President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday raised concern over the future of the country, saying corruption threatens the people and the forthcoming general election.
In a statement he personally issued in Abuja, the president said a policy programme that does not have fighting corruption at its core is destined to fail.
“The battle against graft must be the base on which we secure the country, build our economy, provide decent infrastructure and educate the next generation. This is the challenge of our generation: the variable on which our success as a nation shall be determined. But the vested interests at play can make this fight difficult.
“By way of their looting, the corrupt have powerful resources at their disposal. And they will use them. For when you fight corruption, you can be sure it will fight back. It even threatens to undermine February’s poll and – by extension – our democracy. “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has raised concerns over laundered money being funnelled into vote buying. This is the problem of corruption writ large. It illustrates how it lurks in all and every crevice of public life, manipulating due process in pursuit of self-preservation and perpetuation; protecting personal political and economic interests at the expense of the common good,” he said.
He said progress has been made by the present administration in the fight against corruption, but a lot needs to done to consolidate on the gains recorded so far.
He said the federal government has repatriated hundreds of millions of dollars stowed away in foreign banks, and the funds have been transparently deployed on infrastructural projects and used to directly empower the poorest in society.
He said more of the stole funds would be repatriated by the country’s international partners in France, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The president said federal would continue to ensure that those who stole the nation’s common wealth are prosecuted, adding that those who have criticised his administration’s anti-corruption drive are those who oppose its mission.
“Indeed, those who have criticised my administration’s anti-corruption drive are those who oppose its mission. And though their lawyers may craft expensive alibis, they cannot escape that which binds them together: a raft of documents and barely legal (some clearly illegal) mechanisms – whether that be the Panama Papers, US Congress reports, shell companies or offshore bank accounts.
“Corruption corrodes the trust on which the idea of community is founded, because one rule for the few and another for everyone else is unacceptable to anyone working honestly. But as we have intensified our war on corruption, so we have found that corruption innovates to resist the law. This is not the sole domain of those Nigerians, but the international corruption industry: the unsavoury fellow-traveler of globalisation.
“Once the enablers are let in – as they have been in the past – the greed of those they collude with grows. We have closed the door on them, but unfortunately there still remain individuals who are willing to open windows,” he said.
He said the federal government would continue to tighten the legal framework and ensure the authorities have the investigative powers at their disposal to secure sentences.
The president said he has tried to judiciously exercise the trust vested in me to combat the problems of corruption, insecurity and inequitable economy in the last three and half years.
He said more ghost workers must be removed from government payroll because almost $550 million has been saved from identifying phantom employees in the the last couple of years.
He said a lot of resources can be recovered through government’s whistle-blower policy through which $370 million has been returned since the policy was launched in 2016.
“A Yoruba proverb states that only the patient one can milk a lion. Likewise, victory over corruption is difficult, but not impossible. We must not flounder in our resolve. I know many Nigerians would like to see faster action. So do I. But so too must we follow due process and exercise restraint, ensuring allegation never takes the place of evidence. For that is not the Nigeria we should wish to build.
“There is no doubt that this administration has changed the way we tackle corruption. The choice before voters is this: Do we continue forward on this testing path against corruption? Or do revert to the past, resigned to the falsehood that it is just the-way-things-are-done? Or that it is just too difficult – too pervasive – to fix? I know which one I would choose. It is why I am asking Nigerians for another four years to serve them,” he said.