Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, President Muhammadu Buhari has driven corruption in Nigeria “under the table”.
The Minister said that as a result of the President’s hardline on corruption, corrupt Nigerians no longer flaunt the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains the way they used to do in the past.
Mohammed spoke at a special town hall meeting on the fight against corruption held in Abuja on Thursday.
Related: VIDEO: Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed speaks on social media control and fines for fake news, hate speech
He recalled that the Ministry of Information and Culture launched the town hall meeting series in Lagos on April 25, 2016 to provide a platform for the Federal Government to regularly give account of its stewardship to the people and receive feedback and input from Nigerians.
Mohammed said the overall aim of the meeting was to enhance citizens’ participation in governance, Thursday’s meeting being the 17th edition in the series.
Minister Mohammed stated that although it is not the first time Nigeria is fighting the cankerworm of corruption, it was the first time that the fight is being backed by strong political will, with a President renowned for his incorruptibility leading the effort.
“And that is making all the difference as you will soon hear from our panellists,” he said.
“One may say that the war against corruption is still a war in progress. But it is also fair to say that corruption has now been driven under the table, and that the corrupt ones can no longer flaunt the proceeds of their corruption the way they used to do in the past. That is a major step forward. After all, every successful battle is a step towards winning a war.”
Characterising the war against corruption as a war of national survival, the Minister said it was even more pertinent that the success of other key programmes of the government, including economic revitalisation and tackling insecurity, are closely intertwined with how well the the country is able to fight corruption.
“For as long as the nation fails to check corruption, tackling insecurity and the revamping the economy will remain a mirage. In other words, the fight against corruption is pivotal to the success of the other cardinal programmes of the administration,” Mohammed added.
The Minister said the anti-corruption war was not President Buhari’s war, however, declaring that the campaign concerns the whole country.
“Finally, I want to reiterate that the anti-corruption war is not Buhari’s war, it is Nigeria’s war, hence the need for every citizen to support it. Part of the efforts to win the support of Nigerians is to carry them along every inch of the way,” he said.
“Today’s Special Town Hall Meeting on the Fight Against Corruption fits into that effort as it provides an opportunity for the major stakeholders in the Federal Government’s battle against corruption to give account of their stewardship, and for Nigerians to have the opportunity to interact with them, ask them questions and also make suggestions. This way, we can all be on the same page as far as this war of survival is concerned,” Mohammed also said.
Also speaking, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the subject of corruption cannot be overemphasised due to its importance in the scheme of things in the country.
Malami, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Abiodun Ayodeji, said historically the country has earned in excess of $650 billion, but that the bulk of the funds have either been stolen or mismanaged, leaving the country with infrastructure that are grossly inadequate to support a modern economy.
“Today, I read in the papers NEITI said in the last 10 years, $40 billion has been stolen due to oil theft alone. So, it is so real that, like the President said, ‘if we don’t kill corruption, it is going to kill us,’” Malami re-echoed.
On his part, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, said corruption is entrenched in all sectors and is dragging the country backward from fulfilling its potentials.
Magu also said fighting corruption was not the sole responsibility of the anti-graft agencies, but that of all law enforcement authorities.
He reiterated that the EFCC will begin to look at other law enforcement bodies where there is enormous corrupt activity.
“I just want to say that it is true that corruption is the greatest problem holding back our country from fulfilling its potentials. It is entrenched in all sectors. In the last four years, the EFCC, backed by the political will of President Muhammadu Buhari, has through a combination of enforcement and preventive measures, proven that this monster can be tamed,” Magu said.
Making his presentation, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, argued that when corruption is systemic and endemic, as it is in Nigeria, one has to develop smart strategies and pick and choose your battles.