By Longtong Ibrahim
Kaduna (Nigeria) – The Federal Government of Nigeria has appealed to the media to partner with it in sensitizing Nigerians on the damages corruption has caused the nation, warning that unless corruption is tackled, the vice is capable of destroying the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, made the appeal during a press conference, Monday, while kick-starting the National Sensitization Campaign Against Corruption in Abuja.
Mohammed urged the media to compliment the efforts of the Federal Government in its ongoing National Security Awareness Campaign.
He stated, ”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.
The minister 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/Federal Government, 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.”
“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, 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.”
Mohammed added, “Between 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of N1.34 trillion 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 7 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 kilometers 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 pointed out.
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 the 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.
”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.
The minister further added that, anyone who has stolen public funds irrespective of political, religious or tribal leanings must not go scot-free. While urging all Nigerians to ”rise up and be counted in this epic war, he stated that defeat is not an option if our country is to survive.
He also called on the Judiciary not to relent in waging the war against corruption, noting that they are an important key to its success.