The Federal Government has hailed the U.S. endorsement of its anti-corruption fight, calling it an incentive to continue with the battle that must be won for the Nigeria to achieve sustainable growth.
Recently, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, at the World Economic Forum, WEF, Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, commended the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for its effort at combating corruption in Nigeria.Mr. Kerry related how money meant to buy arms for Nigerian soldiers to combat Boko Haram was stolen by public officials; and how the Buhari administration was making moves to prosecute such persons.
On Sunday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, told media executives in Lagos that the acknowledgement of the effort by the government could not have come at a better time.
“The Federal Government is delighted that the anti-corruption war being led by President Muhammad Buhari has been acknowledged and applauded on a global stage.
“It is particularly gratifying that in that speech, Mr Kerry made the link between corruption and terrorism. We agree that corruption is indeed a radicaliser because it destroys faith in legitimate authority.
“Let me remind you, gentlemen, that radicalisation is a key causative factor of terrorism,” the minister said.
Mr. Mohammed said that he would soon kick-start a series of town hall meetings across the country to take the sensitization campaign, which he launched in Abuja last Monday, directly to Nigerians.
The town hall meetings, he said, would be in addition to using the National Orientation Agency, NOA, and the relevant units of the Ministry of Information and Culture to reach every part of the country.
“We know that those who stole us dry are powerful. They have newspapers, radio and television stations and an army of supporters to continuously deride the government’s war against corruption.
“But we are undaunted and will not relent until corruption is also decimated,” the minister said.
Mr. Mohammed said that corruption was responsible for the endemic poverty in the country today, noting that whereas Nigeria’s national budget has increased from just over N900 billion in 1999 to over N6 trillion in 2016, poverty has also increased almost by the same proportion.
“The reason is not far-fetched: Appropriated funds have mostly ended up in the pockets of a few looters,” he said. ”When the money meant to construct roads is looted, the end result is that the roads are not built and the people suffer and even die in avoidable road accidents.
“When the money meant to provide electricity is looted, we all are perpetually sentenced to darkness. When the money meant for healthcare is pocketed by a few, we are unable to reduce maternal and infant mortality. These are the costs of corruption,” he said.
According to Mr. Mohammed, whereas the sum of N51.829 billion was appropriated for 1,278 projects in the Zonal Intervention Projects for 2015, a total of 21 individuals and companies benefited from the ‘Dasukigate’ to the tune of N54.659 billion.
“The implication is that the amount received by 21 individuals and companies is more than the 2015 Zonal Intervention Project budget by N2.829 billion! ‘
‘Furthermore, the value of what the beneficiaries of ‘Dasukigate’ contributed to development is zero, compared to how the lives of Nigerians would have been transformed, poverty reduced and livelihoods improved, by the Zonal Intervention Projects which – as we have shown – would have cost N2.829 billion less than ‘Dasukigate’,” the Minister said.
He said that contrary to what was being said in certain circles– that the government was dwelling too much on the war against corruption to the detriment of other areas of governance– enough time could not be devoted to the fight.
”The situation is very grim indeed, as far as corruption is concerned. That is why the Federal Government is embarking on this sensitization Campaign.
“Our approach – which is to count the cost of corruption – is not to vilify anyone but to use facts and figures to give Nigerians a sense of what corruption has done to their lives,” the minister said.