First, the Federal Government must listen to public opinion on what it should do with the recovered stolen money. Based on the recommendations and suggestions people make, they should prayerfully seek God’s will on what it should be used for.
Personally, I think the money should be used to improve the welfare of the masses. It should be used to provide the basic necessities of life for the ordinary people. Part of it should go into infrastructure development. But if you consider our state of economy, you would agree that agriculture is vital to economic diversification.
Infrastructure such as roads, schools and bridges are important but quite expensive. But if we focus on agriculture and allied industries, the economy would grow fast and we would be able to spend much on infrastructure in future. You cannot build infrastructure without making an adequate provision for maintenance. We may not be able to afford that now. So, we need to get our priorities right. Now that we are talking of diversification, we must focus our attention on agriculture.
Some of the money should go into transport. We need to have rail lines connecting the major cities across the country. That would help people to transport goods and move around with ease. The country’s rail system was destroyed by haulage operators in the most unethical way. We should begin to seriously pay attention to that area.
We should focus on reducing the volume of imported goods. To achieve this, investing in agriculture and local industries is very important.
It is difficult for anybody to understand the true position of things on the issue of recovered loot. At some point, the government said the stolen money was being recovered from corrupt past public officials. At another point, we heard there were no recoveries. One could only give a meaningful piece of advice if one is sure that funds have actually been recovered.
If, indeed, there were recoveries, government should look at social schemes that could reduce the hardship people are experiencing. There is so much poverty and suffering in the land; it is the responsibility of the government to respond with different palliative measures.
Government officials are quick to promise that they are talking to foreign investors. Which part of the country is currently safe for investment? No part of the country is safe. So, government should invest a substantial amount of the recovered funds in programmes that would reduce the level of insecurity. We must tackle insecurity in a sincere and proactive manner; otherwise, no serious investor would invest in the country.
Beyond mere promises, the Federal Government should come up with practical and enforceable diversification programmes. There is too much attention on oil and this is the reason why militants have been holding the country hostage. Part of the money should go into agriculture and other areas that would expand the sources of national revenue. We cannot continue to really on oil.
Notwithstanding the turbulent economic atmosphere prevalent in the country at the moment, with patience and understanding, Nigerians would certainly profit from the apparent harsh remedial economic policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government in the long run. On a short-run basis, however, there is the need for the government to alleviate the sufferings of the masses in order to sustain the confidence of the people.
Be that as it may, the Buhari administration should deploy a part of the recovered stolen funds towards bringing down the cost of food items. Eliminating hunger and poverty would help to improve the quality of life of the people. Government should use a part of the funds to pay salary arrears at all levels: federal, state and local government. Factories are closing down and this is culminating in job loss due to high cost of doing business. The Buhari administration should thus use the funds to subsidise prices of diesel, kerosene and other petroleum products. This would bring ailing companies back into operation, thereby restoring jobs.
I am in full support of the recovery of public money that was stolen through whatever means. With the support of Nigerians, I believe that the country’s looted funds would be recovered. I also believe that the manner the money is utilised is as important as the recovery itself. I am persuaded that similar recovered looted funds in the past were not properly utilised. We must not allow that to happen again.
The money should go to targeted areas that would improve the lives of the people. The way to use such money in a poor country is to invest it in human capital development and infrastructure. Investment in infrastructure is very important because infrastructure facilitates the creation of jobs.
Many graduates are badly taught in their fields such that it becomes a problem for employers to get competent fresh graduates from the labour market. We have some graduates who cannot read. The country itself has got its priorities wrong. Skill acquisition is traded for all manner of degrees that are not useful to the economy. Wealth creation in any society is not dependent on graduates but artisans. They are the people who create wealth. The emphasis, however, has been on producing graduates who cannot deliver anything. There are companies that would prefer less-qualified foreigners to employing Nigerians with multiple degrees.
The money should be put into relevant skill acquisition programmes. We should look at the areas where we need manpower and invest the money there. We must focus on the kind of education that is relevant to modern economy.
Also, we should move beyond recovering the amount that is stolen. In addition to the original value of the recovered loot, those who looted public funds should be made to pay back the value of the loot with interest. We should entrench a system that compels corrupt officials to pay interest in addition to the amount they stole. The interest rate should be in line with market rate.
We must be careful in the way we go about the recovery. This is because people who had allegedly looted public resources in the past are among those who are recovering the money. Those people are part of the government.
We have had terrible experiences with recovered loot. The experiences have been the same – at both the federal and state levels. Resources were recovered just to be stolen by those who recovered them. The story of a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is still fresh in our memory. This is the story of a man, who looted recovered loot. Such experiences must not happen again.
The government must ensure that the recovered money is not stolen by another set of criminals who pretend to be acting in public trust. The country is currently going through a recession. So, the money should be judiciously used to fund capital projects. There are a lot of uncompleted projects in different parts of the country, including the South-East. The money should be used to complete those projects.
We can even use it to fund universities. Authorities of the country’s universities have always complained of underfunding. They should benefit from the money.
But beyond what the public says, we need to know what the President has in mind. Why has he not disclosed how it would be spent? He should be able to provide a template that we can all examine. At a point, he said it would be used to finance the budget.
But whatever it would be used for, no government official should misappropriate a kobo of the money. There are several capital projects in different parts of the country. The Federal Government should use the money to the benefit of all Nigerians. This would reduce the current restiveness in different parts of the country.
Several state governments are currently owing their employees. Part of the money should be used to pay salary arrears of workers in the states. We cannot allow them to continue to die in hunger.