Jonathan in his 52nd Independence Day broadcast told Nigerians that the global corruption watch body, Transparency International, rated Nigeria second after United States in anti-corruption efforts.
The claim has been found to be untrue with many accusing Jonathan of telling a lie.
In fact, TI has reportedly denied issuing such a report.
Furious at the development, the President has reportedly ordered a probe to discover the source of the misinformation.
“In its latest report, Transparency International noted that Nigeria is the second most improved country in the effort to curb corruption. We will sustain the effort in this direction with an even stronger determination to strengthen the institutions that are statutorily entrusted with the task of ending this scourge,” Jonathan had told the nation on October 1.
The President had made a similar claim at an interdenominational church service held on Sunday as part of the activities marking the nation’s 52nd Independence anniversary.
But an online publication, Premium Times, reports that TI refuted the claim when it was contacted.
“Transparency International does not have a recent rating or report that places Nigeria as the second most improved country in the fight against corruption,” Premium Times quoted the organisation to have said in a mail.
A source said since he had based his speech on information made available to him by his aides, the President promptly ordered the probe of the source of the claim.
An insider in the Presidency told The PUNCH on Tuesday that the President’s media handlers met on the issue.
They were said to have directed one of the presidential aides, Mr. Reno Omokri, to probe the source of the false claim.
Already, Omokri had reportedly concluded his findings which showed that the piece of information was lifted from a publication in the BusinessDay of September 12, 2012 edition.
Curiously, the memo in which Omokri reported his findings to other aides had found its way to the websites of some online publications on Tuesday.
The memo was also published on the website of the Ministry of Information, http://www.fmi.gov.ng/, as a rejoinder under the headline, “Mr. President’s statement was based on notorious facts.”
In the memo, Omokri who signed simply as Reno, said the President’s claim was based on a newspaper report.
“On this issue, the media published their synopsis of the most recent Transparency International report and BusinessDay, a well respected newspaper with a bias for business reporting, in a headline on the 12th of September 2012 with the title “FG’s anti-corruption initiative impacts Nigeria’s global perception” said, ‘The survey on global corruption perceptions for 2011 versus 2001 showed that the third best improvement in the world was in Nigeria, with its score improving by 1.5 points.’
“For a section of the opposition to now cast aspersions on the integrity of the President when he relied on notorious facts (anything published in the press and which remains unchallenged is a notorious fact) is proof positive of the now obvious fact that they lack ideas on how to move Nigeria forward and would rather snipe at efforts of the President to move the nation forward for which any patriot would do.”
Official reactions normally bear the full names and designations of the authors of such documents.
Our correspondent learnt that the development had caused panic in the Presidency with fear of dismissal already gripping some top officials.
In his reaction, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, told journalists on Tuesday that Nigerians should focus more on thePresident’s message.
He said, “The President’s message is that this administration is tackling corruption. The revelations from the pension scam and the fuel subsidy scam as well as the sanitation of activities at the ports all came to be because the President sanctioned them.
“People should focus on the message, namely that a lot of progress has been made and is still being made to tackle corruption in the system.
“There are lot of people outside there who mislead Nigerians that nothing is being done. These people tackle individuals.
“What the President did was that he fired hope and promised his rededication to the service of the nation. There are those who are looking for a way to water down the message.”