(By Juliana TaiwoObalonye – ABUJA)

President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday that though Niger Delta militancy has impacted negatively on the economy and affected the positive intentions of international and local investors, his government will not use real force, “except when constrained to do so.”

The President had in the past said the militants would be treated like Boko Haram.

He also pledged that the anti-corruption war will be deepened and institutionalised to last beyond the life of his administration.

The President stated this when he hosted the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry in State House, Abuja.

He said: “We will insist on the standards we’re establishing. We are laying down administrative and financial instructions in the public service that must be obeyed. Any breach will no longer be acceptable.

“We will retrain our staff, so that they understand the new orientation. And those who run foul of these rules will be prosecuted, no matter who is involved. But we will be fair, just and act according to the rule of law. Anyone perceived corrupt is innocent till we can prove it. We will work very hard to establish documentation for successful prosecution, and those in positions of trust will sit up,” he said.

Buhari expressed Nigeria’s appreciation to the United States for its intervention before the 2015 polls, demanding free and fair elections. He noted that “America did not do it because of what it stands to benefit from us. You did it for the Nigerian people. It tells so much what the U.S stands for in the world.”

He thanked Washington for supporting the war against Boko Haram insurgency with hard and soft military help.
He said, “The training and intelligence that we could not muster ourselves, we received. The training has made Boko Haram less of a threat to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin region, while the military hardware has given our troops added confidence.”

On the economy, the President assured that the focus of his administration is on the diversification, having learnt our lessons from years of over-dependence on oil.

In his remarks, Kerry commended Buhari’s courage in fighting corruption. He said: “We applaud what you are doing. Corruption creates a ready-made playing field for recruiting extremists.  You inherited a big problem, and we will support you in any way we can. We will work with you very closely. We don’t want to interfere, but will offer opportunities as you require.”

He also pledged to assist in tackling the humanitarian challenges in the North-east, adding that his country would get the UK, France, and others “to augment the support.

“Nigeria is priority for us. We won’t miss the opportunity to work together, because you are making significant progress,” Mr Kerry said.

In a separate meeting with Governors of Borno, Bauchi, Benue, Kebbi, Kwara, Sokoto and Zamfara, which was at the instance of the US Government, Kerry made commitment  specifically on education with particular emphasis on girl-child education and commitment on health care and renewable energy.

The Borno State Governor, Kassim Shettima, said a deadline of May 29, 2017, has been set to resettle Internally Displaced Persons  (IDPs) in their ancestral homes.

He disclosed that the issue of child marriages, child prostitution, drugs addiction and gangsterism were on the increase in the camp, hence the need to return them to their homes with or without international support.