Presidency debunks claims by former President Jonathan

The Presidency has reacted to a statement credited to Nigeria’s former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, where he claimed he handed over a robust economy to President Muhammadu Buhari, two years ago.

In a statement, Senior Special Adviser to the President, Garba Shehu said the claim about the economy by both Jonathan and the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Ahmed Makarfi were not correct.

He said: Let me start by reasserting an obvious statement, which is that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was handed an economy ravaged by years of mismanagement and corruption. I hope this will help to erase the wrong statement credited to you at your party, the PDP Convention at the Eagle Square last weekend that you handed to President Buhari a robustly healthy economy.To the same extent, this should also help to erase yet another false statement by Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, the Caretaker Chairman of the party, to the effect that under the previous administration there was money but now things are very hard.

The Presidential spokesperson added that the economy enjoyed a boom then, but the funds were not well managed.

The oil sector boomed under his tenure, with oil prices as high as US$ 120 and peace in the Nigeria Delta. Nigeria earned unprecedented dollar revenues. Sadly, that is where the story turns sour. There is nothing to show for the revenues earned, no major capital project was completed, neither power generation, road development, rail or agriculture benefitted from the windfall earnings.

Rather the administration presided over the diversion of oil revenues on a such a massive scale, that even without the protection now accorded to Whistle blowers, the then Central Bank Governor blew not only a whistle but a trumpet. He was hurriedly shown the door.

Meanwhile, the acquisition by public officers and their cohorts of private jets, luxury yachts and the accumulation of expensive property portfolios world-wide continued unabated. Indeed the President once celebrated having the largest number of private jets, whilst our youth languished without jobs, our fields stood idle and our factories began the layoff of workers.

Government simply reticulated oil revenue through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and salaries. This was done rather than investing in what would grow the economy. Economies grow due to capital investment in assets like seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing. Nigeria cannot record a single major infrastructural project in the last 10 years. In short the money was mismanaged.

Mr Shehu said when President Buhari came on board, he had to grapple with the problem of revamping the economy, starting with financial support to State governments, in the form of bail out, to enable them pay arrears of salaries to workers.

At the inception of the current administration, 21 States were unable to meet their salary bills and the spectre of workers arrears had commenced. The PDP solution was the raid on Ecological Funds and selective grant of N2Bn each to the PDP States. It was only aggressive borrowing by the Ministry of Finance under Dr Okonjo-Iweala that prevented Federal Government from also owing salaries. The economic wisdom of borrowing to pay recurrent bills is a questionable one, particularly as those paid would have included over 45,000 that have subsequently been removed by the Buhari led administration as ghost workers. It also included the lavish costs of chartering private jets, first class travel and other wasteful acts that have been eliminated under this administration.

To compound the problem the government was borrowing heavily and owed contractors, and international oil companies. When this government took over we had accumulated debt back to the level it was before the Paris Club Debt Forgiveness.

All these factors were building up to Nigeria heading for a major crisis if the price of oil fell. Nigeria did not have fiscal buffers to withstand an oil shock, he said.

He added: In summary, Nigeria earned a lot of money when oil prices were high but there is nothing to show for it. Now oil prices have fallen we are suffering. We would not be suffering now if we had no cash reserves but we had power, or a rail system, or good roads, or good housing. But we don’t have money and we don’t have the projects either. Now that the oil has fallen below those levels, it is very difficult to do what is needed but they must be done to save Nigeria. There is no other way if we want to be honest.

Garba Shehu also said things would have been different if the then PDP administration had begun doing the very things that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is doing so painfully now.

He listed the administrations efforts as:Fighting corruption; sanitising the huge salary bill by eliminating payroll fraud; reducing wasteful expenses like First Class Travel and Private jets as well as encouraging State Governments to reform their spending and build savings or investments.

Others are: Increasing spending on capital projects especially on infrastructure needed to make Nigerian businesses competitive and create jobs; blocking the leakages that allowed government revenues to be siphoned into private hands and focusing on key sectors (apart from oil) that can create jobs.

Source: Voice of Nigeria