A total number of 55 Nigerians, who were privileged to serve in public and private institutions, looted the public treasury to the tune of N1.34 trillion in eight years, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said on Monday.
Mr. Mohammed made the startling revelation at a press conference to announce a National Sensitisation Campaign against Corruption in Abuja on Monday.
Although he did not disclose the identity of any particular Nigerian among the 55, he categorized the looters to include former state governors, ex-ministers, former legislators, civil servants, bankers and other businessmen.
The Minister also said the period during which this monumental looting of the public treasury took place was between 2006 and 2013.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari took over power in May last year, the anti-corruption and security agencies especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Department of State Services, DSS, have been busy with the investigation of former public officials, particularly those that served in the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, whose government accounts for four out of the eight years of the looting spree as alleged by Mohammed.
According to the Minister, “The situation is dire and the time to act is now. Between 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of N1.34tn in Nigeria. That’s more than a quarter of last year’s national budget.
“Out of the stolen funds, 15 former governors allegedly stole N146.84bn; four former ministers allegedly stole N7.05bn; five former legislators allegedly stole N8.35bn; 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, allegedly stole over N14.18bn; eight people in the banking industry allegedly stole N524bn; while 11 businessmen allegedly stole N653bn.
“What do these figures translate to in the actual sense? In other words, what is the cost of these stolen funds to Nigerians? Using the World Bank rates and costs, one-third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometres of road; built 36 ultra-modern hospitals, that is one ultra-modern hospital per state; built 183 schools; educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at N25.24m per child; and built 20,062 units of two-bedroomed houses.
“This is the money that a few people, just 55 in number, allegedly stole within a period of just eight years. And instead of a national outrage, all we hear are these nonsensical statements that the government is fighting only the opposition or that the government is engaging in vendetta”.
He, therefore, urged Nigerians to get actively involved in the war against corruption.
Mohammed said everyone that had been tainted by corruption would not go unpunished no matter the party affiliation just as he denied allegations that the current administration’s war against corruption was a one man show and political withc-hunt.
He said, “Let’s take the latest issue of the $2.1bn arms deal as an example. One thing is clear. Funds meant to fight terrorism were deployed in another fight, the fight to keep the then President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the PDP, in power at all costs.
“So far, based on what we know, no one, who has been accused of partaking in the sharing of the (arms purchase) funds, has denied receiving money. All we have heard from them are ludicrous reasons why they partook in the sharing of the money.
“One said he collected N4.5bn for spiritual purposes; another said he received N2.1bn for publicity, while yet another said he got N13bn to pay someone else for the Maritime University land.
“Based on these revelations, should we now fold our hands and allow these people to go away with public funds? Is anyone thinking about the innocent soldiers, who lost their lives just because they did not get the necessary weapons to fight the terrorists? What about the families left behind by these soldiers, who were sent to their early graves because of the misappropriation of these funds?
Mr. Mohammed added, “Talking about the costs of corruption, gentlemen, it is time we brought into perspective what corruption has done to our nation, our people and our international image; how corruption stifles economic growth, hinders the fight against poverty, leads to decay in infrastructure and reduces educational standards, lowers life expectancy, stunts the fight against maternal and infant mortality and impacts negatively on the general livelihood of the citizens.
“Irrespective of your political, religious or tribal leanings, and not minding whether you belong to the APC, PDP, SDP or Labour Party, if you have stolen public funds, you must not go scot-free. Everyone and every arm of government must rise up to be counted in this epic war and defeat is not an option, if our country is to survive”.