By Levinus Nwabughiogu
President Moham- madu Buhari said yesterday that his government will soon publish names of those who have returned portions of their loot from public coffers. This was as one of his spokesmen, Garba Shehu, said in Kaduna that the Presidency would step on toes in their anti-corruption fight. Shehu said that the Presidency would do so for the interest of Nigeria.
President Buhari, according to The Cable News, said that the Central Bank of Nigeria will soon publicly name those who looted Nigeria and who have returned part of they wrongly appropriated.
He said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was holding on from publishing the list in order to avoid jeopardising investigations and further recoveries.
He was speaking at the 15th session of the Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation lecture at the International Conference Centre, in Abuja yesterday. In his lecture, Buhari said during electioneering, the issue that gained “higher currency” in the psyche of the people was that Nigerians needed leadership that could be relied upon to tackle the orgy of corruption in the country.
“We have taken steps towards recovering a reasonable amount of the money that was looted or misappropriated from public coffers. Investigations are ongoing on public officers who served, or are still serving, and those whose conduct are questionable will be compelled to accept the path of honour and surrender their loot,” he said. “As I stated recently, a good number of people who abused their positions are voluntarily returning the illicit funds.
I have heard it said that we should disclose the names of the people, and the amount returned. Yes, in due course, the Central Bank of Nigeria will make information available to the public on the surrendered funds, but I must remark that it is yet early days, and any disclosure now may jeopardize the possibility of bigger recoveries. “But we owe Nigerians adequate information, and it shall come in due course.
It is part of the collective effort to change our land from the bastion of corruption it currently is, to a place of probity and transparency. “Quite frankly, the anti-corruption war is not strictly about me as a person, it is about building a country where our children, and the forthcoming generations, can live in peace and prosperity. When you see dilapidated infrastructure round the country, it is often the consequence of corruption.
“Poor heal-thcare, collapsed educa-tion, lack of public utilities, decayed social services, are all products of corruption, as those entrusted with public resources put them in their private pockets. That must stop, if we want a new Nigeria. And that was why I said at another forum that people need not fear me, but they must fear the consequences of their actions.
“Corrupt acts will always be punished, and there will be no friend, no foe. We will strive to do what is fair and just at all times, but people who refuse to embrace probity should have every cause to fear.”
In Kaduna, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, reiterated the Presidency’s commitment to anti-corruption war, speaking in a manner that indicated that the government may still go after top Nigerians who have breached public trust. “The President may step on big toes,” he said of groups and individuals who have swindled the country in the recent years.
This was as the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai stated that the success of president Buhari’s administration depended on the media input. Shehu made the disclosure in his welcome remarks at a three day retreat of the State House Correspondents in Kaduna on Saturday.
Shehu who was the Chief Convener of the event themed “Journalism and Change Mantra: State House in Focus”, stated that the government needed the media support to succeed in the fight against corruption. He recalled that the present government was a product of media’s determination to entrench a corruption-free society, stating that president Buhari would not fail Nigerians.
According to him, the president would not halt the ongoing investigations and would not come to the rescue of anyone who is found culpable in the anti-corruption war. He said: “President Buhari has embarked on an anti-corruption campaign that is bound to offend many. Big toes will be stepped on, personal interests will be cast aside. As the popular saying goes, when you fight corruption, corruption fights back.
“Yes, anti-corruption is a war. And the press can help President Mohammadu Buhari to win that war. You are of the government most lethal weapons in this battle against the forces that aim to pull down Nigeria. “The power of the media lies in their ability to expose wrong-doings. This power of exposure is a far more effective deterrent in many countries including our own, than the court systems that deliver judgement and not necessarily justice.
“If they know that they will be exposed, many crimes will not happen and herein lies the challenge of the media under Buhari administration. Use your power to expose wrong-doings, the days of impunity are gone. This is the best way to help the change that the government is advocating especially now that we have a government with the will and capacity to right all wrongs.”
Expressing appreciation to the media, Shehu also appealed to the media to key into the change agenda of the present government.
“As always, the government of President Mohammadu Buhari is grateful to the Nigerian media for the role you played in igniting the change agenda which has swept into Nigeria in March 2015. The press contributed immensely to the success of APC to the historic election of President Buhari. That was only the beginning of the change agenda. The change is still ongoing.
“This government still requires the assistance of the media to continue that process of change. President Buhari has embarked on the building of a new Nigeria and we need you, the Press, to keep the public informed of its many activities and policies that are geared towards improving the lives of Nigerian people according to the change agenda.
“The government needs the press to remain impartial and eschew spurious incentives when reporting and carrying our your responsibilities, the government needs you to avoid partnerships with enemies of progress who are bent on bringing down the government not minding if the entire country collapses while they are at it”, he said.
Also making his remarks, Governor el-Rufai who was the chief host of the retreat squarely put the success of the government on the media. “The responsibility that has been thrust in the hands of the new government is immense. The APC inherited a country at the tip of failure. As is becoming clearer by the day, some of the things that went on under the previous government are stranger than fiction.
“The consequences of the incompetence, the thievery and the divisive ethos that reigned are only becoming clear. Nigerians are only beginning to realise that the Jonathan government, despite years of $100 oil, was borrowing to pay salaries. The PDP simply ran this economy aground. Our party and our president will do their level best to pick up the pieces, restore economic vitality and make life better for Nigerians.