by Ibrahim Faruk
The furore surrounding the speech by Obiageli Ezekwesili continues to rage. It seemed like she was a lone voice when she was being attacked by the Presidents men – Labaran Maku, Reno Omokori and Doyin Okupe, but now her supporters have found their voice.
First, the CNPP gave an ultimatum to Labaran Maku to face Ezekwesili in a debate within 7 days.
Now, Femi Fani-Kayode has also lent his voice in support. He wrote a statement concerning Ezekwesili’s allegation of depletion of $67bn Nigeria’s Foreign Reserve by the Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan administrations.
Fani-Kayode is the former Aviation Minister under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. His full statement on the matter, which backed Ezekwesili in a roundabout kind of way, was made available to new agencies.
“On Obiageli Ezekwesili’s challenge to the President Jonathan-led Federal Government to a public debate on the depleted$67bn depleted foreign reserve, they (FG) ought to have accepted the challenge of a debate. Let Nigerians listen to that and make up their minds. I thought that Doyin Okupe’s
response to Obiageli Ezekwesili was more powerful and made more sense than Labaran Maku’s but I still believe that Obiageli Ezekwesili was right.
“The charge that our foreign reserves were heavily depleted between 2007 and 2013 cannot be denied. In 2007, former President Obasanjo left 45 billion USD in our foreign reserves and 22 billion USD in our Excess Crude Account. If the two figures are added up the amount that you will come up with is 67 billion USD of savings for our country. This is the figure that Obiageli Ezekwesili cited. It represents what was in both our foreign reserves and our Excess Crude Account put together.
“By the Federal Government’s own admission, and four long years after leaving 45 billion USD for the Yar’adua administration to manage in 2007, we still only have that same 45 billion USD left in our foreign reserves. This was after it had plummeted to a shameful 30 billion USD under late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua. Had it not been for the fact that whatever was coming in after we left in 2007 and over the last 4 years was being recklessly shared and spent by the Yar’adua and later Jonathan administrations our foreign reserves ought to have doubled and reached at least 100 billion US dollars by now. That is just the foreign reserves alone and I am not even adding the Excess Crude Account figures yet. If I were to do that I would be
talking about an expected increase of up to 150 billion USD by now. That is what we ought to have in the kitty today if the two governments that succeeded Obasanjo knew anything about prudence and fiscal discipline.
“The difference is that under Obasanjo it was ‘save, save, save’ whilst under Yar’adua and later Jonathan it has been ”spend, spend, spend’. The question is what do they have to show for such high expenditure and what has this cost the Nigerian people in real terms. I believe that these are legitimate questions.
“Obi (Ezekwesili) may have been inelegant or a little harsh with her words and she may have upset the government but her analysis cannot be
faulted. Yet the Government has given no reasonable explanation and they do not even like the fact that questions are being asked.
“As a a matter of fact they appear to feel that it is an achievement to be exactly where we were four years ago in terms of our foreign reserve savings by openly boasting that they have 45 billion USD there today. The questions that we should put to them are as follows – did you not save anything in the last 4 years in either the foreign reserves or the Excess Crude Account? Where did all the money that accrued to you and that you ought to have saved go? How come 4years after being handed 45 billion in foreign reserves and after billions have come into your hands since through crude oil sales you still only have 45 bilion left? Is this not absurd and shameful?
“It is not surprising then that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. David Cameron, asked just two days ago where the 100 billion USD that Nigeria received from oil sales in the last few years have gone. It is not something that our government should be proud of that 4 years after Obasanjo handed 45 billion USD to them in our foreign reserves they have not built on it in all that time but rather they have spent all the receivables and inflows that came in after that time and that ought to have been saved.
“Yet the story does not stop there. Apart from the sorry tale about our foreign reserves, the tale about the usage of our Excess Crude Account is even worse.
“It goes like this. When we left power in 2007 the Excess Crude Account had just over 22 billion USD in it’s coffers. This figure was built up by Obasanjo from zero in 1999 because at that time there was no Excess Crude Account. In 8 years he built it up from zero to 22 billion USD. Yet when the Yara’dua administration and later the Jonathan administration came in ALL the money in that account was shared with the state governors and spent.
“The Federal Government saved nothing for a rainy day and instead chose to just spend all the money. It was was initially run down to zero by President Umar Yar Adua but, in fairness to President Jonathan, he has now been able to build it up to approximately 10 billion USD. This represents approximately half the figure that Obasanjo left in that account in 2007 but at least it is a step in the right direction. Yet if both the Yar adua and Jonathan government’s had continued to save and not just spend all the money we would have had at least 50 billion USD in the Excess Crude Account today and not just a paltry 10.
“Whichever way one looks at it, when one sees all these figures and considers the strong position that we were coming from in 2007 it represents a failure in fiscal discipline by both the Yar’adua and Jonathan administrations. This is because the Fed Governmentt was meant to build up on the legacy they inherited in 2007 and not spend and squander all that money.
“I repeat the fact that had they been doing the right thing and not overspending in the last 4 years we ought to be hitting at least 100 billion USD in our foreign reserves by now and at least 50 billion in the Excess Crude Account. Yet we have not seen anything near that and instead all we have seen is a depletion and a drain of both accounts and the monies that ought to have accrued to them since 2007.
“Finally President Obasanjo left us with no foreign debt in 2007. Sadly 4 years later we are back in chronic debt to the tune of 9 billion USD and we are still borrowing. In view of the foregoing it is perfectly legitimate for anyone to ask how come so much money was spent, what it was spent on and how the government has managed our resources over the last 4 years.
“Since 2007 we have seen nothing but depletion of our resources and more and more borrowing.
“Unlike President Obasanjo, President Yar Adua and later president Jonathan governments did not build up our reserves or save any money. Instead they both spent recklessly and borrowed more and more. If the way they have been borrowing continues at this rate for another two years Nigeria will be back to having a foreign debt of 30 billion USD. That was where we were in 1999 and if that were to happen it would be a very sad.”