Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has stated that 55 Nigerians have stolen over N1.34 trillion from the country’s treasury from 2006 to 2013.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday in Abuja, Mr. Mohammed said since the nation was on the verge of winning the war against insurgent group, Boko Haram, the nation and its people should also partake in yet, another war on corruption.
Mr. Mohammed said if Nigerians failed to cooperate with the governing All Progressives Congress administration under president Muhammadu Buhari, corruption would “kill the country”.
“Gentlemen, the situation is dire and the time to act is now. For example, between the period 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of 1.34 trillion Naira in Nigeria. That’s more than a quarter of last year’s national budget,” he said.
Out of the stolen funds, the minister said 15 former governors were alleged to have stolen N146.84 billion; while 4 former ministers stole N7 billion; 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, stole over N14 billion; 8 people in the banking Industry allegedly N524 billion; while 11 businessmen allegedly stole N653 billion.
Giving reasons why Nigerians should “own” the war against corruption, Mr. Mohammed said using the World Bank rates and costs, showed that 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.
The information minister said Nigerians must therefore support the government in the ongoing war against corruption, irrespective of political, religious or tribal leanings.
“If you have stolen public funds, you must not go scot-free. Everyone and every arm of government must rise up to 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,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed said the impression being created by a cross section of Nigerians that the war against corruption wa a vendetta against the opposition, and that indeed it is one-sided, was erroneous.
“This is not true and indeed very nauseating,” he said.
The minister gave example with the latest issue of the $2.1 billion arms deal, saying that it is clear 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 N4.5 billion for spiritual purposes, another said he received N2.1 billion for publicity, while yet another said he got N13 billion to pay someone else for the Maritime University land.
“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? Are these not the true costs of corruption?,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed challenged the media to always bring to perspective what corruption has done to Nigeria, its people and image at the international level.
He said the Nigerian media must always reflect how corruption stifles economic growth, hinders the fight against poverty, leads to decay in infrastructure and reduce educational standards, lowers life expectancy, stunts the fight against maternal and infant mortality and impacts negatively on the general livelihood of the citizens.
Apart from the media, the Information Minister also identified, the judiciary arm of government as one of the critical players that would help rid the country of corruption.
“Unless this very important arm of government fully joins in waging this war, the pending cases of corruption will just drag on until they outlast this Administration,” he said.
The Minister said his Ministry was also planning to carry a sensitization programme on the war against corruption to all the corners of the country, leveraging on the wide reach of the National Orientation Agency, NOA.
He said he would partner with other agencies of government, especially the anti-corruption agencies and the police, as well as the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption.
Table below indicates what 55 people stole from 2006 to 2013.
CATEGORY NO OF CASES AMOUNT INVOLVED
EX-GOVERNORS 15 146,840,800,000.00
EX-MINISTERS 4 7,050,000,000.00
EX-LEGISLATORS 5 8,350,000,000.00
EX-PUBLIC SERVANTS 7 (Federal) 6,906,600,000.00
EX-PUBLIC SERVANTS 5 (State) 7,275,000,000.00
BANKING INDUSTRY 8 524,560,000,000.00
BUSNESSMEN 11 653,150,000,000.00
GRAND TOTAL 55 N1,354,132,400,000.00