By Ben Agande, Abuja.
The Federal Government, Sunday, reacted angrily to comments by the former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili alleging that the governments of Presidents Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, squandered $67 billion(about N10.6trn) in foreign reserves, describing the allegation as “outlandish and clearly fictitious.”
Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku who addressed a press conference on the allegations by the former Vice President of African Region of the world Bank said the damning verdict passed on the education sector by Mrs Ezekwesili was a self indictment, as she presided over the sector without bringing any positive impact on it.
The Information Minister who was flanked by the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe; Economic Adviser, Prof. Nwanze Okedegbo and Special Adviser on Performance Monitoring, Prof. Sylvester Monye; said the allegations of Ezekwesili were curious in the light of the fact that she has been part of governance in the past.
According to Mr Maku, Ezekwesili’s criticism of the education sector amounts to hypocrisy as she was part of the sector and contributed to its sorry state, because , despite receiving N458.1billion between 2006 and 2007 for the sector, there is nothing to show for it, in terms of achievements.
The Minister said, “If she says education has not worked it means she is saying she did not work”.
He accused the former Education minister of betraying a surprisingly limited understanding of government finances in her comments at Nsukka.
He noted: “These statements are even more curious in light of the fact that she has held senior positions in government, and more recently, a position as a Vice President of the 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 the governments of Presidents Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan have squandered $67 billion in reserves (including $45 billion in external reserves and $22 billion in the Excess Crude Account) left by the 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 savings. 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 of $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 percent 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 3-tiers of government, including commitments of about $5.5 billion made under the Obasanjo Administration for power projects.