We are disturbed by the latest falsehood published in The Nation newspaper of Monday, 16 May, 2016, and the theatre of the absurd currently playing out in the Federal Information and Culture Ministry, following the recent leak of a letter requesting a loan of N13.2 million from the National Broadcasting Commission to facilitate Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s travel to China.
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For the avoidance of doubts, we are a group of public servants opposed to corruption and with revulsion for the minister’s gratuitous recklessness. We would have elected to leave the unfolding drama of corruption in the Ministry to the judgement of the reading public without this eye-witness account, but for the lying minister’s latest decision to enlist his brothers in The Nation newspapers to wage a media war on imagined ‘enemies’ and ‘saboteurs’.
We believe that no objective Nigerian, who has read the published stories on this matter so far, would require an electronic Lie-Detector to be convinced that the minister’s series of explanations were bunkum. You don’t have to be a Civil Servant or a Federal Auditor to know that even the National Broadcasting Commission itself could not duly process or pay that N13.2 million for any purpose outside what it was meant for without the Accountant General of the Federation’s official approval.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed misinformed the nation in one of his numerous bogus public rebuttals that it was normal in Government for a Chief Executive to take such ‘loans’ from parastatals under his charge as if they were banks or money lenders. He also sought to drag in the name of Mr. President by emphasizing that his China trip received Presidential endorsement and that, apart from the tourism conference in China, he was additionally going to explore the Chinese market and negotiate with manufacturers of ‘set top boxes’ required for Nigeria’s Digital Switchover as if those were the issues at stake. He additionally deceived the reading public with insinuations about a Cabal in the National Broadcasting Commission resisting his anti-corruption steps and fighting back. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Was it the Cabal that advised him to be soliciting for money from his parastatals?
A peculiar problem with the fight against corruption in Nigeria is that it is the corrupt officials themselves who usually dominate the airwaves. While they openly condemn financial crimes on the radio and pontificate about graft on the television, they return to the secrecy of their offices to count the number of ‘Ghana Must Gos’ brought in so far! In other climes where corruption is being honestly fought, stakeholders would have swiftly moved to verify the truth or falsehood in this matter while looking into the vouchers and retirements of the minister’s unspeakably reckless expenditures from the ministry’s vote in general.
The fact is that long before the recent media leak, stories of the minister’s profligacy in the ministry were legion, ranging from his persistent fleecing of the ministry’s recurrent account, ostensibly for tours of media houses, and his frequent solicitations for money from virtually all the 15 parastatals under his charge.
Indeed, the leaked NBC solicitation was the 3rd this year alone. And it would have sailed through as smoothly as ever, but for the newness in the office of the acting Director General who had stubbornly insisted that he be ‘assisted’ with a ‘small note’ for his record. Under the more experienced departed Director General, such a deal would have been verbally struck and the cash swiftly delivered in a ‘Ghana-Must-Go’. It appeared that persistent solicitations from the minister were condoned by some of the sacked Directors General to guarantee the continuity of their looting, until the Tsunami that recently washed them away arrived. There are even talks of one of them parting with a brand new Jeep.
Before now, and as a result of his macabre dance of sleaze since his appointment, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had been a butt of jokes among observers in the Ministry as one of the members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Cabinet clearly not on the same page with him on his avowed fight against corruption.
In the interest of CHANGE, and in order to ensure the success of the ongoing fight against corruption, therefore, we are seizing this opportunity to urge all well-meaning media of public information and anti-corruption agencies not to allow Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s excesses to be swept under the carpet, but to beam their investigative searchlights on the unmistakable story of executive greed and graft unfolding in the ministry.
Garba Mohammed Tukur
For: Anti-corruption Group