Over $6.5 billion stolen in Nigeria in seven years: Minister

AFP , Monday 18 Jan 2016

Nigerian state governors, ministers, business leaders, public officials and bankers allegedly stole $6.7 billion in public funds in seven years, information minister Lai Mohammed said on Monday.

Mohammed told reporters in the capital, Abuja, that some 1.34 trillion naira ($6.72 billion, 6.15 billion euros) was allegedly stolen between 2006 and 2013 by just 55 people.

"The situation is dire and the time to act is now," he added.

Giving a breakdown of the alleged theft, Mohammed claimed:

- 15 former state governors stole 146.84 billion naira

- 11 businessmen took 653 billion naira

- Eight people in the banking industry stole 524 billion naira

- 12 former state and federal public servants made off with more than 14 billion naira

- Five former lawmakers pilfered 8.35 billion naira

- four former ministers took seven billion naira.

The period covered starts toward the end of the second term in office for Nigeria's first civilian president after military rule, Olusegun Obasanjo. He was replaced in 2007 by Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

Goodluck Jonathan took over in 2010 when Yar'Adua died in office.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May last year, vowing to crack down on endemic corruption in Africa's most populous nation.

He accused Jonathan's administration of leaving the treasury "virtually empty" and vowed to recover what he said were "mind-boggling" sums stolen from the public purse.

Former national security advisor Sambo Dasuki and a string of high-profile figures are currently facing corruption charges over allegedly bogus arms deals to the tune of $2 billion.

Last Friday, the investigation was widened to military top brass who served under Jonathan.

Mohammed said tackling corruption was central to Buhari's administration but added that it involved everyone.

"This is Nigeria's war," he said.

Nigeria's main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused Buhari of conducting a witch-hunt against its members. Obasanjo, Yar'Adua and Jonathan were all PDP presidents.

But the current All Progressives Congress (APC) government would not spare anybody who has stolen public funds, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity or religion, added Mohammed.

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