Monday, January 18, 2016 3:13 pm
A graphic picture of the harmful effect of official looting and corruption to Nigeria was painted Monday as the Federal Government launched a sensitisation campaign against corruption.
According to Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed between 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of 1.34 trillion Naira in Nigeria, an amount that is more than a quarter of the 2015 national budget!
”Out of the stolen funds, 15 former Governors allegedly stole 146.84 billion naira; 4 former Ministers allegedly stole seven billion naira; 12 former Public Servants, both at federal and state levels, allegedly stole over 14 billion Naira; 8 people in the Banking Industry allegedly stole 524 billion Naira; while 11 businessmen allegedly stole 653 billion naira.
”Using World Bank Rates and Costs, one third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometres of road; built 36 ultra modern hospitals, that is one ultra modern hospital per state; built 183 schools; educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24 million per child; and built 20,062 units of 2-bedroom houses. This is the money that a few people, just 55 in number, allegedly stole within a period of just eight years. And instead of a national outrage, all we hear are these nonsensical statements that the Government is fighting only the opposition, or that the government is engaging in vendetta,” he said.
Commenting on the issue of the 2.1 billion-dollar arms deal, the Minister said irrespective of what anyone might say, there is no doubt that funds meant to fight terrorism were deployed to another ‘fight’, the fight to keep then President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the PDP, in power at all cost.
”So far, based on what we know, no one who has been accused of partaking in the sharing of the funds has denied receiving money. All we have heard from them are ludicrous reasons why they partook in sharing of the money. One said he collected 4.5 billion Naira for spiritual purposes, another said he received 2.1 billion naira for publicity, while yet another said he got 13 billion Naira to pay someone else for the Maritime University land.
Mohammed appealed to the media to join hands with it in sensitizing Nigerians to the damage that corruption has done to the nation, warning that unless Nigeria kills corruption, the vice is capable of killing Nigeria.
The campaign was styled the National Sensitization Campaign Against Corruption.
To ensure the success of the campaign, the Minister urged the media to replicate the support they are giving to the Federal Government in its ongoing National Security Awareness Campaign
”Thanks to the support we have received from the media, especially in this (National Security) Sensitization Campaign, I can now tell you that Nigerians have taken ownership of the war against terrorism and are also giving their undiluted support to our gallant military. I commend the media for heeding our patriotic call to duty at a critical time in the life of our nation.
”Gentlemen, we are here today because of another patriotic call to duty. We want the media to once again lead the campaign to sensitize Nigerians to take possession of another war – the war against corruption,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed stressed the need to change the narrative on corruption, especially what he described as the wrong impression out there that the war against corruption is being fought only by the President or the Federal Government or the governing All Progressive Congress (APC), or the orchestrated misinformation that the war against corruption is a vendetta against the opposition, and that indeed it is one-sided.
The Minister said Nigerians must be made to know the damage that corruption ”has done to our nation, our people and our international image, how corruption stifles economic growth, hinders the fight against poverty, leads to decay in infrastructure and reduces educational standards, lowers life expectancy, stunts the fight against maternal and infant mortality and impacts negatively on the general livelihood of the citizens. No one is better placed than you, the media, to lead this charge.”
”Based on these revelations, should we now fold our hands and allow these people to go away with public funds? Is anyone thinking about the innocent soldiers who lost their lives just because they did not get the necessary weapons to fight the terrorists? What about the families left behind by these soldiers who were sent to their early graves because of the misappropriation of these funds? What about those who lost their means of livelihood after the terrorists overran their towns and villages? What of the millions of Nigerians, especially women and children, who are now living in IDP camps? Is it not clear that the cruel fate that has befallen these unfortunate people is a direct result of the misuse of the funds meant to fight the terrorists? he queried.
Alhaji Mohammed said irrespective of political, religious or tribal leanings, and not minding whether anyone belongs to the APC, PDP, SDP or Labour Party, ”if you have stolen public funds, you must not go scot-free”.
He urged all Nigerians and every arm of government to ”rise up and be counted in this epic war, and defeat is not an option if our country is to survive. As President Muhammadu Buhari likes to say, if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. There is no better way to say it”.
The Minister said President Buhari is leading this fight by example and right from the front, adding: ”His unparalleled integrity, his uncommon love of country and his undiluted dedication to service all put him in good stead to wage this war, and we must all support him and own the war in order to ensure its success. This is not Buhari’s war. This is not APC’s war. This is Nigeria’s war.”
He also appealed to the Judiciary, which he said is critical to the success of the war, saying unless everyone in the judiciary fully joins in waging this war, the pending cases of corruption will just drag on until they outlast this Administration.