The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has challenged the civil society to work with the media and other stakeholders to ensure that Nigerians never forget, for one moment, the damage done to the country by treasury looters.
The Minister threw the challenge at the launch of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room (ACSR), which includes civil society organizations, media groups, government agencies and other stakeholders, in Abuja on Tuesday.
”Those who turned our treasury to their piggy bank are once again presenting themselves as the saviours of the nation. They say the best time for Nigeria was when the proceeds of their corruption subsidized many and gave the illusion of economic boom. They are so emboldened as to say Nigerians are earnestly yearning for them. No contrition. No apologies, no shame; just sheer bravado, unbridled arrogance and revisionism.
”The Civil Society, the media and indeed all stakeholders owe it a duty not to allow Nigerians to forget, to say ‘Never Again’ to those who view Nigeria as nothing but a cash cow to be milked to death”, he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the formation of the ACSR could not have come at a better time, as the Buhari Administration’s fight against corruption is gaining momentum, ”and the government is winning the war”.
”But there is a challenge: There seems to be a feeling of numbness among the citizens about the conduct of those whose actions brought us here, those who looted the national treasury dry. Suddenly, these same people are engaging in revisionist history and blaming everyone but themselves for the mess their actions put the country into”.
Reeling out the cost of corruption to the nation, the Minister listed the conversion to a slush fund of the 2.1 billion dollars meant to buy weapons for the Nigerian military to fight Boko Haram; the fact that country could only generate 2,690 megawatts as at 29 May 2015 despite spending billions of dollars on power and the failure of past governments to save for the rainy day, even when oil was selling above 100 dollars a barrel for many years.
He listed some of the gains of the anti-corruption fight as raising the country’s foreign reserves from 23 billion dollars to 38 billion dollars; stoppage of the payment of phantom subsidy of between 800 billion and 1.3 trillion Naira; and the recovery of at least 43 million dollars and 56 houses from just one official of the immediate past Administration.
Other gains of the fight against corruption, according to Alhaji Mohammed, include the recovery of 2.9 billion dollars from looters so far; the Whistle-blower policy which has led to the recovery of 151 million dollars and N8 billion in looted funds from just three
sources; the elimination of thousands of ghost workers, which has saved the nation 120 billion Naira and the elimination of the 108 billion Naira in maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA.
He commended those behind the formation of the ACSR, a platform to build synergy among anti-corruption CSOs, the labor movement, the law enforcement agencies, the Parliament and the Judiciary, as well as to ensure that Nigerians take ownership of the fight against corruption.
Tom Okpe, Abuja