BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA – MINISTER of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Labaran Maku yesterday aid that the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi made himself a whistle blower as well as a voodoo statistician feeding the country with unsubstantiated figures of missing funds.
The minister who stated this while fielding questions from newsmen after defending his ministry’s 2014 budget proposal at the Senate said that Sanusi as the manager of the nation’s monetary policies who advised the president on monetary issues should have not made himself a whistle blower.
Maku said, “But the reality of what has happened is that there are issues with the account of CBN of 2012 as the president explained. The Financial Reporting Council has said that there are issues that should be addressed so the president returned it back to the council and the council again returned it with some of the items with questions.
“CBN is the nerve centre of the nation’s financial system, if there are problems with it, it means that it can generate a lot of problems in the banking system and the economy and so the president has been trying to sort this out and between him and the CBN governor there have been communications since April 2013.
So, it has nothing to do what my brother Sanusi has said relating to the NNPC. This has been ongoing conversation between them.
“Unfortunately the CBN governor is also the chairman of the board and he can’t sit in a matter he is being investigated for, so, what the president has done as the appointing officer of the CBN was to ask the governor to step aside pending the outcome of the investigating.
“He has not been removed and we don’t know where the uproar is coming from. Are we saying that the queries that were raised relating to the CBN account were false?
In the end if he is fund not guilty he still has his tenure to run.”
On whether the suspension would not affect the ongoing investigation on the alleged unremitted $20 billion, he said, “As for the NNPC don’t forget that a forensic audit of the NNPC has been ordered.
“Remember Sanusi said $49.8 billion was missing, how much do we earn? That means there was a free fall. But the story changed to $20 billion and $10.8 billion so nobody knows the actual figure.
“It is a voodoo statistic that is coming from the CBN governor because if you want to say something relating to the economy as CBN governor, his opinions are seen to be sacrosanct in any country, you don’t say something without verifying it.
“No CBN governor makes statement on his nation’s economy without verifying. Things were done and the president didn’t worry about it and his removal had nothing to do with that. These days we see a lot of outlandish allegations.
“People just make allegations and turn the country into one huge investigation panel, every day the National Assembly is investigating. The role of the CBN governor is that of a quiet role, you don’t even hear them talk and if he makes any statement, it affects the capital market and the entire economy. The president never queried Sanusi for accusing NNPC.”
Maku said that the job of the CBN boss was not that of whistle blowing, adding, “I have not heard in any nation where the central bank governor is a whistle blower. He is the manager of the nation’s monetary policies as an adviser to the president of Nigeria on those issues. So the fact that he has moved from being the CBN governor to whistle blowing is a problem in itself.”
Senator raises alarm over alleged commissioned uncompleted project
At the budget defence, Senator Domingo Obende, All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State accused the minister of going on air to announce that the N800 Okpella Water Scheme was completed and commissioned while in actual sense the projected never neared any completion.
But Maku swiftly denied having said anything like that, saying that he never even went to the project site as a result of time constraint during the good governance tour.
Senator Obende who is the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory while presenting a copy of protest letter from his constituents over the alleged completion and commission of the project asked the minister why he told Edo people that the water project had been completed, paid for and commissioned.
He said he was particularly concerned not only because the project is located in his Edo North Senatorial District but also because he had received uncountable number of petitions from his constituents demanding to know why the project was said to have been completed when the opposite was the case.
Senator Obende said, “Mr. Minister, the Okpella Water Scheme project, N800 million, was assumed to have been completed and money paid and commissioned. You spoke about it during your good governance tour of Edo State.
“I also want to know when you get information from Ministries, Departments and Agencies whether you verify and cross-check such information before you inform Nigerians.
“I am concerned about this project because it is located in my Senatorial District and I have received petitions upon petitions about this project which is far from being completed. I want to know what happened.”
However, Maku said that he did not go to Edo State to commission projects as claimed by the Senator explained that it was after his tour of government projects in the state there was a forum in the state capital where people were given opportunity to ask questions.
He noted that nobody raised the issue of Okpella and wondered where the issue of Okpella Water Scheme came up.
The minister insisted that he never said that the project had been completed.
On the Boko Haram insurgency, he said that there was no doubt that the country was virtually at war with the insurgents, adding, “through information, some Nigerians who erroneously thought that Boko Haram is some kind of social movement have changed their perception of the sect.”
The Minister also faulted States government for blocking opposition political parties from having access to public media organisations.
According to him, all political parties were given unfettered access to public media organisations at the federal level while the reverse was the case in the States, regretting that the problem where States government shut out the opposition parties from the use of public media undermined the image of the country.
“Today, the NTA, FRCN, NAN and VON have become the only public information platforms that are open to all political parties. We have noticed gradually that apart from NTA, FRCN at the national level, in the States there is no access to public information platforms.
“I can tell you that in some States even if you pay nobody will carry it. They will tell you that there is no space. This is a very major problem, especially, as we are going into election soon. As a manager of public relations in Nigeria, these things are damaging the image of Nigeria,” he said.
Maku told the committee that the total budget proposal for the Ministry of Information and it’s various parastatal in 2014 was N26.57 billion. Out of which, recurrent expenditure was N22.43 billion while the estimates for capital expenditure was N3.62 billion.
He said in the 2013 the Ministry got a total budget of N5.2 billion out of which N2.9 billion was actually released for expenditure and that the Government Printing Press was yet to be functional due to the non-availability of funds to revive the project.
He prayed the committee to help the Ministry to raise funds to ensure take off of the project because according to him, “this would add value to the industry.”
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe frowned that sensitive issues concerning government were been printed outside the government printing press which he said was not good for the image of the country.
Senator Abaribe said the committee had promised Nigerians some years ago that sensitive materials would not be printed outside the government printing press and advised the minister to ensure that before 2015 the printing press would be functional even as he assured that the committee was ready to assist in any way there were challenges to realize that.