Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, said corruption remained the ultimate threat to the nation’s economy, insisting that government can do more with less income if graft was controlled.
Osinbajo, who stated this in Lagos, while speaking at the Platform Nigeria 2018, organised by Covenant Christian Centre, tasked the citizenry to contribute to nation-building by doing their bit with excellence.
He recalled how Nigeria lost over $3 billion to the Strategic Alliance contracts the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and some companies signed during the previous administration, insisting that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government has achieved more in the area of infrastructural development with limited funds.
His words: “Grand corruption remains the ultimate threat to our economy. Just to give an example; $3 billion was stolen through the so-called Strategic Alliance contracts in 2015. Three Nigerians were responsible. Today, $3 billion is an equivalent of N1 trillion and our entire budget estimate, not actual cash is N7 trillion. Three people made away with N1 trillion and the entire national budget is N7 trillion.
“You cannot wonder how come it is that our economy was struggling, when oil was selling at between $100 and $114 per barrel. The government then spent N99 billion on Works, Transport got N14 billion, while Agriculture got N15 billion. All these ministries put together got N139 billion.
“Today, with oil price at between $60 and $70 per barrel, the ministries of Works, Power and Housing can get N415 billion; Agriculture gets N80 billion; Transport gets N65 billion and the total is N560 billion. How come we can do more with less income?
“How come we are able to invest in infrastructure? How come we can invest in the Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail line, the Mambila power plant, second Niger Bridge with 60 per cent less income than we earned few years ago? The truth is that if you control corruption, you can do more with far less.”
Challenging Nigerians on nation-building, Osinbajo said: “The task of nation building is never done. The builders confront new problems every day. Today, we are confronted with the remnants of Boko Haram, the farmers/herdsmen clashes with the potential of ethno-religious conflict, we have to feed ourselves, we have to provide millions of new jobs and every day, more people are added to the population.
“The job of the builder is not to complain or to escape, but to confront and to resolve. But, what we can do together to ensure that we don’t spend the rest of our days looking towards the past frozen by inaction, is to resolve not to do the same thing over and over again, while hoping to get a better result.
“I believe that the solution is in building that Nigerian bridge. The bridge is not one to be built on steel, it is one to be built of the strongest material of all – our will to excel, our commitment to build a new society, men and women of a new Nigerian tribe. This is a bridge that can connect us across tribes, ethnicities, dialects; a bridge that connect us across religion, politics and even generations.
Former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and 2019 presidential aspirant, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, who also spoke at the event, said it was time to shake the table of Nigeria’s current political class if desired change is to be achieved.
He said: “Our choice as a people is as stark today as it ever has been: we have a choice between dinosaurs and deliverance. If we continue to be led by these dinosaurs and the people they endorse, the sunlight of our hopes for Nigeria will continue to be blotted out by dark clouds of incompetence, corruption, economic illiteracy and primitive tribalism.
“It is time for all of you who are tired, like I am tired. It is time to make things happen. It is time to pump fresh ideas into solving our problems. It is time to drive the point home that Nigeria is nothing without the people — and the people need to come first from now on.
“It is time to shake the table of Nigeria’s current political class. It is time for us to get off the side lines and come together as one to change the course of this nation. There is no need staying in different camps if we can come together to shake up this system. If you are not one of those benefiting directly from this nyama nyama version of Nigeria, then it is safe to say you are of those whose future is being mortgaged.
“Our time has finally come. Let us shock these dinosaurs with our resolve, and our collective capacity. Let us take Nigeria back from those who believe that it belongs to them and their children. “
Another presidential aspirant, Fela Durotoye, who called for election of competent hands into power, stressed the need to hold those in positions of authority accountable.
“Nigeria is divided along ethnic and religious lines. And those who divide us are doing so as to continue ruling us. One of the things that needs to be done in our country to make it great is that we need to build a nation not divided on ethnic or religious lines.
“Governance is not as complicated as we are made to think. It is people who are complicated that are in governance. Governance requires competent and compassionate people. We need people who have compassion for our nation,” he said.