Lai Mohammed 1Fifty Five influential Nigerians made up of politicians, public servants, bankers and business men stole N1.3 trillion, more than 25 percent of the Federal Government’s budget in 2015, between 2006 and 2013 from public treasury. A breakdown of the loot showed that 15 former governors helped themselves with N146.84 billion while four former federal ministers pocketed N7 billion. Also, N14 billion was stolen by 12 former public servants at the federal and state levels. Furthermore, eight bankers pinched N524 billion while 11 businessmen allegedly stole N653billion.

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja. He said that the stolen funds, using the World Bank’s rates and costs could have provided 635.18kilometres of roads, built 20,062 units of two-bedroom houses, 36 ultra-modern hospitals, 183 schools and educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary levels at 25.24 million per child.

According to Mohammed, “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 statements that the government is fighting only the opposition, or that the government is engaging in vendetta. But whether you belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PPD), Social Democratic Party (SDP) or Labour Party, if you have stolen public funds, you must not go scot-free. We must go after them and block all the leakages.

“There is the wrong impression out there that the war against corruption is being fought only by the President or the Federal Government or the governing All Progressives Congress (APC). There is the erroneous impression out there that the war against corruption is a vendetta against the opposition, and that indeed it is one-sided. This is not true and indeed very nauseating. Irrespective of what anyone may say, President Muhammadu Buhari is leading this fight by example and right from the front.

“His unparalleled integrity, his uncommon love of country and his undiluted dedication to service all put him in good stead to wage this war, and 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,” he said.

On the $2.1 billion arms deal, Mohammed alleged that funds meant to fight terrorism were deployed to another fight which was that of keeping the then President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP ) in power at all costs.

He said: “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 N2.1 billion for publicity, while yet another said he got N13 billion to pay someone else for the Maritime University land.”

He continued: “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 internally displaced persons’ 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?”

According to him, 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.

Mohammed enjoined the judiciary to be wary of the tricks of allegedly corrupt individuals facing prosecution who come to court in wheelchairs or on crutches. He said: “They don’t fall sick until they are charged to court. The judiciary is critical to the success of the war against 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.”

By Dike Onwuamaeze

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