Sunday, 27 January 2013

Presidency faults Ezekwesili on alleged misuse of $67b reserves

CITING misinformation, the Federal Government at the weekend debunked the allegation made by the former Vice-President World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, that the Presidents Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan administrations squandered the $67 billion reserves (including $45 billion in external and $22 billion in the excess crude account) left behind by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Also, Ezekwesili has charged Nigerians not to be afraid to demand accountability and good governance. She said good governance increases service delivery and provides strong leadership, adding that governance was considered to be okay when it was free from corruption and accountable to the people.
Ezekwesili was said to have made the allegation at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) convocation on January 24, 2013.
Addressing reporters in Abuja Sunday, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, faulted Ezekwesili’s claims, stressing that it lacked facts.
The minister explained that since President Obasanjo left office, the nation’s reserves had risen and fallen, adding that the fluctuations was as a result of the global financial crisis.
Maku queried the former World Bank Vice-president on N352.3 billion she collected when she was the former Minister of Education and other educational interventional fund asking on what impact it had on education during her time.
He stressed that despite the challenges faced by the current administration, there was the need for people to acknowledge government’s achievement.
Maku added: “The recent statements by Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili at the UNN’s convocation ceremony on January 24, 2013, betray a surprisingly limited understanding of government finances. These statements are even more curious in light of the fact that she held senior positions in government, and more recently, a position as a vice president of World Bank. However, rather than speculate about her motives, we would focus on the facts.
The statement by the former World Bank Vice President that Presidents Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan squandered $67 billion in reserves (including $45 billion in external and $22 billion in the excess crude account) left by Obasanjo administration at the end of May 2007 is factually incorrect. At the end of May 2007, Nigeria’s gross reserves stood at $43.13 billion – comprising the CBN’s external reserves of $31.5 billion, $9.43 billion in the Excess Crude Account, and $2.18 billion in the Federal Government’s saving. These figures can be independently verified from the CBN’s records. The figure of $67 billion alleged in her statement is therefore clearly fictitious “However, since President Obasanjo left office, the reserves have experienced fluctuations, rising from $43.13 billion in May 2007, peaking at $62 billion in September 2008 during the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration when oil prices peaked at $147 per barrel, and falling subsequently to a low $31.7 in September 2011. This fall in reserves was a result of the vicissitudes of the global financial crisis, which caused CBN interventions in the currency market to defend the value of the naira. The excess crude savings, a component of the reserves, was also used to stimulate the economy at the height of the global financial crisis to the tune of about $1 billion (or 0.5 per cent of our 2009 GDP). As a result, Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world that did not seek assistance from international financial institutions. It should be noted that the fiscal stimulus used to shore up the economy during that period was shared by all three-tiers of government, including commitments of about $5.5 billion made under the Obasanjo administration for power projects.”

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