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Africa

Buhari: 'God willing' the war will be over by the end of December

In an exclusive interview with DW, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari discusses his fight against Boko Haram and corruption in government.

DW: Lately, [Nigerian] troops have been complaining about unfavorable conditions and lack of adequate equipment. Will this affect the deadline you set to end the Boko Haram insurgency by the end of this year?

Muhammadu Buhari: Those who knew the situation when this govt came to office and those who know the situation now, four months into this administration, will definitely say there is visible difference. We have removed all the service chiefs and replaced them with new ones and some [high ranking] soldiers have been re-deployed. The soldiers have received training and more equipment now and are being continuously equipped. They are succeeding in the work they do. People in Yobe, Borno, Adamawa and even in Gombe, mostly areas affected by the insurgency of Boko Haram know that there are changes now.

But is this war likely to end at the end of December as foreseen?

"God willing" as we say, we will end this war by the end of December. We know face-to-face combat will end but terrorism by the fighters, killing innocent people in mosques, in churches, market places or motor parks, or even attacking school children sleeping in their dormitories and simply slaughtering them and shouting "Allahu Akbar" will continue. All these have nothing to do with Islamic religion. No religion allows you to betray your fellow human being, let alone kill or maim anybody. So, just to go on killing sprees in mosques and churches, or markets and schools where sleeping girls are killed is not religion. Those doing this either don't know what they are saying or do not believe in Allah. Whoever believes in Allah does not mistreat innocent human beings.

This week, Nigeria's army released a poster of its 100 "most wanted" Boko Haram suspects. Is this a sign that you have given up hope in any form of dialogue with the insurgents?

No. There is a saying [in Hausa] that says: while looking at one option, you should not close your eyes to other options. These people [Boko Haram] have come out to engage in fighting and killing people, but if they have leaders who think they can talk on behalf of their members or those that would be able to stop them from killing and return the girls they abducted from Chibok, then we can talk to them.

Let us turn to the war on corruption which you are now engaged in. Are you satisfied with the progress in this campaign?

Well, this is a difficult time. If Nigerians could remember the period of military rule, those accused of corruption were simply rounded up and taken to courts. We are now in a democratic environment and in a democracy everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty. So, now we have to collect all the documents of those we think have committed corruption crimes, before we bring them to justice. This is a long, difficult process, because corruption has spread it roots deeply into Nigerian society.

The opposition has since accused you of witch-hunting for them without considering corruption cases within members of your party, who you rewarded with governor seats, while you continue to arrest members of the opposition. How would you answer them?

Yes, I know I will not escape their blame, because I defeated them in the elections. This is my biggest crime.

But are you satisfied that you are doing justice to every section in the war against corruption?

Yes, we are doing justice in this fight. We have to practice justice because democracy with a multi-party system is different from military rule. During the military regime those in the government were not aiming to return the stolen money to the people through federal, state or local governments. The aim was to force those accused of corruption to give back the money to the military and then get released.

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