Senior Nigerian officials stole billions of dollars including 2.1 billion dollars appropriated to buy weapons to fight against Islamist group, Boko Haram.
According to Nigerian finance minister Lai Mohammed, the money meant to curb the six-year Islamic uprising in which 20,000 people have been killed, was instead diverted to funding former president Goodluck Jonathan’s election campaign.
Mohammed said overall the thieves, about 55 in number and among them former governors, Cabinet ministers and government workers, stole $9 billion dollars from Nigeria’s treasury.
Mohammed made the allegations as he kicked off a ‘national sensitization campaign’, appealing to Nigerians to join the fight against corruption that is crippling what should be a rich nation with Africa’s biggest economy, population and oil production.
He said the looted 1.35 trillion Nigerian naira, stolen between 2006 and 2013, could have built 36 hospitals or educated 4,000 children through university. At the time the naira stood at about 150 to the dollar, half today’s value. Mohammed did not identify the 55 accused but said bankers and businessmen are among them.
Jonathan lost March 2014 elections to former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, who has promised to halt corruption and the insurgency.
Buhari said Monday that a multinational force has driven Boko Haram into “fall-back positions” and uprooted them from all territory they held.
Mohammed denied that the war against corruption was a vendetta against the opposition. He said, “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
Nigeria’s judiciary is critical to the fight, he said. Three different courts have granted bail to Jonathan’s former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who is accused of being instrumental in the theft of the $2.1 billion and has said he diverted the money on Jonathan’s orders. But Buhari has said he will not allow Dasuki out of detention.