President Muhammadu Buhari is under pressure from the Nigerian elite to soft pedal on the war against corruption, his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, said yesterday.
Vice President Osinbajo spoke at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja during a meeting with a delegation of the Muslim Congress of Nigeria (MCN).
He said the government had been receiving regular messages from the elite asking it to “cool down” on the anti-graft war.
They argued that corruption was not a big deal and that Buhari should merely ask the looters to return the money and go, he said.
This is in the wake of the ongoing probe and prosecution of persons for the alleged diversion of $2.1 billion meant for arms purchases, which Buhari last week described as a tip of the iceberg.
Osinbajo did not name those elite, but added that they cut across all sections of the country.
The vice president, however, vowed that such pressure would not deter the government from its effort to rid Nigeria of corruption.
“We get regular messages from some Nigerian elite saying cool down. It is a very strange morality that some of those people have, very complicated but cutting across all tribes and religious differences”, he said.
Osinbajo noted that it was, however, encouraging that the Nigerian masses had a clearer understanding of “right and wrong.
“Although some elite are saying it is not a big deal, and that government should merely ask the looters of the commonwealth of the nation to return the money and go; a new tribe of Nigerians who will not compromise their values, but will maintain a sense of right and wrong is now emerging.
“The man on the street is very clear. So, whatever some of these elite say, we shall keep our focus on the masses who voted for us”, the vice president said.
He added that due to corruption, no federal road or rail project was completed in the last 16 years; a situation he described as simply unacceptable.
The cost of projects, he noted, was often inflated as people entrusted with public trust struggle to enrich themselves at the expense of the people.
He said owing to the inordinate desire for enrichment, funds meant for arms procurement were shared at a time when Nigeria’s territorial integrity was being attacked.
“The insurgency has gone on for six years because government could not adequately equip the military”, the vice president stated.
Osinbajo added: “Mr. President and I are extremely focussed on what we need to do. We will focus on critical things, infrastructure and social investments”.