- As Boko Haram splits over Al-Barnawi
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed displeasure that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration failed to save for the rainy day.
The President, who was represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, spoke yesterday at the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State apital, at the opening of the 12th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC) 2016.
The conference, with the theme: Economic Diversification: Agriculture as Option for a Prosperous Nigeria, was attended by eminent personalities from across the country and beyond.
President Buhari said: “Nigeria has nothing to rely on to cushion the effects of the lost earnings. Many other oil producing countries and fellow Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members are faring better, because they saved for the rainy day. Saudi Arabia, with about one fifth of Nigeria’s population, has in foreign reserves about $600 billion, which is 23 times what Nigeria has in foreign reserves.
“United Arab Emirates, with less than 10 million people, has $75 billion in foreign reserves. Qatar, with 2.4 million people, has $36 billion in foreign reserves. Even Angola, with just 24 million people, has about $25 billion dollars in foreign reserves.
“Here in Nigeria, with oil selling consistently for over $100 a barrel for many years, we simply failed to save for the rainy day, with the result that a country with a population of over 170 million today has just $26 billion in foreign reserves.
“To compound this, the fall in the price of crude oil is having a ripple effect: the scarcity of forex, which has resulted from the oil price crash, means that industries are struggling to get forex to import raw materials and machinery.
“With falling imports, the Customs Service, which is another source of revenue, is collecting less duties. Taxation is also affected, as industries with no forex to import can neither employ more people nor produce more goods. Then, Nigeria has had to fight an existential battle to root out Boko Haram in the Northeast.”
The President noted that the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the media should become the champions of change.
He said: “What I am saying in essence is that while the media owe it as a duty to keep Nigerians well informed about the situation in the country, it must do so in context. We are not saying we should continue to lament about missed opportunities, the massive corruption or profligacy of the past, but it is important for Nigerians to know where and when the rain started beating them, that no provision was made for any umbrella to shield them from the elements and that indeed genuine efforts are now being made to turn things around.”
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike described the state as enormously endowed and beautiful, thereby beckoning on investors.
He said Rivers residents were friendly, lovely and peaceful.
In the meantime, the Federal Government yesterday dismissed as inconsequential the appointment of a new leader for Boko Haram by the Islamic State (IS).
The Defence Headquarters also spoke in the same vein.
Besides, Wednesday’s appointment of Abu Musab al-Barnawi has split the organisation, which appears to be struggling to return to relevance as Abubakar Shekau said he remains the group’s leader.
Minister of Information Lai Mohammed said nothing would bring back Boko Haram as its defeat is complete.
He described the claim by the sect as “another cheap propaganda.”
Mohammed added that “it is too late to employ such tactics to revive the group
‘’By the way, don’t believe the cheap propaganda by the global terrorist group ISIS, which has reportedly named a new leader for Boko Haram. Our gallant military has put Boko Haram on the run and nothing will bring back the terrorists, not even the wishful thinking by ISIS,” the minister said.
The Director of Defence Information, (DHQ), Brig.-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, said in Abuja that the military remained focused on its operation in the Northeast.
He said the announcement of a new leader for the group was only aimed at seeking attention and relevance.
“As far as we are concerned, what Boko Haram or their cohorts are doing is of no relevance to our operations against them.
“We are just focused on clearing the remnants of the insurgents that are scattered around.
“What they are doing is to seek relevance and to tell the world that they are still around whereas they have been decimated.
“Their latest move is the antics of a fading group and I believe that in the shortest time they will be history.’’
Shekau yesterday insisted he was “still around”.
He described his rival to power, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, as a “polytheist”, meaning one who worships many gods.
Shekau, who wears military uniform and waves an AK-47 assault rifle in propaganda videos posted online, said he sent letters to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), but its leaders had stopped replying.
“I was asked to send my ideology in writing to the caliph but it was manipulated by some people in order to achieve their own selfish interests,” he said in a 10-minute audio message.
“People should know we are still around.
“We will never cause any discord among the people, we will live by the Koran.”
Al-Barnawi’s appointment as the new “Wali of West Africa” was announced through an interview with him in the latest edition of Isil’s online weekly magazine al-Naba.
Boko Haram’s former spokesman, he is seen by the terrorist group as more moderate.
Despite the group’s substantial territorial losses at the hands of a multinational force comprising Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, al-Barnawi said that Boko Haram was “still a force to be reckoned with” and vowed to end its practice of attacking mosques and killing Muslims.
Instead, he said, it would focus on attacking Christians, by “booby-trapping and blowing up every church that we are able to reach, and killing all of those who we find from the citizens of the cross”.
Analysts said the rift opened up a new and dangerous chapter of Nigerian-born terrorism as both factions could now compete to outdo each other.
Shekau’s faction may also team up with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, al-Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa which was behind hotel terror attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso.
Ryan Cummings, director of Signal Risk consultancy, said Shekhau had fallen foul of Isil leaders after attacks on cities like Baga, a north eastern town whose residents were all but wiped out in January 2015.
“Boko Haram’s wanton violence has always been a concern for Isil,” he said. “They are no angels but justify the deaths of civilians by applying the apostate label.
“To re-establish the group’s credentials and recruiting abilities in the Lake Chad region, Isil obviously realised a change in strategy and leadership was needed.”