Ahmed Joda, the Chairman of the transition committee put in place by President Muhammadu Buhari to interface with the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for a smooth handover of power on May 29, has stated that the former president left behind a N7 trillion liability.
This figure contradicts claims by officials of the administration that the country’s debt profile stood at N1.3 trillion.
Mr. Joda made the disclosure in an interview he granted the Daily Trust newspaper, published on Sunday.
Mr. Buhari’s deputy, Yemi Osinbanjo, had said shortly before the handover of power that the new government would be inheriting a debt of $63 billion.
However, the former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, promptly rose to the defence of Mr. Jonathan’s administration, saying of the $63 billion debt, the administration only incurred $21.8 billion.
She also said the $63.7 billion cited by Mr. Osinbajo included multilateral and domestic loans by successive federal and state governments since 1960.
Speaking on Sunday, however, Mr. Joda said, “We were told at the beginning of the exercise that the government was in deficit of at least N1.3 trillion and by the end people were talking about N7 trillion; everything is in a state of collapse.
“The civil service is bloated and the military and police, if you are a Nigerian, you know what they have been facing for a long time; everywhere is in a mess and these things have to be fixed”.
The former Federal Permanent Secretary said he had always wondered what would have been the fate of the country had Mr. Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, returned to power.
He said, “I often wondered, since the beginning of this exercise, if the PDP and president Jonathan had won the election what would have been the fate of Nigeria. It would have been more difficult for them to face the challenge because they had been telling people that everything was good; the roads are good.
“They were not talking about the absence of light in the house, but they were talking about the capacity to produce electricity is 12,000 megawatts out of which only 5,000 could be released. But even out of this 5,000 at the time they were doing the handing over notes only 1,300 megawatts were being generated, but they were talking about 35,000 kilometers of distribution lines and so on, but nobody told us the real problem – that there is no gas, or there is no capacity to transmit the electricity that could be generated; that even when it is delivered at the point of distribution the distribution system is so weak that it can’t take it.”
Mr. Joda further said, “if they came back, they couldn’t wake up in the morning and say we can’t pay salaries, we couldn’t do this or even pay contractors and might even not be able to pay pensions and gratuities or finance any of our operations”.
In defence of Mr. Jonathan, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala had stated that it was wrong to blame Mr. Jonathan’s administration for the huge debt stock which she said was accumulated over a long period of time by successive administrations.
She said the debts incurred under the Jonathan government were made up of $18 billion domestic component and $3.7 billion external component.
She added that between 2007 and 2011, a debt of $17.3 billion was recorded while between 2012 and 2015, the debt incurred stood at $18.1 billion.
She had further explained that the leap in the debt profile between 2012 and 2015 was triggered by the 53 per cent wage increase implemented by the late Umaru Yar’Adua administration.