AMANPOUR: President Buhari, welcome to the program.
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: You are here for an anti-corruption summit and try to tackle this big scourge. Of course it’s been overshadowed by what the prime minister said to the queen about your country and Afghanistan, calling you “fantastically corrupt.”
What is your reaction to that?
BUHARI: Well, I think he’s being honest about it. He’s talking about what he knows about the two of us, Afghanistan and Nigeria, and by what we are doing in Nigeria by the day. I don’t think you can fault him. I hope he did not address the press.
He said it privately and somehow you got to know it.
AMANPOUR: That’s true. He said it privately; he didn’t think that it was going to be broadcast but it was.
And you are being very blunt and very honest yourself by saying that he was right. And you told me, Mr. President, during your campaign that we have to kill corruption or else corruption will kill Nigeria.
How are you doing?
Are you making any inroads?
BUHARI: Yes, we are. And those that are following the developments see it. Nigerians now are acutely aware that what we were saying during our campaign, that was no exaggeration.
And a few instances where $2.1 billion —
BUHARI: — billion, not million, dollars were voted for military hard and software for the operations against Boko Haram. Those responsible sat down as if they were going to have lunch or dinner and shared it and put it in their accounts.
AMANPOUR: You’re kidding.
The money that you designated to fight your major terrorist group, Boko Haram, they put it in their pockets?
AMANPOUR: And what do you do with these people who do that?
Do the heads roll in terms of losing their jobs, getting fired?
BUHARI: Well, most of them are now behind the bars. We’re getting the documents corrected in a way so that we can secure successful prosecution.
AMANPOUR: You’ve also talked about having gone through a lot of papers and found sort of legions of so-called “ghost workers,” people who are pulling salaries who don’t even exist or for jobs that don’t even exist. I think 23,000 of these so-called ghost workers —
BUHARI: So far.
AMANPOUR: Are there many thousands more?
BUHARI: I suspect, yes.
AMANPOUR: So you’ve been getting rid of them systematically?
BUHARI: We have to. They never existed, so the question of getting rid of them does not arise. All we are doing now, those who have been signing those vouchers and pocketing the money, we have to return it. It’s a question of for how long have they been doing it and for how many.
AMANPOUR: You obviously knew that this corruption was a major problem because you took it as your main plank and platform during your campaign.
Since becoming president, are you more shocked or less shocked by the extent of corruption that’s crippled so many of the structures and
infrastructure of Nigeria over the years?
BUHARI: Much more shocked.
AMANPOUR: You’re more shocked?
AMANPOUR: The issue of Boko Haram is something that the whole world is looking at Nigeria for, particularly these poor girls, the Chibok girls, who have become an international symbol —
AMANPOUR: — for all that is wrong with this terrorism, with this radical Islamism and with the attack on civilians, especially girls. Give me a status report of your promise that you would have defeated Boko Haram by the first year of your presidency.
BUHARI: Well, those following us closely will know that, when we came in, Boko Haram was holding at least 14 out of 774 local governments in Nigeria. They pitched their flag and called it some sort of a republic, a caliphate of some sort.
But now you ask the people of the state, Borno, Boko Haram is not holding any particular local government. But what they are doing, they have gone down to technology, improvised explosive devices for soft targets, such as mosques, marketplaces, motor parks and just killed people en masse.
That’s what they are doing. So they have rapidly alienated themselves to the public.
AMANPOUR: These girls are still captive, many of them. Your government received a proof of life video for about 15 of them earlier this year.
CNN, our colleague, Nima Elbagir, who was in Nigeria, got a hold of this video. She was shown it. And she then showed it to the families.
And this was the first they had seen of proof of life of their lovely girls, of their missing girls.
Why did it take our colleague to have to show the families?
Why didn’t the government share this information with them?
BUHARI: I haven’t seen that video. But even if I see it, I will be very careful about showing it to the family. There is no point to deliberately raise the hope of the families if you can’t meet them.
I saw the families as a group twice. One, they came to visit my wife. Two, they came as a group to see me. And the less I see them, the better for my own emotional balance.
AMANPOUR: It makes you sad.
BUHARI: Yes. I try to imagine my 14-year-old daughter, 14 to 18, missing for more than two years, trying to imagine what condition are they in. A lot of the families would rather see their graves than imagine the condition they’re in now.
AMANPOUR: It’s tragic.
BUHARI: It’s tragic.
AMANPOUR: President Buhari, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
BUHARI: Thank you, Ms. Amanpour.