By Demola Akinyemi
ILORIN —MINISTER of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said, yesterday, that the present administration was not probing members of the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but was particularly interested in investigating those who mismanaged funds meant for prosecuting the war against Boko Haram insurgency.
Mohammed said this during a chat with reporters at his Oro residence in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State.
According to the minister, the Federal Government became deeply concerned because of alleged embezzlement of about $2.1 billion, which allowed the insurgents to be in control of 14 of 20 local government areas in some North Eastern states.
He added that the sad development led to the incalculable loss of lives of many innocent Nigerians and degraded the nation’s armed forces.
The minister said: “Those being prosecuted today are being prosecuted for what reason? The answer is obvious, it is about what happened to the funds allocated to fight Boko-Haram. As at that time, 14 of 20 LGAs were under the control of the insurgents.
“We were all wondering what could be happening to our gallant military men, who had excelled outside the country, helping others but could not defend our territorial boundaries.
“In the process, the ‘Pandora Box’ was opened. So it is only the budget voted for defence that is being investigated. So, it is not about going out to investigate members of the PDP. “
The minister also said the recent anti-corruption searchlight beamed on Patience Jonathan, wife of former President, was allegedly initiated by the former first lady herself when she claimed that the money found on one of her husband’s aides belonged to her.
Citing the case of Japan that had been going through economic challenges for the past 14 years without a drop in the standard of living of its citizens, Mohammed said the hardship had been ameliorated due to the nation’s conscious investment in infrastructure.
While urging Nigerians to be patient with the Federal Government over the state of the nation’s economy, the minister blamed successive governments for allegedly ignoring the needs for massive investments in infrastructure and reserves.
“We salute the courage and perseverance of Nigerians. We know what they are going through. It is not about trading blames, it is about those who used this or that.
We had for long had an economy that revolved around one commodity.
‘’Our dependence on oil formed over 60 per cent of our Gross Domestic Products, GDP. When oil price crashed, we had no reserves to cushion the effects. We did not invest in infrastructure. From records, a government spent N18billion on roads but spent N65billion on estacodes.
“We have spent about N70billion on road this year. Between years 2012 and 2015 when oil was selling for $100 per barrel, they didn’t pay contractors but now, we brought back Julius Berger to site, paying N30billion.
‘’Although people said we should stop talking about the past, we believe that proper accounts must be made. We are hampered by the Niger/Delta instability and we have in the process lost about $1billion. But despite all these, major states capitals will be linked with effective rail system very soon,” he said.
Mohammed, while making a case for a changed attitude among Nigerians over their penchant for foreign goods and services, said emphasis should henceforth be placed on local contents tto create employment opportunities.
He added: “The kind of leadership we have in Nigeria today is by example. No minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for instance, can today fly in First Class, even if he has the wherewithal to do so.
‘’He must fly in the economic class. So we must all make sacrifice. Do you know that a pharmacist who sells fake drug is worse than a Permanent Secretary who embezzled money? The said pharmacist can send you to your early graves.”
He also noted that the over dependence of Nigeria on oil over the decades was largely responsible for the present economic challenges country was going through.
The Minister said the present efforts of the Federal government to diversify the economy needed some time to pay off, and end the present economic challenges.