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55 people allegedly stole a total of N1.34trn in Nigeria – Lai

Valentine Chinyem

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Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has tasked the media on the need to purge our corruption from Nigeria, saying if not done, corruption will kill Nigeria.

The minister made the appeal on Monday while kick-starting the national sensitisation campaign against corruption at a press conference in Abuja.

According to Segun Adeyemi, special adviser to the minister, Mohammed emphasised the need to change the narrative on corruption, especially what he described as the wrong impression that the war against corruption was 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 was a vendetta against the opposition, and that indeed it is one-sided.

The minister said that 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”.

“Between 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of N1.34trn in Nigeria, an amount that is more than a quarter of the 2015 national budget,” he said.

“Out of the stolen funds, 15 former governors allegedly stole N146.84bn; 4 former ministers allegedly stole N7bn; 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, allegedly stole over N14bn; eight people in the banking industry allegedly stole N524bn; while 11 businessmen allegedly stole N653bn.

“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.”

Commenting on the $2.1bn arms scandal, the minister said that there was no doubt that the funds meant to fight insurgency 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 N4.5bn for spiritual purposes, another said he received N2.1bn for publicity, while yet another said he got N13bn to pay someone else for the Maritime University land,” he said.

“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?”

Mohammed added that irrespective of political, religious or tribal leanings, and not minding whether anyone belonged to the APC, the PDP, the SDP