BY OUR REPORTERS
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan vowed, yesterday, that all those found culpable in the fuel subsidy scam would be severely punished after being made to refund the public funds they illegally collected.
Speaking through Vice President Namadi Sambo, at the launching of ‘Reforming the Unreformable,’ a book written by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the president said that those found to have been involved in corruption and other economic crimes must be punished.
President Jonathan spoke as Senators came under intense pressure to stop discussions on the fuel subsidy probe and a member of the House of Representatives concurred with the findings of the Nuhu Ribadu’s panel of mega graft in the oil industry in the last decade.
Said President Jonathan: “Nigerian and African leaders must begin to write their own experiences. It deals with the challenges of creating jobs, fighting corruption and other important sartorial reforms that need urgent attention, which are crucial to the transformation agenda of this administration.
“Let me assure you that my administration is not only committed to reform, we are building on some of the reform agents. Specifically, we are consolidating on macro-economic reforms. We are going to focus on the various sectorial reforms, which will create jobs in our economy. On the government front, we are going after those who committed various economic and corrupt practices with impunity.
“As you may be aware, government is taking every legal measure to ensure that those, who defraud the government in the petroleum subsidy scheme are made to return the money stolen and punished for their crimes”.
Hope for Nigeria
He described the book as a demonstration of Okonjo-Iweala’s patriotism, particularly given the fact that “the central message of this important book is hope, hope that Nigeria can reform and grow to become one of the world’s most dynamic economies”.
According to the president, “in the past, there was a lot of cynicism about Nigeria. Many people claimed that the political and public institutions in this country could not be reformed. It clearly argued convincingly that gradually, Nigeria is undergoing reform.”
He said that one of his objectives was to build strong institutions; with the kind of policies and reforms that would consolidate on current reform efforts that could achieve credible development.
The President reiterated his administration’s commitment to ensuring an atmosphere of democracy and freedom and assured that he would “continue to work to ensure that sound democratic principles are applied in this country.
“Ever since the 2011 elections, adjudged to be the freest and fairest in our nation’s history, we have also conducted local and state government elections, which have been locally and internationally applauded. This is a new dawn in our initiative to achieve electoral reform. In all successful democracies, leadership tends to take on certain changes, changes that are tough”.
The president who gave his commitment to add value to all areas of the economy, aimed at generating employment and creating wealth, observed that the states and local governments must also key-into the federal government efforts. “The content of the book cannot only be implemented at the national level but also at the sub-national and local government levels”, he said.
In her remarks, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said she wrote the book to give hope to Nigerians on her conviction that Nigeria could be returned to the path of greatness and that all that is required is commitment of the people and political will on the part of leaders.
According to her, fighting corruption is a tough battle because, “when you fight corruption, corruption fights you back” but she encouraged Nigerians never to give up the fight against corruption, as according to her, “corruption will never win”.
She added that she did not write the book to make money but to share her experiences with Nigerians and the global community on necessary reform decisions and actions needed to turn-around the economy for the better.
Chief Sunny Odogwu, who was the Chief launcher encouraged young Nigerians to keep hope alive, as according to him, with commitment, the nation can reach the top 20 world economy goal it has set for itself. He said that Nigeria is in a transition and that with the current administration, there is hope that the economy will get better.
Meanwhile, more than a year after the Senate launched its investigations into the implementation of the fuel subsidy scheme, there are indications that the legislative chamber has come under pressure aimed at frustrating the outcome of the investigations