President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said he contemplated running away from office shortly after he was inaugurated as Nigeria’s president on May 29, 2015.
Mr. Buhari said the ongoing economic crisis has made him feel as though he is suffering the consequences of someone else’s transgressions.
The lamentations were part of the president’s address to members of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies who visited him in the State House Thursday afternoon.
“Actually, I felt like absconding,” Mr. Buhari said. “Because 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries.”
Mr. Buhari said when he assumed office, he asked officials if there was enough money in the federal coffers for him to spend and he got a negative response.
“I asked if there was any savings and I was told there was no savings. I asked what they did on agriculture, power, rails and roads. There was nothing,” Mr. Buhari said.
Mr. Buhari said he also discovered that Nigeria had no strategic highways and the available ones were in a terrible state.
“You know more than I do because you move around. I have not been moving around since after elections but you do. How many of the Trunk A roads are still good enough?”
“How much power do we have although there are some elements of sabotage?” Mr. Buhari said.
Mr. Buhari said his government has been rendered largely helpless in the face of the economic crisis because crude oil no longer sells at high prices as he had hoped.
“Between 1999 and 2015, the average cost of each Nigerian barrel of oil was $100 per barrel. When we came it fell to less $30 per barrel and is now hovering between $40 and $50,” the president said.
The president said officials also told him that the government was spending heavily to import fuel and food items, an excuse he said he found ridiculous since Nigerians hardly consume imported staple.
“I was told the money was used to import food and fuel. I didn’t believe the answer and I still do not believe it.”
“Up till now, a substantial number of people in the East eat garri and groundnut; in the West they eat pounded yam, cassava, vegetables; in the North, they eat tuwo which is made from any of the grains: millet, sorghum.
“They eat it in the night and warm it in the morning and eat it and take fura in the afternoon. How many of those people can afford foreign food?”
Mr. Buhari also condemned the fuel subsidy regime of his predecessors, saying it served as a conduit which the Nigerian elite exploited to swindle the poor masses.
“Then they said I should check out the petroleum sector. The legislature dedicated 445,000 barrels per day for internal consumption and that is just 60 per cent of our requirements. I said ‘okay, what of the 40 per cent?’
“The marketers that are bringing it just present documents, papers are just stamped and monies are taken away.
“This is the type of things that the Nigerian elites are doing for our own country. When you go back, look at your colleagues and encourage them to be truly Nigerians.”
The president, however, vowed to do all in his capacity to resolve the economic crisis.
Mr. Buhari defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in a keently-contested election in March 2015.
He has repeatedly blamed the former government for his administration’s woes.
Mr. Buhari’s renewed blame game came days after his party accepted responsibility for the economic crisis and promised to desist from further blaming the past.
The Governor of Imo State and chairman of APC Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, said since their party has been in power for well over a year, it was time they more forward and began proffering solutions to the country’s multi-faceted crisis.
“We must take responsibility and we must never shift the responsibility to anybody,” Mr. Okorocha said. “We are responsible for everything happening in Nigeria.”
“The good, the bad, the ugly but we are promising Nigerians that we shall fix it.”