President Muhammadu Buhari has attributed the retention of the incumbent service chiefs in office to his personal experience on security matters and to avoid creating rooms for ambitious armed forces’ top brasses to capitalise on. The president, who spoke on several burning national issues, explained he was also being very careful not to create more loopholes in the country’s security architecture. He said that the emergency situation in the country would not be helped by taking hasty decisions on the service chiefs’ stay in office. While noting that the service chiefs’ performance may be disappointing, he accepted responsibility for their actions, stressing that it was still better to retain them in their various capacities in the face of mounting security challenges than giving them the red card. In separate interviews with Arise Television and the Hausa Service of the Voice of America (VOA) on Monday night and yesterday respectively, Buhari replied his critics that his administration had marginalised Igbo and shielded corrupt Nigerians who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Buhari stated categorically that he never instructed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) not to investigate and prosecute such politicians, especially Senator Godswill Akpabio. Some Nigerians and political parties led by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have called the president to sack the service chiefs for alleged non-performance and the expiration of their tenures. But in a 90-minute interview on Arise TV on Monday night, the president who responded to questions on the escalating security challenges in the country, explained that he has to be very careful on the removal of the service chiefs because “you don’t know the ambition of the ones coming up.” Among the service chiefs still whose tenures have been extended on two occasions are Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin (chief of defence staff), Tukur Yusufu Buratai (chief of army staff), Ibok-EteIkwe Ibas (chief of naval staff), and Sadique Baba Abubakar (chief of air staff). All the service chiefs are due for retirement. In his defence of retaining the service chiefs, Buhari said: “My understanding of security is that, when you have a case of emergency, you have to be careful with tampering with the heads of services. This is again one of my personal experiences. I have been a military governor, I have been a minister, I have been a head of state, I came back, I tried to come back to this office three times but was lucky on the fourth time. “I am weighing the options critically, when you have a case of emergency, if you don’t wait for an appropriate time to do it, then you create competition within the service; there are so many ambitious people waiting and only one man can be chief of army staff in the army, only one person can be the inspector-general of police. Don’t forget that it was this administration that appointed all the three,” he said. Buhari reiterated that he never knew the military chiefs on personal basis, stressing that, “I followed records and thought I picked the best then, of course, their performance may be disappointing but I accept responsibility for not changing them. My reason is based on my experience.” I’ve Been Fair To Igbo –PMB Buhari also used the Arise TV interview to respond to his purported marginalisation of the Igbo or the Southeast region. The president said that even though he got very low votes from the region in the 2015 elections, he had been fair to them in his appointments and provision of infrastructure. He said:“Somebody made an observation that I was not patronising the Igbo from the South East. I told him that when I won the election, I studied the amount of votes I got from all the geopolitical zones. “I said that I got 198,000 from the whole of the South East, which virtually any local government can give me. But I appointed ministers of foreign affairs, labour, industries, and investment, mines and technology; these four; I never knew them from Adam. Ministers of States from seven states of the North are under these ministers. How fair do you want me to be?” he asked. The president debunked claims that he directed the EFCC not to touch a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, after the he defected to the APC last year. He described as unfair allegations that he was protecting some corrupt persons in his government and goes after those in the opposition. Speaking on Akpabio who was being probed for allegedly diverting N100billion before he decamped to the APC, Buhari said that he did not direct the EFCC to leave him alone. He said: “I don’t think Akpabio, when he moved to the APC, that I said he should be left alone. I cannot remember asking the EFCC, the ICPC, the police or anybody to spare any corrupt person or incompetent person. I haven’t done it and I challenge you to expose any.” He also took up Benue State governor Samuel Ortom and his Taraba State counterpart Darius Ishaku on the killings by bandits and suspected herdsmen in their states. The president accused the governors of introducing religion and ethnicity to the sad development. According to him, “the number of people killed in Taraba and Benue is not up to the number killed in Zamfara State. But then what the leadership of Benue and Taraba was reporting, I may not be reading every article; they were giving it religious and ethnic undertone which is very unfair to Nigeria.” …Identifies Dangers Of State Police Meanwhile, Buhari has described state police as a good initiative but highlighted its long-term dangers. He said: “It may be more efficient, which was why I congratulated the governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State when he started the Lagos State Neighbourhood Corps. It’s a good initiative,” but noted that it could be full of problems in the long run because several states might not be able to pay the salaries of their workers. Buhari declared that “Lagos State is richer than the federal government. How many states can pay salaries and you now ask them to form state police? “Do you know what can happen if you can’t feed the police? Do you just give them uniforms and guns but can’t pay their salaries for six months? It’s going to be a problem and I don’t want to be a part of it,” he said. He said that if the police were doing their job well, soldiers would not have been deployed in the streets and roads of Nigeria. Buhari said: “I have a problem with the police and I told them that, from my training and experience, they were supposed to be on the front line. Now, Nigerians are seeing soldiers on the streets. This is not good for the police and I told them this some months ago.” The president advised Nigerians to reject governors who failed in their first terms, especially those who are owing civil servants salaries after collecting bailouts from his administration. Buhari told the Hausa Service of VOA that there was no reason for any governor to default in salary payment after collecting bailout funds from the federal government. He said: “I wonder how these governors are able to sleep knowing that they have refused to pay workers their wages. These workers have families to cater for; they pay rent, pay school fees, hospital bills and buy food for their families.”

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