More than N10 trillion of Nigeria’s oil savings bequeathed by former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to successors, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, was “squandered”, former World Bank executive, and key minister under Mr. Obasanjo’s administration, Oby Ezekwesili, has said.
Ms. Ezekwesili, a former minister of education, and a member of Mr. Obasanjo’s administration’s inner circle of trusted officials, said $45 billion was left as foreign reserves and additional $22 billion in the Excess Crude Account.
Six years after Mr. Obasanjo left office, no major investment or infrastructure has been put on ground by Messrs Yar’Adua and Mr. Jonathan (who served first as Vice president under Mr. Yar’Adua) to justify the huge sum which is more than twice Nigeria’s entire budget.
Ms. Ezekwesili spoke at the 42nd convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, her Alma Mata, from where she graduated in 1985.
“The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is however much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s,” she spoke, of the massive frittering of oil resources that successive administrations have inflicted on Nigeria.
“It is happening back to back with the squandering of the significant sum of $45 Billion in foreign reserve account and another $22Billion in the Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007.
“One cannot but ask, what exactly does Nigeria seek to symbolize and convey with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources plus the additional several billions of dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last six years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately, misapplied?”
Ms. Ezekwesili led Mr. Obasanjo’s government’s remarkably successful drive at reforming government contracting procedure directed from the Due Process office. She was later named the minister of education in the final years of the administration.
Ms. Ezekwesili, now Senior Economic Adviser, Africa Economic Policy Development Initiative, said she realized how severe the nation’s education woes had been while she headed the ministry.
Her efforts at reforms failed to yield as the government soon left office.
In a lengthy presentation to graduating students who she urged to lead a new generation of change for the country, Ms. Ezekwesili painted the well-known sobering picture of Nigeria’s decades of oil wealth and how each administration since independence has not been an exception at wasting them through “tragic choices”.
“Neither our thirty four years of cumulative military governance nor the nineteen cumulative years thus far of our democratic governance provided us “inclusive and accountable governance,” she said.
“Instructively, a person or as in our own case; a nation is counseled to “stop digging when in a hole”. Lamentably, in our case we have consistently rebuffed the wisdom behind that counsel. We have instead dug deeper and the more we have dug, the deeper into the hole we have sunk and all because of political misadventures.”
The Yar’Adua and Jonathan administrations have been accused in the past of squandering Mr. Obasanjo’s savings, and Mr. Jonathan has particularly been accused of returning the country to debt with repeated borrowings.
Mr. Obasanjo’s administration’s saved funds started getting depleted soon after 2007; yet, no major new roads, rails, power infrastructures or job creation initiative have been cited as investments justifying the amount.
Critics have accused the Jonathan administration of using part of the money to execute the 2011 elections, allegation Mr. Obasanjo himself, faced during the 2003 and 2007 elections.
A new law has recently converted the Excess Crude Account to Sovereign Wealth Fund, potentially limiting access to its value, but governors insist accumulated oil sales differentials be shared.