John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has disclosed that the real amount misappropriated in the arms purchase is $15 billion.
Speaking at a town hall meeting organised by the federal government yesterday in Kaduna, the minister said revelations from the $2.1 billion arms scandal was just a tip of the iceberg.
He said those who shared the $2.1 billion meant for arms contributed to sending many innocent soldiers and civilians to their early graves.
According to him, insecurity was the biggest challenge the Buhari administration faced upon assumption of office on May 29, 2015, adding that the government had succeeded in subduing the Boko Haram insurgents.
“I am happy to inform this gathering that we have performed a rare feat by subduing Boko Haram, making it impossible for the group to carry out attacks.
“Some will argue that the insurgents are still carrying out sporadic suicide bombings and other attacks, even though they are now very few.
“Well, our answer to that is simple: By its very nature, no insurgency ends suddenly. They taper off with time. Insurgencies are not conventional wars and no agreements are signed to silence the guns. Of course, no nation in the world is strong enough to stop attacks on vulnerable targets like.
mosques, churches, motor parks, IDP camps, etc” he said.
The minister stated further that the federal government has also fared well in the fight against corruption, saying: “Today, Nigerians are less tolerant of corruption and corrupt people than before.”
“This is because we have raised the bar in the fight against this cankerworm. We have also brought to the attention of Nigerians the cost of corruption. Thanks to the sensitisation campaign we launched earlier this year….
“Let me state here that the revelations from the $2.1 billion dollars are just a tip of the iceberg, because the total funds involved in the arms purchase is $15 billion,” the minister said.
He said however that the nation’s economy posed a great challenge to the administration following the drastic fall in the price of crude oil, which is the main foreign exchange earner.
“We have lost a substantial part of our earnings to the massive crash in the price of oil. Think about this: If you lose 70 per cent of your monthly salary, your life can never be the same again.
He assured that the Administration had decided to turn this disaster into a blessing by working assiduously to diversify the economy away from oil.
“Agriculture, Solid Minerals, Culture and Tourism are some of the sectors we are currently working to rejuvenate so they can earn huge revenues for the country and create jobs,” Mohammed said.
Also speaking, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed that since the publication of the phone numbers of government functionaries by an online news medium, he was being bombarded with calls, including threats from militants.
According to him, one of the first calls he answered was from a militant who said he was going to blow up pipelines.
“One of the first phone calls I took not knowing who was calling me was from a militant somewhere and when I picked up the phone, he asked, ‘Are you the minister of petroleum? I said yes.
“He said I dey go blow pipeline tomorrow, and I said why would you do that my brother if you love Nigerians? He said ‘are you sure you are the minister’, I said yes.
“Then he said for being so humble, I will drop the plan. That’s the kind of environment under which we operate,” the minister revealed.
He called on Nigerians not to be discouraged by the current problems facing the country, assuring that President Muhammadu Buhari is capable of addressing the challenges and make the country a better place.
Other ministers who spoke at the the meeting were Kayode Fayemi (Solid Minerals), Abdulrahman Dambazau (Interior), Adebayo Shittu (Communications) and Zainab Ahmed (Budget and Planning).