Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, has decried the level of corruption during the reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying it was so bad that 55 people stole an amount that was equivalent to a quarter of the 2015 budget.
He was speaking in Lagos at a town hall meeting organised by the federal government.
Despite widespread criticism that the government has been concentrating on its war against corruption at the expense of other crucial sectors of the economy, he argued that nothing else would work in the country unless corruption is fought to a standstill.
“On the issue of corruption, I’ve heard many commentators say that this administration is fighting corruption without paying attention to the economy. Of course, this is not true,” Mohammed said.
“But even if it was, it is patently justified. Why? Unless we fight corruption to a standstill, nothing else we do will yield positive results.
“It was corruption that prolonged the war against Boko Haram and sent many soldiers and civilians to their early graves. It was corruption that ensured that while oil was selling for over $100 per barrel, we had nothing to show for the windfall.
“It was corruption that gave us darkness instead of light when we supposedly pumped millions of dollars into the power sector. I can tell you today that we are squarely fighting corruption and we are winning. The situation is serious and no government can fight the battle alone. That explains why we have launched a nationwide sensitization campaign to make Nigerians to join the anti-graft war.
“We launched the campaign in January and we released what some people call a bombshell, that between 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of N1.34trn, an amount that is more than one quarter of the 2015 national budget.
“Even if just one-third of the stolen fund is recovered, it will provide us with 6 Lagos Ibadan express ways and in addition, it will build 183 schools to educate 3,974 children from primary to tertiary education, also 36 modern hospitals. The money that was originally stolen represents the total earning s of four African nations.
“The funds meant to buy arms and ammunition for our soldiers to fight Boko Haram was shared out by few people for political purposes. What is remarkable in all of this is that no one who has been named to have shared in the money has denied it. All they have done is give very ridiculous excuses for what they did. All of must be part of the war; its not Buhari’s war, its not APC’s war, its Nigeria’s survival war.”
Mohammed also spoke about the government’s spirited efforts to rescue the economy, expressing confidence that better days are ahead.
“Our nation’s economy or whatever is left of it poses a great challenge to all of us for one. We have lost a sizable chunk in the price of oil,” he said.
“Think about it, if you lose about 70% of your salary, your life can never be the same again. Oil crashed from about $100 to $30. For an economy like ours, this is nothing short of a disaster but this government has decided to turn this disaster into a blessing by working assiduously to diversify our economy from oil. Agriculture, solid minerals, culture and tourism are some of the sectors that we are working to rejuvenate.
“By these efforts and all, the administration has decided to block all financial loopholes with the treasury single account (TSA), into which a lot of money has accrued so far. Funds, which would have ordinarily found their way into private pockets, are now piling their way into the public treasury account to be used for the benefit of all of us. Over 30,000 ghost workers have been discovered and weeded out, saving the government of billions of naira.
“This budget has recorded a first, with the capital expenditure increased to 30%. Beyond that is the social intervention areas that will reach millions of citizens and leave them out of poverty.
“The first is the employment of 500,000 unemployed graduates who will be trained and employed as teachers and deployed to our primary schools, employment of 370,000 graduates and artisans, cash transfer to the most vulnerable Nigerians – not to the unemployed youth – school feeding programme targeting 4.5 million children in the 2016 budget, and lastly bursary for those studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”