By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
The Federal Government, has stated that the sum of N54.8billion has been recovered from suspects in the ongoing probe into the arms purchase scandal.
About $2.1b was allegedly diverted and shared among some powerful people during the previous administration by the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the disclosure in Abuja on Saturday during a press conference.
He, however, declined to give the breakdown or names of those who have made refunds, saying doing so may jeopardize further refunds and ongoing investigations and trials.
He noted that his revelation about looted funds, evils of corruption in the country â€œmade headlines within and outside Nigeria, to such an extent that the US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, included it in his speech at this yearâ€™s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, a development that is widely seen as an acknowledgement of the anti-corruption fight of this administration.â€
The minister, however, alerted that corruption was already fighting back. According to him, â€I can tell you today that corruption is already fighting back, and it is fighting hard and dirty.
Sponsored articles have started appearing in the newspapers and in the social media, while â€˜Talking Headsâ€™ have started making the rounds in the electronic media, all deriding the fight against corruption as well as this administration.
Not stopping there, they have been creating distractions by sponsoring articles in both local and international media to deride the administrationâ€™s policies generally, tag the President a budding dictator and even write off his 2016 budget. We know that the sole purpose of these attacks is to distract attention from the war on corruption.â€
He lamented that some otherwise credible voices have unwittingly allowed themselves to be railroaded into the bandwagon of pro-corruption orchestra, stressing that, â€œThey engage sophistry to try to rally Nigerians against the anti-corruption battle.â€
He said, â€œOne hack writer even said the disclosure that 55 Nigerians allegedly stole 1.34 trillion naira between 2006 and 2013 did not trigger any anger among Nigerians.
â€œA disclosure that made the front page in over a dozen Nigerian newspapers played widely in the international media and attracted the attention of the worldâ€™s most powerful country and global financial institutions cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
â€œAlso, one of those who benefitted from the Dasukigate even had the temerity to deride the anti-corruption war as â€˜selectiveâ€™, when in saner climes, he should have been so ashamed of himself that he would have apologised to the nation and hunkered downâ€¦for good.â€
Mohammed predicted that, â€œThese sponsored attacks are not about to stop. In fact, they will become more intense and more coordinated in the days ahead,â€ adding however, that â€œthe good news is that we are winning the war. Nigerians are now talking more about corruption. Nigerians are now counting the cost of corruption to their lives.â€
The minister expressed regrets that whereas the national budget had been on steady increase since 1999, poverty had also increased in the land in the same proportion due to corruption.
He said, â€œHave you noticed that whereas Nigeriaâ€™s national budget has increased from just over 900 billion Naira in 1999 to over 6 trillion Naira in 2016, poverty has also increased almost by the same proportion? The reason is not farfetched: Appropriated funds have mostly ended up in the pockets of a few looters.Â