President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday failed to publish details of recovered loot and culpable individuals as he promised he would during his nationwide broadcast on May 29.
Thursday’s failure made it the second time Mr. Buhari would renege on a promise he boldly made to Nigerians.
Mr. Buhari had on May 14 said in London that he would personally provide specific details of all recovered stolen public funds when he addressed Nigerians on Democracy Day and his first year in office, adding that he believed that what Nigerians were being fed through the media were not detailed enough.
“So far, what has come out, what has been recovered in whatever currency from each ministries, departments and individuals, I intend on the 29th to speak on this because all Nigerians are getting from the mass media because of the number of people arrested either by the EFCC, DSS. But we want to make a comprehensive report on the 29th,” Mr. Buhari said while attending the anti-corruption summit in London.
But during his nationwide broadcast on Sunday morning, the president only repeated familiar claims that his administration was grappling with bureaucratic hurdles that made it difficult for stolen assets to be recovered from foreign jurisdictions.
“We are also engaged in making recoveries of stolen assets some of which are in different jurisdictions. The processes of recovery can be tedious and time consuming, but today I can confirm that thus far: significant amount of assets have been recovered. A considerable portion of these are at different stages of recovery.”
Mr. Buhari, however, said he had directed the Ministry of Information to commence publication of the details, which had remained secret despite frequent claims by his government that billions of dollars had been recovered from corrupt former top government officials.
“Full details of the status and categories of the assets will now be published by the Ministry of Information and updated periodically. When forfeiture formalities are completed these monies will be credited to the treasury and be openly and transparently used in funding developmental projects and the public will be informed,” Mr. Buhari said.
Later on Sunday evening, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, told Nigerians that the details would be published before the end of this week.
“We will get the list but not today; before the end of the week. But I must say not with the names,” Mr. Mohammed told a live audience on Channels Television.
Mr. Mohammed’s position was reaffirmed a moment later by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, who wrote on his Twitter page that “The minister should be ready with this (details of recovered assets) when work resumes, possibly Wednesday or Thursday.”
But as at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nigerians were still expecting the promise to be fulfilled.
“Lai said ‘Latest Thursday’ I checked @PremiumTimesng I no see list, rush go @SaharaReporters no list, time na 1900 GMT 2/6/16 #WhereisTheList?” London-based Nigerian pro-democracy campaigner, Kayode Ogundamisi, tweeted in a mixture of English and pidgin.
However, a PREMIUM TIMES’ check revealed that the details would not be published today, and, worse, highly unlikely to be published this week.
Two senior sources in the presidency and the Ministry of Information informed PREMIUM TIMES that the president would not be able to fulfill his promise because the details had not been forwarded to Mr. Mohammed for distribution to the media.
“Unfortunately, Nigerians may need to remain a bit more patient with this administration on the matter of publishing recovered monies,” one of the officials said. “The details were not pushed to the minister’s office as early as we thought they would.”
The second source said the chances of the details being published are “thin as air,” adding that certain sensitive Central Bank and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s anti-corruption activities needed to be handled carefully.
“Our people should understand that the process of getting this information out to them is quite more complex than they think,” the source said.
“The minister is even away in Rivers State for the launch of the Ogoni land clean-up, and was not back in the office as at the close of work. Let’s keep hope alive that something will happen on Friday (tomorrow).”
Several calls and text messages to Mr. Mohammed, Mr. Shehu and Femi Adesina, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, seeking their comments for this story were neither answered nor returned.
Based on the president’s May 14 promise, millions of Nigerians had on Sunday morning stayed glued to their radio and TV for the Democracy Day speech.
They said then that they were disappointed, with many of them writing on Twitter Thursday evening that they were gearing up for another disappointment.
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