*My appointments based on merit
*Why he has several enemies, by Lai Mohammed
By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday denied accusations of religious bias leveled against him and charged religious leaders to work towards building a strong and united country by avoiding insinuations that divide Nigerians along religious lines.
He made the appeal at the State House, Abuja, on Thursday, when he received a delegation of the Arewa Pastors Non-Denominational Initiative for Peace in Nigeria (APPIN) led by Bishop John Abu Richard.
In his response to the address presented by the clerics, Buhari said that religious leaders had the responsibility of creating enabling environment for peace and development to thrive, just as he had done anytime he had the opportunity to serve Nigeria.
His words: a�?Some voices, for political or ethnic reasons, are making unguarded statements accusing the government and myself in particular of religious bias.
a�?Let me assure you, honourable clergymen that this is far from the truth. In my career as a soldier, administrator and politician, I have never veered from my oath of office.
a�?When I had the honour to lead a military government, there were more Christians than Muslims in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Supreme Military Council (SMC).
a�?This was not by design. I appointed people on their merit, without the slightest bias. The present Federal Executive Council is also evenly balanced; again not by design but by respecting and rewarding individual qualities”.
The President said that he was delighted at the clergymena��s plan to hold a one-day prayer and fasting meeting for the country on April 26, 2018.
Buhari told his guests that he would direct the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to provide adequate security for the gathering.
In his remarks, the delegation leader said that more than 45,000 pastors in the North had registered with APPIN, to use their pulpits for the propagation of the gospel of peace, and shun political distractions.
He urged other pastors to support the Buhari administration as it works towards ending the violence in various parts of the country and avoid politically-coloured sermons.
Bishop Abu decried the situation where a�?people use the church to preach violence”, and asked that a�?if you preach war and war broke out, who will go to church for worship?”
The group congratulated President Buhari on his efforts to revive the economy, with the boom in the agricultural sector, tackling of insecurity, and the fight against corruption.
*Why President has several enemies, by Lai Mohammed
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said that Buhari has several enemies because of his uncompromising war against corruption.
Mohammed said that the elite are the worst critics of the President because they no longer have access to cheap public funds.
According to him, the Buhari-led administration has remained faithful to the electoral promises it made to Nigerians.
The minister said this when the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF), Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita led a team of Permanent Secretaries on a courtesy visit to him.
Mohammed said that the administration had delivered on its three-plank electoral promises of reviving the economy, fighting corruption and tackling insurgency.
He said that it was unfortunate that those championing the criticisms of the government were the elite whose sources to easy money had been blocked by the anti-corruption policies of the government.
The minister noted that the beneficiaries of the various social investment programmes of the government were conscious of and were attesting to how the administration was positively touching lives.
Mohammed said: a�?In less than three years, we are proud of our records, it does not matter what the naysayers are saying. One thing they have not been able to do is to challenge the figures that we put forward on the successes we have recordeda�?.
The minister noted that Buharia��s administration was a�?God senta��a�� because of the level the previous administration mismanaged the economy.
He maintained that there would not have been a better time for the administration to assume power considering the security situation, decay in infrastructure and the level of unemployment.
The minister said that the government had been working to pull back the country from the brink.
Specifically, the minister said that despite the occasional a�?cowardly suicide attacks by the Boko Harama�?, the government had done a lot to reverse the trend it met.
He added that as at now, no part of the country was under the occupation of the insurgents and there were no attacks in major cities like Abuja.
Mohammed said that the herder/farmer clashes in the country were neither ethnic, tribal, nor religious but as a result of climate change which precipitated migrations in unusual proportion.
He said that the government was on top of the situation and would leave no stone unturned to put incessant attacks of farmers by herdsmen under control.
On the economy, the minister said that when the Buhari administration came to power in 2015, foreign reserve was $24 billion, even when oil was selling at about $120 per barrel.
He said that despite the loss of almost 60 per cent in the price of crude oil, the government had raised the countrya��s foreign reserve to $46 billion.
Mohammed urged civil servants to key into the policies and programmes of the administration and commended the HoSF for initiating the peer review system among the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Earlier, Oyo-Ita said that the peer review was initiated to enable permanent secretaries share ideas on service delivery in their respective organisation.
*My appointments based on merit