Being the text of the address by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the 68th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) in Abuja on Monday, 27th Nov. 2017.
Let me start by thanking the organizers of this 68th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) for inviting me as the Special Guest of Honour, and to declare open this meeting. I say that because yours is a very powerful platform, considering the array of broadcast media personalities attending the assembly.
2. In view of this, I intend to dwell on an issue that is key to the survival of our country and its citizens, an issue that touches you and I directly, an issue that has a direct bearing on the quality of our lives, an issue that if we fail to tackle decisively, it will kill us as a country. I am talking of the issue of corruption!
3. Without mincing words, let me use this platform to appeal directly to the media in general to join this Administration in facing down the problem of corruption. As we have said times without number, this fight must not be seen as Buhari’s fight. It must not be seen as the Federal Government’s fight. It is our fight. If we fail to win by defeating corruption, it will simply kill us as a nation.
4. This appeal to the media to join us in the fight against corruption is borne out of the fact that the Fourth Estate of the Realm cannot afford to sit on the fence, as far as this fight is concerned. We are not saying the media should not criticize us over our strategy for the fight, but they should stop mocking us. In recent times, it is not unusual to read such headlines as ”Buhari’s Government Losing Anti-Corruption War”, ”Buhari’s Anti-Corruption War is Failing”, ”Arewa Youths Knock President Buhari Over Failing Anti-corruption War”. This is sheer mockery, not reporting! And this war is not Buhari’s war. It is our war.
5. Make no mistake about it: Of all the three broad issues that we campaigned with – revamping the economy, fighting corruption and tackling insecurity, the toughest is the war against corruption. Why? Because fighting corruption anywhere is like walking a lonely road. While many will join hands with you to tackle insecurity or to revamp the economy, you are on your own when you take on corruption. Most Nigerians were direct beneficiaries of corruption. Many were subsidized by corruption. Now that the gravy train of corruption is fast derailing, many are finding it difficult to come to terms with it. That’s the origin of the ”Bring Back Corruption” Campaign being carried out by certain elements in our society.
6. When the media is not fully on board, the fight against corruption becomes tougher. When the media seizes on every setback we suffer in prosecuting this war, they give succour to the corrupt. When the media falls for the distraction tactics of those who are mortally afraid of this war, they weaken the battle. How many newspapers have written strong editorials in support of this war? How many BON members have donated airtime for jingles against corruption?
7. Many will ask: Why must we join the Government in this fight? Well, the answer is simple, we are where we are today because of corruption. Erratic power supply, poorly-equipped hospitals, lack of motorable roads, poor quality of life, poor economy, lack of jobs, insecurity, just name it, are all because of corruption. After previous administrations spent billions of dollars on power, all we inherited – when we took over on the 29th of May 2015 – was 2,690 megawatts. That is due to corruption. After previous governments budgeted billions for roads over the years, what we inherited are death traps. That is due to corruption. Why did Boko Haram thrive for so long? The answer is corruption, because money meant for the purchase of weapons for the military were simply diverted. Why did we inherit an economy in dire straits? It is corruption. For a country that sold oil at over 100 dollars per barrel for years, we simply failed to save for the rainy day, and when the rain came, it beat us silly!
8. But I am not here to lament. Far from it. Thanks to the leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari, we are winning the war against corruption. Yes, corruption is fighting back furiously, but it cannot match the courage, the determination and the commitment of this Administration, nor can it dampen the leadership of President Buhari. It does not matter what you say, no one can say Mr. President is corrupt. His impeccable and legendary integrity puts him in good stead to lead the war against corruption.
9. For our efforts so far, we have so much to showcase: Because we are tackling corruption, we have succeeded in raising power generation from 2,690 to an all-time high of 7,001MW. Because we are tackling corruption, we are saving 25 billion Naira monthly by cutting unnecessary allowances of officials. Because we are tackling
corruption, we have added 500 million dollars to our Sovereign Wealth Fund that stagnated at the 1-billion-dollar that was used to set it up. We have raised our foreign reserves from 23 billion dollars to 35 billion dollars. We stopped the payment of phantom subsidy of between 800 billion and 1.3 trillion Naira annually, yet petroleum products are available at competitive prices.
10. There are more gains from our fight against corruption. We recovered at least 43 million dollars and 56 houses from just one former government official. We have recovered 2.9 billion dollars from looters so far. Our Whistle-blower policy has led to the recovery of 151 million dollars and N8 billion in looted funds from just three sources. Thanks to the sincere and full implementation of the Treasury Singles Account, or TSA, 3 trillion Naira, almost half of the estimated revenue in the 2018 budget, has accrued to Government. With the elimination of thousands of ghost workers, we have saved 120 billion Naira. We have eliminated the 108 billion Naira in maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA. We took Nigeria out of recession without retrenching a single worker, even when oil prices were very
low. Though we earned 60% less revenue, we were able to give bailouts to states many times so they can pay salaries and pension, while providing N1.3 trillion for capital expenditure, the largest amount for capital in the nation’s history.
11. We have achieved all these and more without having all the stakeholders fully on board in the fight against corruption. Imagine how far we would have gone if all hands have been on deck. That is why we are appealing to the media. We need allies, not antagonists. We need those who will offer constructive criticisms, not those who will mock us.
12. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, no Administration in the history of this country has exhibited the kind of courage to fight corruption that this Administration has shown. We are aware that reformists government are never popular anywhere, but we will rather rid our country of corruption than to curry cheap popularity by throwing money at every issue in the name of ‘settlement’. We are aware that corruption has continued to rear its ugly head even in countries with death penalty for corruption, but we are proud to have driven corruption under the table in just two years. We urge you to join us today. Our lives depend on this fight.
13. I thank you for your kind attention, and wish you a fruitful deliberation.