Did Buhari ask World Bank to focus on the north? Presidency keeps mum

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The presidency has refused to react to the claim of the World Bank Group that President Muhammadu Buhari asked the organisation to focus on northern Nigeria.

PUNCH had reported that Jim Yong Kim, president of the group, said at a news conference in Washington DC, US, on Thursday, that Buhari asked the organisation to focus on the northern part of the country.

TheCable called Garba Shehu, senior special assistant on media to the president, for comment, but he said he had been out of town and not in the “loop of things”, so he could not speak on it.

Femi Adesina, special adviser on media and publicity to the president, only said “no comment” when TheCable reached him for a reaction.

Kim was quoted to have said the bank concentrated on northern Nigeria because of Buhari’s request.

“You know, in my very first meeting with President Buhari he said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern region of Nigeria and we’ve done that.  Now, it has been very difficult. The work there has been very difficult,” he said.

“I think Nigeria, of course, has suffered from the dropping oil prices. I think things are just now getting better.  But the conversation we need to have with Nigeria, I think, is in many ways related to the theme that I brought to the table just this past week, which is investment in human capital.  The percentage of the gross domestic product that Nigeria spends on healthcare is less than one percent.

“Despite that, there is so much turbulence in the northern part of the country, and there is the hit that was taken from the drop in the oil prices.  Nigeria has to think ahead and invest in its people. Investing in the things that will allow Nigeria to be a thriving, rapidly growing economy in the future is what the country has to focus on right now.

“Focusing on the northern part of Nigeria, we hope that as commodity prices stabilise and oil prices come back up, the economy will grow a bit more. But very, very much important is the need to focus on what the drivers of growth in the future will be.”

Kim was in Nigeria for three days in April 2016 during which he met with Buhari.

Buhari has been frequently accused of promoting northern interests since he came to office in 2015, and this is believed to be a major trigger for the Biafra agitation and calls for restructuring in southern Nigeria.

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