The Federal Government on Monday welcomed the global endorsement of its anti-corruption campaign, describing it as an incentive to continue with the fight, which it said must be won for the nation to achieve sustainable growth and development.
The FG said the acknowledgement of the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration by the US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last week, was commendable.
“The Federal Government is delighted that the anti-corruption war being led by President Muhammadu 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 radicalizer because it destroys faith in legitimate authority. Let me remind you, gentlemen, that radicalization is a key causative factor of terrorism”, the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said during a meeting with newsmen in Lagos.
The minister announced that he would flag off a series of town hall meetings across the country to take the sensitization campaign, which he launched in Abuja last Monday, directly to Nigerians, in addition to using the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the relevant units of the ministry to reach every part of the country.
According to Mr. Mohammed, government was aware that when one fights corruption, corruption also fights back.
“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”, he said.
The Minister blamed the endemic poverty in the country on the scourge of corruption, pointing out that whereas Nigeria’s national budget has increased from just over 900 billion Naira in 1999 to over 6 trillion Naira 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.
He minister continued: “When the money meant to construct roads are 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”.
Mr. Mohammed also made a comparative analysis of the number of beneficiaries of the $2.1 billion arms deal fraud popularly called ‘Dasukigate’ and the amount they collected from the office of the National Security Adviser in 2015 on one hand, and the list of projects and amount of funds deployed across the nation in the Zonal Intervention project of 2015 appropriation act.
“Whereas the sum of N51.829 bn was appropriated for 1,278 projects in the Zonal Intervention Projects for 2015, a total of 21 individuals and companies benefited from the fraud to the tune of N54.659 bn as we know so far. The implication is that the amount received by 21 individuals and companies is more than the 2015 Zonal Intervention Project budget by N2.829 bn”.
“Furthermore, the value of what 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 projects which – as we have shown – would have cost N2.829 bn less than the Dasukigate fraud”, the minister said.
He said contrary to speculation in some quarters that the government was dwelling too much on the war against corruption to the detriment of other areas of governance, the time spent on eradicating the menace cannot be too much.
“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.