Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, hosted his seventh Presidential Media Chat (Sunday 4th May, 2014) since returning to office in May 2011. The President touched on a lot of pressing issues – ranging from the kidnap of over 250 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, the alleged missing $20bn controversy, Boko Haram, the state of the Nigerian economy and more. Read the full transcript below… 19.00 The seventh Presidential Media Chat starts. (The chat was anchored by Cyril Stober) 19.03 Funke Fadugba – Ray Power, Bashiru Saad Abdulahi, BBC World Service, and Jide Ajani make up the panel. The chat starts with a review of the ‘trying times’ in Nigeria.
I promise, we will get over our challenges, President Jonathan said in his opening speech. 19.05 The issue of the kidnapped Chibok school girls is next on the table. The president said the security agencies have been combing everywhere since the girls were kidnapped. ‘Wherever they are, we will surely get them back’, he said. 19.09 The president said he met with the Chibok School’s principal and was informed 53 students have returned. But the police insist only 44 have returned. He pleads with the parents and guardians to cooperate with security agencies to release information about the girls. He wants the guardians to give the police names and pictures of schoolgirls that are still missing.
19.11 When asked if he was negotiating with the terrorists for the release of the girls, he said: ‘You can’t negotiate with people you don’t know,’ pointing that it is not clear who has the girls. ‘Sometimes, you people know more than me’, he said. 19.15. 530 were registered in that school, according to WAEC. 193 were relocated to other schools. The school, although a girls only college was recently made a mixed school due to the security. 19.19 While comparing the security situation in Nigeria’s northeast with what happened in the Niger Delta few years back, the president said they situations were different. He argues the difference is in Boko Haram’s clandestine operations and lack of distinct or public leadership.
‘The Niger Delta militants were not terrorists. I’m not trying to defend them’, he said. 19.22 While reviewing the capability of Nigeria’s security agents to respond to the increasing security challenges in Nigeria, the president said they were ‘capable’. He added that he had reached a decision to recruit more and train them well. 19.28 ‘We’re receiving an unfair share of the global terror’, the president said while trying to blame external [foreign] forces targeting the destruction of Africa’s largest economy [Nigeria]. He argues that because of Nigeria’s size and economy, many world forces are interested in its downfall.
19.33 ‘Terrorism is not a phenomenon a six months or one year State of Emergency can solve’, the President said while justifying the performance of the state of emergency in place in the most affected northeast Nigeria states. His explanation indicates a plan to extend the state of emergency in the affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. 19.35 Without the state of emergency, security operatives in affected states may be frustrated, he explains. 19.41 The issues have rolled to plan the World Economic Forum. The president explains that his decision to shut down the entire city for the project is with good intention. He said it is to make movement of the attendees easier and faster.
He appeals to the private institutions to join government offices and shutdown during the WEF. ‘Nigeria will not be the first country, people in other countries do that’, he said. ‘It does not affect our economy. We are not saying that private companies must close down, but we advise that they do’, he added. 19.45 The president said he has had personal discussions with Barrack Obama of the U.S where he requested for assistance to tackle Boko Haram. 19.53 Unemployment and Jobs: ‘People must know that re-basing the economy has not added anything to us’, the president said while discussing job creation in his administration. ‘Re-basing the economy does not mean new things were created, it simply means proper stock taking of the economy,’ he said. Government cannot employ more than 5%, he said, arguing that government creates good environment for employers to thrive. 19.56 The president defended creation of 1.6 million jobs in 2013.
He mentioned Agriculture, Nollywood, Sure-P, YouWin as areas were jobs were created, but did not give specifics. He insists that National Bureau of Statistics has details of the 1.6 mn jobs, ‘I have asked them to publish it,’ he said. He admits government cannot employ more than 5% of Nigerians but said he has created environment for small and medium scale enterprise to thrive. 19.59 He said Nigeria must spend money to organize the World Economic Forum but justifies it saying it is necessary to create jobs. ‘For you to create jobs, you must encourage the private sector’, he said. 20.04 The issue of the missing billion is up again as the president tackles a question on corruption by Bashiru Saad Abdulahi of the BBC World Service. 20.07 The president’s argument is that it is impossible to steal billions in Nigeria. ‘If anybody steals billions, I am telling you, we will know… billions now in this country, we will celebrate it,’ the president said. 20.09 The president, while reacting to that corruption question, spent a lot of time showing his dissatisfaction with the inconsistencies in CBN governor’s allegations. ‘Sanusi is not an ordinary Nigerian,’ he said. 20.13 ‘I cannot increase pump price through the back door. If I want to do it, I will do it’, the president said in reaction to questions regarding recent petrol scarcity in Nigeria and rumoured plans to increase pump price in Nigeria. He said if anyone manipulates sales points, it is criminal. 20.17 The president said he will not hesitate to increase pump price if he has to do it. But for now, he has no plans to increase pump price. 20.25 The president admits the power reforms are not moving as fast as expected but says the country will never go back to the days when it was producing just 2000 MW of electricity. He said the first problem he had was gas [for generation] and then distribution. 20.27 ‘The issue of declaration should not be a problem for Nigerian,’ the president said, while pressed for his ambitions. He said Nigerians should be more concerned with what the panel had discussed with him earlier. 20.28 The president again evades to state categorically if he intends to stand for election or not.
20.32 Olarenwaju Smart tweeted a question about the president’s earlier claim that Boko Haram had infiltrated his cabinet. ‘I never said that Boko Haram has infiltrated my cabinet’, the president replied. ‘I used the word government.’ The president said some security agents in his government are currently under investigation for involvement in Boko Haram. 20.40 Tweet from Emmanuel Sunday requested for the introduction of other core subjects in schools and the offering of free textbooks. The president said agencies are in place to handle the request for free textbooks. 20.42 If you go on strike for one day, you are supposed to forgo your salary, the president said on ASUP Strike. 20.43 The chat progresses into the legitimacy of the on-going National Conference.
The president said the conference is legitimate. The key thing is how to work with the parliament to make the best use of what is output from the conference. 20.46 The seventh presidential media chat ends. ‘The issue of security, we are handling it…’ he said as his parting words. ‘Let the parents [of missing Chibok schoolgirls] come forward and help us, and I promise we shall find the girls’. Transcript – Premium Times Photo: