President Muhammadu Buhari has described the looting of the country’s oil wealth as the dominant culture of Nigeria’s ruling class in the past 16 years.  According to the President, not less than $150billion was corruptly stashed away by officials of government. They include former ministers whose names are being compiled by relevant agencies for possible prosecution. He said that “corruption in Nigeria has virtually developed into a culture where honest people are abused.”

He made these claims while answering questions from members of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) in the United States and Canada at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC before he returned to Nigeria after his four-day official visit to the US.

“The amount involved is mind-boggling. Some former ministers were selling about one million barrels of oil per day. I assure you that we will trace and repatriate such money and use the documents to prosecute the culprits. As soon as possible, we will approach those countries to freeze such accounts, prosecute the culprits and return the monies to Nigeria,” he said.

He also disclosed that his administration is looking for evidence of illegal shipping of crude, their destinations and where and which accounts they were paid into and in which country. “We have started getting documents where some of the senior people in government, former ministers, some of who had as many as five accounts into which they paid stolen oil monies. I assure you that whichever documents we are able to get and subsequently trace the sale of the crude or transfer of money from Ministries, Departments, Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) we will seek the cooperation of those countries to return those monies to federation accounts. And we will use those documents to arrest those people and prosecute them. This, I promise Nigerians.’’

He recalled that during his period as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum under a military regime, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had only two traceable accounts before paying oil proceeds into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

President Buhari also re-affirmed his determination to fulfill his campaign promises to fight corruption, insecurity and turn around the comatose economy. He said agriculture and mining would receive priority attention as faster job-creation avenues for the teeming unemployed youth, adding that some foreign investors had agreed to take advantage of the immense business opportunities in Nigeria.

He also indicated that his administration would be careful with the issue of oil subsidy to avoid pursuing a policy that he would further impoverish Nigerians. “Who is subsidizing who? But people are gleefully saying ‘remove subsidy’, they want petrol to cost N500 per litre. If you are working and subsidy is removed, you can’t control transport, you can’t control market women, the cost of food, the cost of transport. If there is need to remove subsidy, I will study it. With my experience I will see what I can do. But, I’m thinking of those Nigerians who constitute half of the population who cannot afford to live without subsidy. From where will they get the money to go to work with? How can they feed their families? How can they pay rent?,’’ President Buhari said.

By Dike Onwuamaeze


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