Full Text of The Press Conference By The Honourable Minister of Information And Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed At The Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja
Minister of Information and Culture
1. Good morning gentlemen and happy new year to you all. I welcome you to this press conference, the second of its kind with you since I assumed office. Recall that during our first meeting last year, specifically on Dec. 8th, I also addressed a press conference, during which I intimated you with the huge progress made by the military in the war against terrorism. On that occasion, I called for the cooperation of the media in ensuring that the missing link in the war against terrorism – which is the civilian component – is supplied by sensitizing Nigerians to support and indeed own the war.
2. I am happy to inform you that we have since launched the National Security Awareness Campaign, and have seen a marked improvement in the way Nigerians perceive the war. Thanks to the support we have received from the media, especially in this sensitization campaign, I can now tell you that Nigerians have taken ownership of the war against terrorism and are also giving their undiluted support to our gallant military. I commend the media for heeding our patriotic call to duty at a critical time in the life of our nation.
3. Gentlemen, we are here today because of another patriotic call to duty. We want the media to once again lead the campaign to sensitize Nigerians to take possession of another war – the war against corruption! There is the wrong impression out there that the war against corruption is being fought only by the President or the Federal Government or the governing All Progressive Congress (APC). There is the erroneous impression out there that the war against corruption is a vendetta against the opposition, and that indeed it is one-sided. This is not true and indeed very nauseating.
4. Let’s take the latest issue of the 2.1 billion-dollar arms deal as an example. One thing is clear: Funds meant to fight terrorism were deployed to another fight, the fight to keep then President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the PDP, in power at all cost. So far, based on what we know, no one who has been accused of partaking in the
sharing of the funds has denied receiving money. All we have heard from them are ludicrous reasons why they partook in sharing of the money. One said he collected 4.5 billion Naira for spiritual purposes, another said he received 2.1 billion naira for publicity, while yet another said he got 13 billion Naira to pay someone else for the Maritime University land.
5. 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? What about those who lost their means of livelihood after the terrorists overran their towns and villages? What of the millions of Nigerians, especially women and children, who are now living in IDP camps? Is it not clear that the cruel fate that has befallen these unfortunate people is a direct result of the misuse of the funds meant to fight the terrorists? Are these not the true costs of corruption?
6. 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. No one is better placed than you, the media, to lead this charge. And that is why we have come here today to again rally the fourth estate of the realm to patriotic action.
7. Gentlemen, the situation is dire and the time to act is now. For example, between the period 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of 1.34 trillion Naira in Nigeria. That’s more than a quarter of last year’s national budget! Out of the stolen funds, 15 former Governors allegedly stole 146.84 billion naira; 4 former Ministers allegedly stole 7 billion naira; 12 former Public Servants, both at federal and state levels, allegedly stole over 14 billion Naira; 8 people in the Banking Industry allegedly stole 524 billion Naira; while 11 businessmen allegedly stole 653 billion naira.
8. Now, what does these figures translate to in the actual sense. In other words, what is the cost of these stolen funds for Nigerians. Using 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 25.24 million per child; and built 20,062 units of 2-bedroom 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.
9. Gentlemen, 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. As President Muhammadu Buhari likes to say, if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. There is no better way to say it.
10. As I said, everyone and every arm of government must be involved in the fight against corruption, which is one of the cardinal programmes of the Buhari Administration. Irrespective of what anyone may say, President Buhari is leading this fight by example and right from the front. His unparalleled integrity, his uncommon love of country and his undiluted dedication to service all put him in good stead to wage this war, and we must all support him and own the war in order to ensure its success. This is not Buhari’s war. This is not APC’s war. This is Nigeria’s war.
11. Equally critical to the success of the war is the Judiciary. Unless everyone in the judiciary fully joins in waging this war, the pending cases of corruption will just drag on until they outlast this Administration.
12. In the days ahead, we intend to carry this sensitization programme to all the corners of the country, leveraging on the wide reach of the National Orientation Agency (NOA). We also intend to partner with other agencies of government, especially the anti-corruption agencies and the police, as well as the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption. As I said earlier, we will be working closely with the media in this campaign, and we have no doubt that the media will replicate the support they are giving us in the ongoing National Security Awareness Campaign. We have no doubt that if Nigerians know the true costs of corruption to their lives and well-being, they will be less susceptible to swallowing the frivolous, self-serving and orchestrated distractions from the corrupt people and their benefactors and beneficiaries. We must kill corruption before it kills us.
13. Gentlemen, this press conference officially kick-starts our National Sensitization Campaign against Corruption. The campaign will run all through the tenure of this Administration. I thank you all for listening