A former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, has described as untrue the claims made by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, that the money left behind by the administration of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan could not rub the affairs of Nigeria for three weeks.
Amaechi had on a Channels Television’s programme titled, ‘Hard Copy’, claimed that what Jonathan left behind was insufficient to manage the country for 21 days.
Ameachi was the former governor of Rivers State and the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum during the administration of Jonathan.
The Transport Minister had alleged that while he headed the governors’ forum, he was informed by Presidency officials that there was virtually nothing left in the government coffers.
The minister had said, “As former chairman of the governors’ forum, I was told by the security in a meeting chaired by the former President including the former minister of finance that at every point in time, the government must leave money behind in case Nigeria goes to war that would last for six months.
“By the time we came, they didn’t leave money behind that could last us for three weeks. And I was speaking at that time as the chairman of the governors’ forum.”
But reacting on Tuesday, Chidoka who served as a minister under Jonathan said in a statement that Amaechi’s claims are not supported by any verifiable evidence.
Providing data to back up his defense of Jonathan, Chidoka said on May 29, 2015, President Buhari inherited a foreign reserve of $28.6bn, according to official data still present on the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as $5.6bn Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited dividends.
Also, he said a 2015 budget of over N4trn was handed over to the incoming administration by the outgoing Jonathan government.
Furthermore, he said that the Jonathan administration left a total of $2.2bn in the Excess Crude Account on May 29, 2015, adding that these figures have been verified by the Ministry of Finance.
Chidoka said, “As a member of the Federal Executive Council that handed over to the current administration, I am disturbed that this urban myth of “empty treasury” is still the subject of conversation by a senior government member.
“Also, I am confused about what the Honourable Minister means when he says, “By the time we came in,” as he was not appointed minister until six months after the May 29 Handover. Since he was not a minister on the handover date, it may be pertinent to present him with the facts again.
“On May 29, 2015, President Buhari inherited a foreign reserve of $28.6bn, according to official data still present on the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as $5.6bn Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited dividends.
“Also, a 2015 budget of over 4 trillion Naira was handed over to the incoming administration by the outgoing Jonathan government.
“Furthermore, the Jonathan administration left a total of $2.2bn in the Excess Crude Account on May 29, 2015.
“To further create context, I would like the Minister of Transport to note the country’s economic indices after 1849 days of President Jonathan’s Presidency from May 06 2010, the date he took over from President Umaru Yar’Adua to the Handover date of May 29, 2015.
“On May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari inherited an economy that, by the testimony of the World Investment Report, prepared by the Geneva-based United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), was the number one destination for foreign direct investment in Africa.
“In the five years of President Jonathan, Direct Foreign Investment stood at about 35.25 Billion Dollars. You can compare this to the $11.55bn Direct Foreign Investment received from 2016 to 2020.
“The Jonathan administration handed over a $550bn economy (largest in Africa and 26th globally) and a diversified economy. On May 29, 2015, President Jonathan left behind an economy with a stable currency, where the Naira exchanged for N199 to $1, and Nigeria had a single-digit inflation rate.
“Today, after 2,406 days of the current administration, headline inflation rate hovers above 15 per cent. Under President Jonathan, the unemployment rate stood at 7.5 per cent (better than European Union) today.
“According to the National Bureau of Statistics, six and half years after Governor Amaechi’s government came in, unemployment is 33 per cent.
“Before the government came in, Nigeria’s poverty rate was 32 per cent as of May 2015. We need not compare it against 71 per cent today after 78 months of President Buhari’s administration.
“Our External debt as of May 2015 stood at $7.3bn, the Gini coefficient (degree of inequality) was not different from China’s as of 2015. In 343 weeks and four days of the current administration, our external debt has ballooned to $37.9bn as of September 2021. It is important to point out that over 48 per cent are bilateral and commercial loans.
“With the facts above, I am sure that the Minister of Transport will rethink his fixation on the past and focus on the clear and present danger of an economy on the path to Argentina – sovereign debt default.
“In the face of declining revenues, available public data revealed that external debt servicing gulped $1.82bn between January and September 2021; this is 43.9 per cent higher than the $1.27bn spent in the corresponding period of 2020.
“In the same period of January to September 2021, domestic debt servicing rose to N1.74trn from N1.53trn recorded in the same period of 2020.
“These issues should worry the Honourable Minister, coupled with unlocking the asphyxiating gridlock that Apapa port has created in the economy.
“2,406 days after, a clear 557 days (One year five months) more than President Jonathan governed Nigeria; this administration’s economic policies and heightened insecurity have left the country comatose.
“Minister Amaechi and the APC government should stop this perennial blame game and focus on redeeming its tattered image by signing the electoral bill passed by a legislature it controls.”