By Usama Dandare
It is no more news that the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has undoubtedly squandered Nigeria’s goodwill and left the nation in Chapter 11. The tumultous widespread and unchecked corruption, impunity, scandals in the oil sector, and delinquency put on public ballyhoo during the last six years with Jonathan on the mantle were perhaps the genesis of today’s fiscal difficulties ravaging the Nigerian states coupled with dwindling oil prices in the global market. It is clear even to the blind that Nigeria as a nation has gone extremely broke, leaving several states governments and federal agencies unable to pay workers salary for several months and beyond.
Controversies and rejoinders trails the June 22 declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari that his government inherited a ‘virtually empty treasury’ from the past notorious regime of Goodluck Jonathan, one of interest was the plain denial by one Dr. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, an ex-Minister and Deputy Chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC) in which he claimed that the Jonathan government left ₦6trn (US$30bn) in the nation’s treasury for the new regime of President Buhari as at May 29. Insisting that President Muhammadu Buhari’s statements are “unscientific and unfair,” saying ex-President Jonathan “left behind close to US$30 billion.” And on this i set to opine; that the ex-minister isn’t only misleading the gullible population but making mockery of our collective sense of reasoning.
In clarification, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister and Vice President of the World Bank, and also the co-founder of Transparency International, gave more insight into the raging controversy in a series of tweets, she said: the $30bn claimed by the ex-minister were the “balance of whatever Oil Revenue Dollars, Federal Government did not “sell” to CBN to get Naira that it save as Excess Crude Account and that Jonathan administration left only $2B” not $30bn in the ECA against Dr. Sulaiman claims. She elaborated that “when the Federal Government earns Oil Revenue Dollars, the government may not immediately hand over everything to CBN to give it Naira value and such balance is saved as Excess Crude Account (ECA). Mrs. Oby further queried who that ex-Minister could be who doesn’t know that the $30Billion CBN reserve is no longer available for the Federal Government as it has already being collected and spent as Naira?”
Going by Dr. Sulaiman’s recent outburst, it’s veraciously clear that the ex-minister was either endeavoring to score some cheap political points or striving to bulwark those goats that ate our yams and garrison the series of financial devilments of the Jonathan administration or both. If not under the influence of some toxic substance, it’s astonishing how any psychologically fit human who is conversant with happenings within the government domain will agree that the past regime of Goodluck Jonathan can leave behind a huge sum of ₦6trn in the nation’s treasury, when in fact the regime left over ₦7.6trn (US$35bn) deficit?
It’s on record that the Jonathan government was extremely broke that it had to borrow ₦473bn to pay workers salary for the months of April and May in particular. If there was ₦6trn in the nation’s treasury as claimed by Dr. Sulaiman, why would the government borrow to pay salaries?
Is Dr. Sulaiman aware that at the end of May, Nigeria’s External Reserve was far below $30bn? Then how possible could it be for a government that failed to strengthen the nation’s foreign reserve to save such a huge sum of $30bn? As usual, the invisible achievements of the Jonathan government always and only exists on papers.
Does it make sense for any responsible government to borrow $1bn when it have $30bn at it disposal? Can Dr. Sulaiman also put in plain English why the Jonathan government acquired a loan of $1bn to fight insurgency in the north-east if at all there was $30bn in its coffers?
Just of recent in January of 2015 and few weeks to the end of the immediate past regime, the then President Goodluck Jonathan requested to borrow ₦2.97trn (US$5.7bn) from several development partners to finance some of the remaining projects his government has started as he claimed. How can Dr. Sulaiman convince Nigerians that Jonathan government has ₦6trn (US$30bn) in its exchequers and at same time opted for a loan of just ₦2.97trn (US$5.7)?
Moreover, the former President (Goodluck Jonathan) should have cut it short by clearing the air on the country’s financial standings before leaving office which could have saved Dr. Sulaiman from unearthing his gross insincerity and dishonesty to the public domain. The ex-president could have at least – in his handing over speech or note – declared publicly how much was in the governments’ accounts and how much was the government owing as at the expiration of his reign to ward off controversies and heated debates but howbeit, Jonathan was never known for accountability and as things stands, it’s possible that the former President wasn’t even aware of the actual figures or amounts of funds that his administration left behind in government treasury. If Jonathan can forenamed that he can’t elucidate how trillions of Naira were spent in the ongoing fight against the bloodthirsty Boko Haram terrorists because ‘he isn’t incharge’ of the Ministry of Defence, it’s possible for him to be unaware of the nation’s financial standings since he wasn’t incharge of the Minister of Finance either.
Taking into account how desperate President Jonathan and his co-travelers were when it comes to accepting credits even for what they did not do and if at all the $30bn Dr. Sulaiman claimed his boss left in the nation’s treasury were actually there. One must wonder why Jonathan’s vuvuzelas formed deaf ears and decided not to say a bit in the whole controversy, neither Doyin Okupe nor Marilyn Ogar or any other Jonathan attack dogs was bold and courageous enough to counter-fact President Buhari’s claims except one second-rated byproduct who’s trivial throughout the Jonathan administration.
In a nutshell, Dr. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman should take some chilled water to digest his bitterness or hate against Nigeria’s development and always speak with fact and figures to elude further fallacious claims. And by the same token, President Buhari must realize the gigantic task ahead and the burden of high expectations on him and therefore, Nigerians will not accept any excuse of inheriting an empty treasury, i expect the president not to capitalize on this reason (though I am confident he won’t) and should head straight into action. Despite inhering an empty treasury, I strongly believed that by now Nigeria has earned enough revenue to takeoff governance and as such, Nigerians are expecting immediate actions from the people’s president henceforth.