“It is happening back to back with the squandering of the significant sum of 45$billion in foreign reserve account and another $22 Billion in the Excess Crude Account being direct saving from increased earnings from that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007”
– Former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, Speaking at the UNN convocation on January 24, 2013
Former Education Minister, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, recently accused the governments of Late President Umaru Musa Ya’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan of squandering $67 billion left behind by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007. What really are the facts?
FACTS NO. 1
Ezekwesili appears confused over the components of “foreign reserve.” For her education, the excess crude account (ECA) is in fact a component of foreign reserves.
Foreign reserves are made up of CBN reserves, ECA and federal Government savings for a former vice-president of the World Bank, this ignorance is unpardonable.
FACT NO. 2
The foreign reserves Obasanjo left behind were $45bn, out of which $11bn (not $22bn) was in ECA. For someone who calls herself “child of god”, it is unfortunate that she could concoct the $67bn lie just to gain public applause. This is a lie from the pit of hell.
FACT NO. 3
By December 2008, the government of President Ya’Adua had driven the reserves up to $53bn, following high crude oil prices. Therefore, it is wrong to give the impression that only President Obasanjo saved money for the country.
FACT NO. 4
In 2009, there was a sharp fall in crude oil prices. At a time, oil sold for as low as $40 per barrel. This affected the revenue of the federation adversely. At that stage, withdrawals were made from the excess crude account to prevent a fiscal crisis which would have crippled the economy.
Meanwhile, the withdrawals from ECA were announced publicly. Nothing was done secretly.
FACT NO. 5
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as managing director of World Bank, did say during the global crisis in 2009 that the purpose of ECA, which she helped set up, was to “save for the rainy day.” She said the rainy day had finally come and Nigeria could draw from the account to stabilize its finances. Salaries would have gone unpaid for months and projects abandoned, as we all witnessed in 1982-1985 after a similar global economic crisis and low crude oil prices.
FACT NO. 6
The Federal government, the 36 states and 774 council s all shared from the excess crude account. Ezekwesili deliberately lied when she gave the impression that the federal Government squandered the money, knowing very well that the money was shared by all the tiers of government. It is public knowledge that the governors have gone to court seeking a declaration that the excess crude account is illegal. The presidency does not have absolute power over it. Every Nigerian knows this.
FACT NO. 7
To address the power crisis in the country, the National Economic council, made up of all governors and chaired by the vice-president, agreed that the sum of $4.6bn be withdrawn from the excess crude account to finance the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP), Niger delta Power Project and Mambila Power projects. This was widely reported in the media. We can all see the results as power supply has improved.
FACT NO. 8
In the heat of the global finance crisis which affected the Nigerian economy adversely, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had to draw from the external reserves to stabilize the value of the Naira. If not, the Naira would probably be exchanging for over n300 to a dollar today. How can this be classified as “squandering” by any sane human being?
FACT NO. 9
As at January 2013, the reserves stood at $45.3bn. the administration which Ezekwesili claimed to have served left $45bn behind in 2007 after spending eight years in power. That administration did not have to face global financial crisis, falling crude oil security challenges, and a significant increase in the wage bill following Organized Labour’s agitation for a new minimum wage. The administration Ezekwesili claimed to have served did not need to draw from the reserves to shore up the value of the Naira. Pray, who has been more prudent in two years, compared to the previous eight years?
FACT NO. 10
Nigeria did not borrow a cent throughout the global financial crisis. Where does Ezekwesili think the money came from? Is she as ignorant not to know this fact?
While Ezekwesili has been grandstanding on public accountability, the “child of God” has notably kept quiet on the actual squandering of over $16bn on the power sector by the administration she claimed to have served, with nothing to show for it. Today, Nigeria has achieved its highest power generation in history with less than a third of that expenditure. We suggest that Ezekwesili should set up her debating society to discuss these undeniable facts.
Meanwhile, Ezekwesili was until last year a vie-president of the World Bank. When her term was due, the Bank did not renew it. Rather, a Senegalese, Makhtar Diop, was appointed to take over from her.
Ezekwesili is currently on the board of Barthi Airtel. How did she get there?
When Ezekwesili was in charge of Ministry of education, she was a subject of interest from the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences commission (ICPC). JUSTICE Emmanuel Ayoola, former ICPC chairman, is still alive to tell Nigerians the reason for this.
Finally, what exactly did Ezekwsili achieve in government, beyond the media hype? There is a way hype becomes reality. But why is she seeking public attention now?