Nigeria News
Experts demand full disclosure of alleged missing N30tn

Economic and financial experts have called on the Federal Government to fully account for the N30tn alleged by a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, to have been stolen under the supervision of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The experts said the exchanges between Soludo and Okonjo-Iweala had brought to the fore the lack of transparency in the management of the economy.

Soludo, had in his response to Okonjo-Iweala’s rebuttal of his earlier criticism of the management of the Nigerian economy under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, alleged that over N30tn had been stolen, or lost, or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged under the supervision of the Finance minister.

He alleged that about $60bn was stolen in four years as a result of oil theft, adding that this was at a time of the cessation of crisis in the Niger Delta and the implementation of the amnesty programme by the Federal Government.

He asked the minister to tell Nigerians how much the amnesty programme cost and also the annual cost of ‘protecting’ the pipelines and ensuring the security of oil wells.

Soludo said the country’s foreign exchange reserves should have been at least $90bn by now and not the current $30bn, adding that gross mismanagement had denied the country some $60bn or another N12.6tn.

A Professor of Political Economy and management expert, Pat Utomi, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said, “It is important to provide full accounting to the Nigerian people on these things because that is the essence of stewardship. You need to give an account and the accounting needs to be as complete as possible. The bottom-line truth is that we have not been very prudent in the use of public resources. There is no dispute about that.”

Utomi, who described the level of stealing in the country as “mindless,” stressed the need to put in place systems to prevent such leakages.

He said, “The executive arm of government has done Nigerians great disservice, but the legislative arm has been worse. To start with, how much of public resources they put in their pockets, whatever they call it, whether constituency projects or salaries?

“The amount of money we spend on our legislature is scandalous. It is they who should make the laws that make it impossible for the kind of profligacy that has taken place in the executive branch to continue.”

A Professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, said, “If we had not lost money through corruption, the foreign reserves should be higher than what it is currently, and would have gone a long way to cushion the effect of falling oil prices.

“Economic managers should be transparent, but they have never been transparent. It is just voodoo economics. When last did you see them publish any audited account? So, we lack transparency and that is unfortunate.

“Don’t expect anybody to come and tell us the exact facts. What Okonjo-Iweala will continue to say is what she had said, that she has managed the economy well; very clearly, she has not done so.”

The Director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan, Prof. Adeola Adenikinju, said the exchange between the former CBN governor and the Finance minister showed that there were a lot of questions around the way the Federal Government had been managing the country’s resources.

“If we have been transparent and open in the way we manage our resources and in the way that we conduct our economic affairs, then it would have been very easy for us to know who is saying the truth.”

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, said the reserves were a function of a lot of structural issues, which had not been addressed.

“So, whilst I agree that the reserves could have been $90bn, but we used the money for certain things. So, what did we use it for is the question,” he said.

Meanwhile, a civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has sent a request to the Finance minister, urging her to “urgently provide information about the spending of the alleged missing N30tn, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years.” The request was sent in line with the Freedom of Information Act.

In a letter of request dated February 2, 2015 and signed by SERAP’s executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation, said it would “take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the minister to comply with the request if the information is not provided to us within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

The organisation expressed “serious concerns that the stealing or mismanagement of such a large sum of public funds may be responsible for the economic crisis and attendant hardships being faced by millions of Nigerians in terms of persistent lack of enjoyment of their legally recognised economic and social rights such as the rights to education, to adequate healthcare, to adequate food, and access to clean and portable water.”

Similarly, the opposition All Progressives Congress accused the Jonathan administration of running the country’s economy aground with a combination of incompetence, massive corruption and unparalleled profligacy.

‘’The only reason the Jonathan administration and the PDP have been engaging in a campaign of mudslinging rather than of issues is to distract the attention of Nigerians from the very serious state of the nation’s economy, but we have decided to redirect the ongoing electioneering campaign to issues,’’ the party said in a statement issued in Lagos on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

It also said the government had not been able to account for huge sums of money, including the $20bn oil proceeds that should have accrued to the Excess Crude Account but which was alleged to be missing.

‘’At the crude oil benchmark of $77.5 for the 2014 budget, Nigeria made $33 per every barrel of oil , which amounts to about $24bn in a year. However, there is less than $6bn in the ECA. What happened to the remainder?” the party asked.

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