cold water on Buhari’s attempt to punish corrupt officials of the past, especially those who served under the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Bishop Mathew Kukah, who acted as the spokesman of the committee after meeting Buhari, had, while briefing State House Correspondents, said the President was reminded during the meeting that he was no longer a military Head of State and should and therefore adopt democratic tenets in his approach, a statement, which he accentuated thereafter with media comments stressing the need for the President to get on with real governance instead of concentrating on the anti-corruption crusade.
All these gave the impression that the committee was out to truncate the President’s pet project, a development, which led to many individuals including the All Progressives Congress (APC), Buhari’s party, rising against the committee and depicting as anti-people.
The committee, has however fired back, with Sultan of Sokoto, a prominent member, debunking the assertion and assuring Nigerians on the issue, when he told the President during a national security parley on Monday that their support for the war was not only total, but culprits should have their loots confiscated in addition to jail terms.
Echoing this sentiment, another member of the committee, Dr. Yinusa Tanko, explained that the misinterpretation being given to their intervention could have come out of jealousy of some Nigerians over the rising profile of the body through their streak of successes in creating peace within the polity.
Tanko, told a team of Channel Television’s anchors on the breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, that at no time during a meeting with the President did they suggest either through words or body language that they were against the probe of anybody or the anti-corruption war.
Giving account of what actually transpired during the meeting, Tanko, said the President clearly understood and appreciated the position of the committee and Nigerians over the issue of due process and even made very germane clarifications to that effect.
He said for instance, the President himself, explained that he would ordinarily have immediately arrested the suspects involved in the shipping of the stolen crude, currently seized by the Chinese authorities, were it a military government, but that the situation now called for a different approach.
His words: “When we talked about due process, he said that documents that were used in taking this crude out of the country will be used in prosecuting these culprits. Everyone of us was happy with the statement made by Mr. President, cracking jokes. And even in his own suggestion, confirming the issue of whether we are needed or not, the President, said that in his own strong opinion, that the National Peace Committee should be transformed into the National Peace Council, offering us a secretariat.
“So, if there was any sign, President Muhammadu Buhari, will not mince words. He will tell you as it is. He received us warmly and we were happy and we left. If there were statements that were made by individuals of the peace committee that were misconceived in anyway, it is regrettable. We all know that even Mr. President at a point in time, any statement he made, irrespective of how well-intended, people still misperceive it. But we are happy that Nigerians are united towards this fight against corruption and we will continue to give him support, based on our antecedents and what we have stood for in this country.
Regretting the backlash over the committee’s position, he attributed it to wrong politics, saying: “There are some Nigerians who profiteer in rumour-mongering and pre-perceived positions. They use for their own personal gains. These (NPC) are members, who have paid their dues in their different areas. We all made personal contributions, personal sacrifice, without support from anybody. But felt that the fragile democracy that we had already attained and then sensing danger, we should all unite, working together to ensure peace. And there was peace throughout the 2015 general election.
“In fact, when we were not sure of certain things, we had to re-invite the President at that time, President Goodluck Jonathan and the President now, President Muhammadu Buhari to re-sign a peace accord. And God in his infinite mercy, helped us and we achieved that. We became the darling of the country and everybody was giving us accolades. I guess that probably some people are not happy about this.”
Reiterating the position of the committee that Jonathan never asked for its intervention to shield from probe, Tanko, said that the former President, had in fact, supported the probe by the new President and wanted it to go full blast, expressing his readiness to answer any question.
In the same vain, he said that the committee was also full of support for the probe of even its members being mentioned as involving in the most-touted Halliburton scandal. “We can look everything. We support it 100 per cent, because it will bring out a lot of things some people do not know. A lot of things will be exhumed and it is good to clean the system. You see, it is very easy to accuse and then when the issue comes up, you will now be amazed to see the people that are actually involved from the beginning. Now that the US is supporting the country to fight corruption, it will also be good for them to come clean with the Halliburton issue.
Why would we be talking about individuals in the committee, when the President himself is ready to probe members of his party as he confirmed in his interview with Christiane Amampour? Individuals and everybody is ready and should be open to probe,” he said.