The presidency yesterday attributed the current downturn in the country to a ruined economy allegedly caused by a gross mismanagement of the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The presidency spoke in apparent reaction to statements credited to Jonathan to the effect that he handed to President Muhammadu Buhari a healthy economy. The former president spoke during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) convention which held at the Eagle Square, Abuja, last weekend.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, yesterday said that contrary to claims by Jonathan who was joined by the PDP Caretaker Chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, the Buhari-led administration was handed an economy ravaged by years of mismanagement and corruption.
The presidential media aide said a cursory look at any sector would clearly indicate that the immediate past administration “presided over the most monumental and tragic economic mismanagement recorded in the country’s national history.”
Shehu noted that if the administration had fought corruption, sanitised the huge salary bill by eliminating payroll fraud, and encouraged state governments to reform their spending and built savings or investments, and blocked leakages that allowed government revenues to be siphoned into private hands among others when the oil price was as high as $120 per barrel, Nigeria would not be in the current predicament.
“The oil sector boomed under his tenure, with oil prices as high as $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.”
The presidency said the acquisition by public officers and their cohorts of private jets, luxury yachts and the accumulation of expensive property portfolios worldwide continued unabated under Jonathan.
“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.”
The statement noted that “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.
“Such was the looting that even the goose that was laying the golden egg was being systematically starved. The direct contractual costs of oil produced, in the form of cash calls, remained unpaid.
“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.”
According to Shehu, “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.
“If PDP were still in power they would have continued deceiving people, by borrowing to fund stealing and wastage and the problem would have simply been postponed for future generations to face.”
He continued: “One of former President Jonathon’s specific boasts is that dollar under him was N180 compared to today. With such a line of argument, it is clear why we are where we are.
“With oil prices as high as $120 the average inflow of dollars each month was high, making it easy to support cheap dollars. However with oil price plummeting as low as $28, the fundamental laws of supply and demand dictated that the currency would need to adjust, since oil was the sole export.
“It is instructive to note that virtually every major oil exporter has witnessed currency adjustments with the fall in oil price.”
The presidency said the Buhari administration had taken a long-term strategic view of supporting a stable naira on both the supply and demand sides. “Buhari has driven import substitution to reduce demand for dollars to buy things we can produce thereby creating thousands of rural jobs in rice and other staples.
“In addition, there is a credible plan to diversify our revenue sources away from oil, with focus on export crops as well as solid minerals, with the release of $100m fund to develop solid mineral extraction.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has a positive and prosperous vision for Nigeria. A nation in which the natural talent and hard work of the people is being supported by an enabling environment of infrastructural development and policy reforms that will develop a firm future for our nation.”