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‘Corruption ensured that while oil was selling for over $100 per barrel, we had nothing to show’

Jos – The Federal Government on Saturday reassured Nigerians that it would protect their lives and property, tackle corruption and diversify the nation’s economy.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this at the 36th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Alumni Association of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Jos.

He said the existence of any government was to ensure the security of lives and property.

He said the country had faced the challenges of ethno-religious violence, armed robbery, rustling, kidnapping for ransom, militancy and violent agitations.

“The most daunting security challenge that we have faced in the past seven to eight years has been the Boko Haram insurgency.

“That explains why the President’s first trips outside the country, after he was sworn in, was to rally the support of our neighbours – Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – for the efforts to tackle the insurgency. “

The minister said President Muhammadu Buhari rallied the support of the international community, starting with the G7, and then the US, France and the UN.

“Today, the President’s efforts have paid off. Boko Haram has been massively degraded and it is gradually moving away from the front pages.

“The insurgents have lost their capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks for which they became infamous.“

Mohammed said the major challenge now was reconstruction, resettlement and rehabilitation that would see many people in the various Internal Displaced Persons camps returned home.

He said it was corruption that prolonged the war against Boko Haram and dispatched many soldiers and civilians to their early graves.

“It was corruption that ensured that while oil was selling for over 100 dollars per barrel, we had nothing to show for the windfall.

“It is because of corruption that even though our budget has increased from less than a trillion Naira in 1999 to over N6 trillion in 2016, poverty has grown almost at the same rate that the budget has increased.“

The minister said it was corruption that gave the nation darkness instead of light, while government supposedly pumped millions of dollars into the power sector.

“This administration has largely succeeded in fighting insurgency, we have also squarely taken on corruption, and I can tell you that we are winning.

“The situation is serious and no government can fight the battle alone.

“That explains why we have launched a nationwide sensitisation to make Nigerians to buy into the anti-graft war. “

The minister said the Federal Government was working to diversify the nation’s economy away from oil to agriculture, solid minerals, culture, tourism and other sectors.

“We are currently working to rejuvenate so they can earn huge revenues for the country and create jobs.

“While these efforts are on, the Administration has decided to plug all financial loopholes through the Treasury Singles Account (TSA), into which over N2 trillion has accrued so far. “

Mohammed said funds that ordinarily would have gone into private pockets were finding their way into the public to be used for the benefit of all.

“Also, thanks to the measures introduced by this administration to plug all loopholes, we have discovered 23,000 ghost workers who have now been expunged from the system. “

In his speech, Maj.- Gen. (Rtd) Lawrence Onoja, the President of the Alumni Association of the National Institute (AANI), said the association would support the Federal Government’s three-point agenda.

Onoja said the agenda were security, fight against corruption and diversification of the economy.

He urged the Federal Government to make use of the institute’s relevant researches and policy papers to achieve its agenda.

Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau said his administration was ready to collaborate with the association to make the use of its suggestions that would promote peace in the state.

Lalong, represented by the Head of Service, Mr Izam Azi, declared the association’s AGM opened and expressed his administration’s commitment to restore peace and security in the state.

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