I commend those behind the formation of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room (ACSR). I understand they include civil society organisations, media groups and government agencies.
The essence, I am told, is not just to promote transparency and accountability in government but also to ensure that the people take ownership of the fight against corruption.
For us in government, this is music to our ears. Music to our ears because we have been saying that the fight against corruption is not Buhari’s fight, neither is it APC’s fight.
It is Nigeria’s fight. This means all Nigerians must take possession of this war if we are to win it. The courageous and patriotic minds behind the Anti-Corruption Situation Room have taken the first critical step to ensure that Nigerians buy into this war.
I thank the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) and its partners for coming up with the ACSR. I appeal to more civil society organizations to join this initiative. Unless there is a collaboration that involves the government, the media, CSOs and others, this fight will be tougher than it should be.
Mr. Olanrewju Suraju, Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, puts it most succinctly when he said, and I quote: “The central thrust is to build synergy between anti-corruption CSOs, the labor movement and law enforcement agencies, the parliament and the judiciary as a means of improving and broadening the anti-corruption agenda as well as creating an accountability loop and feedback mechanism between anti-corruption agencies, the civil society organizations and the citizens”.
The ACSR could not have come at a better time. The Buhari Administration’s fight against corruption is gaining momentum, and the government is winning the war. But there is a challenge: there seems to be a feeling of numbness among the citizens about the conduct of those whose actions brought us here, those who looted the national treasury dry.
Suddenly, these same people are engaging in revisionist history and blaming everyone but themselves for the mess their actions put the country into.
Those who turned our treasury to their piggy bank are once again presenting themselves as the saviours of the nation. They say the best time for Nigeria was when the proceeds of their corruption subsidized many and gave the illusion of economic boom.
They are so emboldened as to say Nigerians are earnestly yearning for them. No contrition. No apologies. No shame. Just sheer bravado. Unbridled arrogance. Revisionism.
The civil society, the media and indeed all Nigerians owe it a duty not to allow Nigerians to forget, to say ‘Never Again’ to those who view Nigeria as nothing but a cash cow to be milked to death.
How can we ever forget? The 2.1 billion dollars meant to buy weapons for the Nigerian military to fight Boko Haram was turned into a slush fund by a few, causing the war to fester and hundreds of troops to die. How can we ever forget that we spent billions of dollars on power only to have just 2,690 megawatts, which was what we inherited when we assumed office 29 May 2015?
Why is it that despite the billions of naira supposedly spent on roads by successive administrations, what we inherited are death traps. Why did we inherit an economy in dire straits? Nigeria sold oil at over 100 dollars per barrel for years, but the proceeds were either looted or frittered away.
Yet, this Administration has decided to take the bull by the horns, rather than sit back and lament. That is why we are fighting corruption headlong. It is the toughest of the three cardinal programmes of this administration, but we are determined to win the fight, and we are winning, even when corruption is fighting back fast and furious.
Because we are tackling corruption, we have succeeded in raising power generation from 2,690 to an all-time high of 7,001MW. Because we are tackling corruption, we are saving 25 billion Naira monthly by cutting unnecessary allowances of officials.
Because we are tackling corruption, we have added 500 million dollars to our Sovereign Wealth Fund that stagnated at the 1-billion-dollar that was used to set it up.
We have raised our foreign reserves from 23 billion dollars to 38 billion dollars. We have stopped the payment of phantom subsidy of between 800 billion and 1.3 trillion Naira.
We recovered at least 43 million dollars and 56 houses from just one official of the immediate past administration. We have recovered 2.9 billion dollars from looters so far. Our Whistle-blower policy has led to the recovery of 151 million dollars and N8 billion in looted funds from just three sources.
Our sincere and full implementation of the Treasury Single Account, or TSA, has yielded 3 trillion naira, almost half of the estimated revenue in the 2018 budget. With the elimination of thousands of ghost workers, we have saved 120 billion naira.
We have eliminated the 108 billion naira in maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA.
We can go on and on, reeling out the successes from our fight against corruption.
It is noteworthy that we have achieved all these and more without having all the stakeholders fully on board in the fight against corruption. Imagine how far we would have gone if all hands have been on deck.
That is why we are delighted at the launch of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room, which we believe will definitely ensure that more and more Nigerians buy into this war.
Once Nigerians take possession of the war, there will be no more hiding place for the corrupt. Those accusing the administration of engaging in a selective anti-corruption fight will be exposed for who they are: apologists for treasury looters!
I congratulate the various groups that have come together to form the ACSR. It is our fervent hope that this will be a game changer in the efforts to ensure that Nigerians take possession of the war against corruption, thus galvanizing the anti-corruption war.
Excerpts from speech by Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed at the launch of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room (ACSR)