The Federal Government has vowed not to relent in its battle against corruption, saying the anti-graft campaign is crucial to the survival of the nation.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the remark yesterday in Lagos when he paid a courtesy visit to the headquarters of Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation newspaper.
Debunking allegations that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari does not have respect for the rule of law, the minister said: “In this Administration’s battle against corruption, we have also been accused of not respecting the rule of law. I make bold to say that this is not true. The mere fact that those who have been accused of corruption are having their day in court is a reflection of our respect for the rule of law. We will continue to ensure a strict adherence to the rule of law in our anti-corruption effort and, indeed in all aspects of governance.
“But make no mistake about it, this government will not relent in its battle against corruption, and within the confines of the law, irrespective of what anyone may say. This is because for our nation, it is a war of survival. Today, in our country, corruption is on first line charge. That’s how serious it is. The good news is that Nigeria is so fortunate to have at the helm of affairs, at this time, a leader of impeccable character, proven integrity, courage, dedication and love of country. We intend to leverage this in our fight against corruption.
“We need the support of the media to ensure the success of this fight. As I have said at different fora, we consider the media as our partners. When we launched the National Security Awareness Campaign Against Terrorism, the media were at the vanguard and, thanks to them, we are achieving our objectives of rallying the support of the citizenry for the war. In fact, I can say that Nigerians are now taking ownership of the war, and I must commend the media for partnering with us in this campaign.
“Some have said that we are dwelling only on corruption to the detriment of other sectors. Our response is that if corruption is not tamed, nothing else we do will work. Imagine fetching buckets and buckets of water and pouring them into a basket. Not a drop of the water will be retained. But the moment the basket is replaced with, say a basin, even one bucket of water will amount to something. Seeking to uplift the economy without fighting corruption is akin to pouring water into a basket. That is why we will not stop talking about corruption”.
Calling on the media to partner with the Federal Government in executing the National Sensitization Campaign Against Corruption programme, Mr. Mohammed said: “Those who have looted our common wealth are powerful. They own newspapers, whether online or offline, they own radio and television stations. They are awash with cash and they have a huge army of supporters. But they are not more than the 170 million Nigerians who have been bearing the brunt of the looting of the treasury in terms of the absence of the dividends of democracy, especially upgraded infrastructure, good education, as well as good and affordable health care.
“Our strategy in sensitising our people is to dwell on the cost of corruption, rather than talking about it in the abstract. When we release figures of the huge sums of money that have been looted, we did not do that to vilify anyone. Rather, our intention is to give Nigerians a different perspective to the anti-graft battle. That’s why we did not mention names, even though we have all the names”.
He added: “Recall that at the launch of the National Sensitization Campaign against Corruption, I did disclose that 55 Nigerians allegedly stole a total of 1.34 trillion Naira between 2006 and 2013. I also said if only we could recover just one third of the looted funds, we will be able to construct 635 kilometres of dual-carriage way; build 183 schools; educate 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at the cost of 25.24 million per child, build 20,062 units of 2-bedroom housing units and build one ultra-modern hospital in each of the 36 states of the Federation. Now, because that money was looted and had not been returned to the government coffers, we could not do any of those things enumerated above. That is the cost of corruption”.