The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has dismissed the allegation that some persons within the Presidential Villa Abuja are working against the success of the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu, in the upcoming general elections.
Mr Mohammed, who was reacting to questions from State House correspondents on Wednesday in Abuja, said President Muhammadu Buhari would not deviate from his commitment to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible general elections.
The minister was responding to the assertion by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State that some elements in the Presidential Villa are working against Mr Tinubu.
El-Rufai made the allegation on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, on Wednesday, citing petroleum subsidy issue and the Naira redesign policy targeted at the Tinubu.
He said: ”I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries.
”They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the President’s desire to do what he thinks is right.
”I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of Naira, was something what we all agreed would be removed.”
Recall that Mr Tinubu had made a similar allegation, accusing the opposition party, PDP, and other elements of hoarding fuel and new Naira notes for political gains.
However, according to Mr Mohammed, if there are elements within the seat of power who are working against the victory of the ruling party, it has not been brought officially to his notice.
He said that Mr Buhari, being the main occupant of the Villa, had stressed times without number that his administration would deliver a credible electoral exercise in February and March.
He said: “On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that no matter what, this administration is focused, determined to ensure free and fair elections.
”But I think with this administration the most important person is Mr President, and I think he has shown by words and by deeds that he is committed to free, fair and credible election.
”And fair, free, credible elections actually means not favouring anybody or disadvantaging anybody.
“And everywhere he goes, he makes that very clear even as recently last Friday when he was in Daura, he said the same thing.
“If there’s anybody working against a candidate we don’t know officially.”
On the 2021 Corruption Perception Index, CPI, ranking by Transparency International, which saw Nigeria dropping five places, the minister said:
“We are not fighting corruption because we want to impress Transparency International or any organisation whatsoever.
”We’re fighting corruption because we believe if we do not fight corruption, there’ll be no growth either in terms of the economy or even political.
”Therefore, what we do and what we’re putting in place to fight corruption is not because we want to be rated by anybody.
“If, for instance, what we’re doing catches the attention of transparency international and they improve and give us better marks, so we’ll and go. However, I can assure you that we do not know what template TI is using.
“Whatever template they’re using is clearly oblivious of what this administration is doing, to fight corruption.
“Corruption fighting is not just by how many people have you arrested? How many people have you tried? How many people have you convicted?
”Of course, even in that respect, we have a very impressive record. Is it the EFCC or is it the ICPC?”
The minister revealed that the Buhari administration had put in place measures to check corrupt practices among civil and public office holders.
”You see, if you look at what we’re doing even to make corrupt practices,
almost impossible or difficult…I’ll just give you two examples.
”For instance, this administration, when funds were returned from the Abacha loot and other funds were recovered from the USA, the UK and Europe, what this administration did, was that rather than pay these funds into the treasury and face the possibility of it being stolen or being relooted, the administration decided that we will put this money into a separate account.”
He disclosed that the National Sovereign Investment Fund was mandated to manage these funds, and use the funds for specific projects.
“And some of our legacy projects today actually are being financed from our money that have been stolen, which were returned and which we have kept.
”To me, this is one example of how to fight corruption. An example of how to ensure that people do not steal what has been recovered again.
“I make bold to say that we have been more proactive in fighting corruption and people are not willing to see what we have put in place in fighting corruption.
”And that’s why I gave that example of putting aside money aside and how those funds are being used.
“Again, the courage of this administration even to expose high ranking officials of administration who have ran foul of the law, is evidence of our determination and courage to fight corruption.
“So, we are not really worried or bothered about rating of the TI, because we know that everything we do is to ensure that we fight corruption the best way we know how to do.”
Mr Mohammed maintained that the federal government was not fighting corruption to impress the Transparency International.
“Like I said, if TI are not seeing this, then again, I think they have to change their template. But again, we’re not fighting corruption to impress them.