LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – At least $6.8 billion have been siphoned from the Nigerian treasury by government officials between 2006 and 2013, according to the country’s information minister Lai Mohammed.
Mohammed said the amount had been stolen by only 55 officials – ranging from former governors, ministers to civil servants – who he said are now standing in corruption trials instituted by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“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 N1.34 trillion [Naira] in Nigeria. That’s more than a quarter of last year’s national budget,” Mohammed told a news briefing in the capital Abuja late Monday.
He added the volume of stealing meant that efforts must be made to reverse the trend to save the economy from collapse.
“Out of the stolen funds, 15 former governors allegedly stole N 146.84 billion; four former ministers allegedly stole N7 billion; 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, allegedly stole over N14 billion; eight people in the banking industry allegedly stole N524 billion; while 11 businessmen allegedly stole N653 billion,” he added.
Mohammed called on the judiciary to speed up trials of the suspects. He dismissed claims of political witch-hunt by the suspects as a clandestine bid to escape punishment for actions he insisted have been most responsible for the precarious situation of the Nigerian economy and the high poverty rate.
He urged the citizens to line up behind the administration’s anti-corruption measures to halt the slide.
“What do these figures translate to in the actual sense? In other words, what is the cost of these stolen funds for Nigerians?” he asked.
“Using World Bank Rates and Costs, one third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometers of roads; 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.”
Transparency International’s most recent corruption perceptions index (2014) rated Nigeria as the 136th most corrupt nation out of the 175 countries considered, with Abuja scoring only 27 out of 100 marks.
Officials at the Nigerian office of the global anticorruption agency have not responded to Anadolu Agency’s request for comment.
While many Nigerians have demanded that the fight should continue, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has said the measures are targeted at its officials in order to decimate its ranks. Some lawyers have cautioned Buhari against violating the rule of law or the rights of the suspects such as detaining them without trial.
A number of former senior government officials and PDP operatives have been questioned for corruption while dozens are currently answering to charges of graft before different courts – mostly revolving around the $2.1 billion arms funds the Buhari administration alleged had been diverted to fund political campaign.
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