The Federal Government, yesterday, 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 had 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
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
Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku flanked by the Senior
Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President, Dr. Doyin Okupe and the
Special Adviser to the President, Projects Monitoring and Evaluation, Prof.
Sylvester Monye during the briefing on the nation’s external reserves at the
National Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja.
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.
He said 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, he added.
She urged Nigerians, especially the youths, to take their
destiny in their hands by creating a new political context in which citizens
demand for good governance and accountability by compelling their leaders to be
accountable and transparent in the management of the commonwealth of Nigeria.
According to her, ‘endowment of oil resulted in an indulgent
elite class who have made disastrous choices that have trapped the destiny of
Nigeria in oil wells.
The former World Bank Vice President attributed the economic
stagnation in the country for over fifty years to such indulgence on the part
of the emerging ruling class.
‘The fact is that our political elite suffers from delusion
of greatness simply because we sell barrel of crude oil to finance 80% of our
national budget while over 95% of our foreign exchange ad petroleum sector
earning represents a larger portion of industry’s contribution to GDP”, she
‘I have known, at least, five cycles of commodity booms that
offered us rare opportunities to use revenues generated from oil to transform
our economy. Sadly, each cycle ended up sliding us farther down the productive
ladder. The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is, however, much more vexing
that the other four that happened in the 70s, 80s 90s and 2000s, she added.
She challenged Nigerian university graduates and
undergraduates to mobilise themselves and work towards pushing public office
holders to prudently manage our national wealth and provide good stewardship
and leadership to the people.
It would be recalled that
the former World Bank Vice President, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili had last Saturday
lashed out at successive federal government since 2007, accusing them of
squandering over $67billion oil windfall.
Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.
FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer
The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.
Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media
The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.
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