The federal government on Monday said 55 Nigerians stole over N1.34trillion from the country’s treasury from 2006 to 2013.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday in Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said since the nation is on the verge of winning the war against insurgency, Nigerians should also partake in war against corruption.
Mr. Mohammed said if Nigerians failed to cooperate with the ruling 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 N1.34trillion 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 allegedly stole N146.84 billion, while 4 former ministers stole 7 billion naira.
He said 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, stole over N14 billion, while eight people in the banking industry allegedly N524billion.
The rest, Mr. Mohammed said, are 11 businessmen, who allegedly stole N653 billion.
Giving reasons why Nigerians should “own” the war against corruption, Mr. Mohammed said using the World Bank Rates and Costs, one-third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometres of road.
He added that the money would also build 36 ultra modern hospitals – one ultra modern hospital per state – build 183 schools; educate 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24 million per child; and build 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 minister said Nigerians must therefore support the government in the ongoing war against corruption, irrespective of their 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 described as erroneous the impression allegedly created by a section of Nigerians that the war against corruption is a vendetta against the opposition.
“This is not true and indeed very nauseating,” he said.
The minister gave example with the latest issue of the $2.1billion arms deal, saying it was clear that funds meant to fight terrorism were deployed to another fight – the fight to keep then President Goodluck Jonathan in power.
“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 N2.1billion for publicity, while yet another said he got N13billion 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 reduces educational standards.
The minister also said corruption lowers life expectancy, stunts fight against maternal and infant mortality and impacts negatively on the general livelihood of the citizens.
Apart from the media, the minister also identified the judicial 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 is also planning to carry out 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, the police and 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
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