ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has said it will be impossible for his administration to identify and recover all looted funds of the country.
President Buhari with L-R: Mr Illiyasu Garba, Mr Bolaji Lewis, Chief of Staff to President Abba Kyari, Project Coordinator Charles Sylvester, Mr Dapo Williams, Hajia Lamisila and Mr Stephen Kifordu as he receives in audience Buhari Diaspora Support Organization in London
He also said his administration has not done badly, compared to what it met on ground when he took over power in 2015.
The President spoke on a day his Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said no amount of pressure and hack writing would stop the federal government from releasing more names of looters.
President Buhari said the damage done to Nigeria’s economy in the years of plunder was massive, and that government was doing its best to recover some of the loot, but noted that it was impossible to identify and recover all.
The President, who stated this while receiving the Buhari Diaspora Support Organisation, led by Mr Charles Efe Sylvester, in London yesterday, said: “We will do our best to justify your trust in us, and that confidence won’t be abused.
“I am happy that people like you are here on your own, defending the country. You have shown courage and sacrifice. I assure you that your confidence in us won’t be abused, we will do our best to justify it.”
He noted that Nigeria was gifted with tremendous human and natural resources, but regretted that “failure of some of the leadership we had in the past led to our not being able to capitalize on resources to improve the lot of the people.”
Noting that wicked people plundered the country, and kept Nigerians poor, the President added that looking at the condition in which the current administration met the country, without savings and the economy badly vandalized, “we have not done too badly.”
President Buhari and a member of the Buhari Diaspora Support Organization in London
He said further: “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.”
He commended the group for deciding to identify with the country, “when you could have stayed here, being comfortable.”
The Coordinator of the organisation, Charles Sylvester, said the group was happy with the achievements of Buhari’s administration so far.
The Buhari Support Group
He said: “You met a difficult situation, but you have overcome most of them. We are happy with the agriculture revolution, the ease of doing business, the anti-corruption war, the employment of youths through the N-Power programme, and the blockage of leakages in the public sector through the Treasury Single Account, TSA.
“We are proud of the speed with which you recovered the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls. It shows you are a worthy general. We are happy that you have declared for 2019. Majority of Nigerians are happy, but agents of corruption and darkness are unhappy.
“The same God, who healed you when you were ill, will grant you victory in the 2019 elections. You are a General who does not fear combat, either with Generals or non-Generals.
“We declare our love and support for you. You are fixing the faulty foundations of our country and second term is when you will build the enduring structure.”
List of looters
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has assured Nigerians that no amount of pressure, including the antics of hack writers and threats of litigation, will prevent it from releasing more names of alleged looters of public treasury.
In a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said since the release of the first two lists of alleged looters, there had been overt and covert attempts to intimidate and blackmail the Federal Government into discontinuing the release of more looters’ names.
Lai Mohammad and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus
“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.
Alhaji Mohammed said the government had always known that corruption will fight back, fast and furious, hence it was not surprised at the hiring of hack writers to attack the very idea of naming and shaming the looters, or the hysterical threats of litigation.
“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 Minister said the pressure being mounted on the government over its decision to expose looters was not unexpected, adding that “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.”
He challenged anyone who felt that he or she had been wrongly accused to seek redress in court, rather than engaging in exhibitionist sophistry.
Alhaji Mohammed also reminded Nigerians that 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.
He said: “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.”