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Over $9 billion stolen in Nigeria in seven years: Minister

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Nigerian Information Minister Lai Mohammed

Fifty-five Nigerians, including former ministers, governors, business leaders and public officials, have stolen nine billion dollars in public funds in seven years, the information minister claims.

Addressing reporters at a Monday press conference in the Nigerian capital Abuja, Lai Mohammed said that the money was stolen between 2006 and 2013, without identifying the accused.

The looted funds could have built 36 hospitals or educated 4,000 children through university, Mohammed said.

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

The minister also appealed to Nigerians to join the fight against corruption that is crippling Africa's biggest economy, population and oil producer. 

"If we don't kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria," he stressed.

According to Mohammed, the stolen money included USD 2.1 billion meant to buy weapons to fight the Boko Haram terrorist group but instead was diverted to the election campaign of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Jonathan lost the March 2015 presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent, who has promised to halt corruption and end the Boko Haram militancy.

The Takfiri group has killed some 20,000 people in Nigeria and hundreds of others in neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad since the beginning of its campaign of terror in 2009.

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