Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has refuted reports ascribing a $1.2 billion deposit in a bank account.
He made the denial yesterday while addressing members of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations Practitioners (NIPR) at the annual national conference and general meeting of the body in Ilorin.
The minister faulted the allegation he had such huge amount when the total annual budget of the ministry he heads is under N15 billion.
â€œLetâ€™s examine this for a moment. $1.2 billion is about N400 billion. The entire yearly budget of the Ministry of Information and Culture, where I preside, is under N15 billion, and these include salaries, overhead and capital projects. Assuming, without conceding, that the minister somehow manages to transfer the entire budget into his personal account, it will take 25 years for him to amass N400 billion. Yet, this disinformation was lapped up by the public. Similar imaginary huge sums of money have been credited to other ministers,â€™â€™ Muhammed stressed.
He lamented that daily, the public is fed with incredible tales which they swallow hook, line and sinker, wondering how else to explain that people will believe and circulate a fake report of such.
He took a swipe at the opposition for resorting to ambush and irrational tactics and for fighting an unending war that is amorphously defined, for having no rules of engagement and power without responsibility or control.
â€œFor example, when we inform them of the rot we met in government and the unimaginable body blows that the economy has endured, they shrug it away, saying cynically â€˜we know that, and thatâ€™s why we voted you into office.â€™ When 21 Chibok girls were released, they say itâ€™s a lie. When our Euro-bond was oversubscribed eight times over, they do not consider that news good enough. When we recorded a month-on-month reduction in inflation, they sneer at us. When we said we have saved over N9 billion from travels and estacodes in one year, they feign ignorance and when we said the government is taking unprecedented steps to fight corruption, they accuse us of being selective,â€™â€™ he said.
Mohammed faulted the misuse of the social media, wondering why anyone with a phone and data can claim to be a journalist, a blogger, owner of an online publication, an opinion molder, among others, using the media space to invent stories and even go to the extent of using money to push such phantom stories.
He admitted that a modern day perception manager, especially at the government level, is someone who has signed a contract, the terms of which he or she is not aware of.
He said for a government spokesperson to succeed, he must be a Cicero, a Socrates, an Albert Einstein and a Machiavelli all rolled into one.