Saturday, 21 May 2016

Opinion: Did Jonathan Leave an Empty Treasury? Let’s Check the Figures

On Friday May 6, 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the appropriation bill into law. The signing into law of the bill for many signifies a kick start of economic activities in the country. The question on the lips of many keen observers of the economy would be, since the budget was just signed into law, and the Presidency has been habitual in saying that it met an ‘empty treasury’ what on earth did they use to keep the country afloat?

The Goodluck Jonathan-led administration has been painted as crooks and thieves who plundered the country’s economy leaving it in a comatose state.

Asking some pertinent questions will proffer answers to this debate as to whether former president Jonathan left an empty treasury. But is the insinuation really true? Did Jonathan strip Nigeria to shreds as declared by President Buhari and his team? Where did the Buhari-led government get funds to bail out states? Where did it get funds to embark on its over 20 foreign trips, while also receiving estacodes for each trip?

It’s a known fact that the Jonathan-led government had obvious plans to save which was truncated by the greedy governors and members of the Sharing Governors’ Forum despite the advice by the former Minister of Finance; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the nation should save for the future. The governors refused, portraying their insatiable appetite to consume and not produce. They go cap in hand to Abuja like beggars all in a bid to share the nation’s resources.

The question we should ask the governors is: why can’t they pay their workers? Did Jonathan make them inept in making good business decisions?

Why did some of them take bad loans from banks? What are they doing with their security votes? After all they are not in charge of security within their states, as the Federal Government still handles this, due to the absence of state policing.

With all these questions and more, not only do the governors’ have a case to answer, the Buhari-led government also have to prove that it met an empty treasury. 

In the early days of his administration when the President said he met an empty treasury, it did not take long for his statement to be debunked in strong terms by one of the immediate past Minister/Deputy Chairman National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman. Suleiman said the former administration as at May 29 left behind the sum of US$2billion, adding that the sum would have been higher if not the governors insistence on sharing the fund.

He said, “Government can’t tell us that there is no Excess Crude Account (ECA), Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or are we saying the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and related agencies had not in the last one month been generating revenue?

“Until they are able to prove they had no receipts from these government agencies in the last one month before Nigerians can now buy into Mr. President’s claims of an empty treasury.”

Before the governors received bail out from the Federal Government, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, had announced that President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 states had agreed to share $1.7bn (N391bn) from the balance of $2. 078 billion in the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
“The position is very clear. What we met on ground is what we are going to distribute,” Mr. Idris said. 

“What we met on ground is hovering between $1.6 bn and $1.7 bn, and that is what we are going to distribute among all the three tiers of governments based on the approved formula.”

With this coming from the Accountant General of the Federation, someone who is supposed to know the nation’s account details, how on earth then did the Jonathan-led government leave an empty treasury? I believe this is just an attempt to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

It’s obvious that this administration is clueless and wants to blame its inadequacies on Jonathan and his economic team led by Dr Iweala.

Femi Hassan is a social commentator and writes from Lagos State.

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