By Olisemeka Sony
The Muhammadu Buhari led federal government on Sunday vowed to release another list containing names of individuals who allegedly stole public funds, amidst controversies trailing the two previous lists released by the presidency. The two lists were heavily criticised in many quarters for containing only the names of members of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and leaving out political parties from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claimed in a statement issued on Sunday that since the release of the first two lists of the alleged looters, there have been overt and covert attempts to intimidate and blackmail the government into discontinuing the release of more looters’ names.
According to him, “hack writers have inundated the social and traditional media with articles casting aspersion on the lists, while some newspapers have even resorted to writing editorials against the federal government over the release of the lists. Most of the write-ups have accused the government of politicising the anti-graft war by releasing the lists. We strongly disagree with them.
“We do not have the power to try or convict anyone. That is the exclusive preserve of the courts. But we have the power to let Nigerians know those who turned the public treasury into their personal piggy banks, on the basis of very concrete evidence, and that is what we are doing,” he said.
Mr Mohammed insists that the Buhari government would not succumb to intimidation or blackmail from those seeking to derail its anti-graft campaign. “All the fuss about politicising the anti-corruption fight is aimed at preventing the government from releasing more looters’ names and at the same time muddling the waters. But 1,000 negative write-ups or editorials will not deter us from releasing the third and subsequent lists. For those who have chosen to give succour to looters, we wish them the best of luck with their new pastime,” he said.
The former APC spokesperson, however noted that the pressure being mounted on the government over its decision to expose looters is not unexpected: “We know where the pressure is coming from. However, the die is cast. We will not stop until we have released the names of all those who have looted our commonwealth. Those who have not looted our treasury have nothing to be afraid of.”
The minister challenged those who feel they have been wrongly accused to seek redress in court, rather than engaging in exhibitionist sophistry. Mr Mohammed said it was the PDP that dared to challenge the federal government into releasing the list of PDP looters, hence the argument that the list only contained the names of PDP members falls short without proper contextualization.
”We are not underestimating the desperation of the looters, but we wish to assure Nigerians who are justifiably outraged at the mindless plundering of the nation’s wealth also of our determination not to back down. Nigerians must know those who have wrecked the country and mortgaged the future of their children,” Mr Mohammed added.
The presidency had earlier on Sunday issued a statement where lambasting the past PDP administration over massive corruption. The statement quoted President MuhammaduBuhari as declaring that the damage done to the Nigerian economy during the PDP regime was massive, and that his government was doing its best to recover some of the loot.
He admitted that his government was struggling to identify the looters and recover all the funds that were looted from the treasury under PDP. “If they had used 50 per cent of the money we made, when oil prices went as high as $143 dollars per barrel, and stabilized at $100 dollars with production at 2.1 million barrels per day for many years, Nigerians would have minded their businesses. You could almost grow food on our roads, as they were abandoned.
“The stealing was so much, and they were so inept that they could not even cover the stealing properly. I wonder how all those things could have happened to our country,” the president was quoted as saying in London when he received members of the Buhari Diaspora Support Organisation, led by Charles Sylvester.