The federal government has said 55 people stole a total of N1.34 trillion, in seven years – between 2006 and 2013. Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed announced this at a press conference in Abuja yesterday.
He said the figure represented more than a quarter of last year’s national budget. He revealed that 15 former governors allegedly stole 146.84 billion naira; four former ministers, 7 billion naira and 12 former federal and state officials, N14 billion. Eight people in the banking industry allegedly stole 524 billion while 11 businessmen allegedly stole 653 billion naira. The period covered the end of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second tenure, late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his successor, Goodluck Jonathan.
Using World Bank Rates and Costs, the minister said 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.
“The situation is dire and the time to act is now,” Alhaji Lai Mohammed said.
He added: “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.”
The minister noted that the 2.1 billion-dollar arms deal, for example, showed that funds meant to fight terrorism were deployed to 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.
“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?
“Gentlemen, irrespective of your political, religious or tribal leanings, and not minding whether you belong to the APC, PDP, SDP or Labour Party, 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”.
Quoting President Muhammadu Buhari, he said “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. There is no better way to say it.”
He said President Buhari is leading this fight by example noting that his unparalleled integrity, his uncommon love of country and his undiluted dedication to service all put him in good stead to wage this war.
“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.”
The minister said the judiciary is critical to the success of the war against corruption otherwise the pending cases of corruption will just drag on until they outlast this Administration.
He said the government intends to carry its sensitisation programme to all the corners of the country.
If Nigerians know the true costs of corruption to their lives and well-being, he said, they will be less susceptible to “swallowing the frivolous, self-serving and orchestrated distractions from the corrupt people and their benefactors and beneficiaries.” (Daily Trust)