Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Oil Revenue - I'm Resolute - Ezekwesili

Photo: Wikimedia
Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, Former World Bank Vice-President

Abuja — Former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, said Monday, that she was resolute in her demand for a full disclosure of oil revenues earned under the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan even as British Prime Minister, David Cameron asked President Goodluck Jonathan to account for $100 billion (N15.7 trillion) oil revenue which accrued to Nigeria last year.

Ezekwesili who was a cabinet member of former President Olusegun Obasanjo's government challenged the current administration to account for accruals into the Excess Crude Oil Account and the Foreign Reserve Account.

In a statement in Abuja, she repeated her earlier allegations that the $67 billion which the Obasanjo government left in the Foreign Reserve and the Excess Crude account was brazenly misappropriated by those who succeeded him.

Ezekwesili, also a former Vice President of the World Bank urged the Federal Government to accept her challenge to a public debate, as according to her, it would demonstrate a healthy democratic culture of responding to citizens.

Describing allegations of misappropriations against her by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, on Sunday, as "careless" the ex-minister said the N458.1 billion in reference was the entire budget of the education sector, including statutory bodies which funds sitting ministers had no access.

The statement reads in full: "I remain resolute in demanding full disclosure and accountability by the Federal Government on the poor management of oil revenues, especially the Excess Crude Account and the Foreign Reserve Account. The recent reaction by the spokesperson of the administration failed to respond responsibly to my demand for accountability.

In my convocation lecture at the University of Nigeria, I had stated concerning the poor management of oil revenues as follows : "While these countries moved up the manufacturing and economic development ladder in my 50 years of existence all I can say for Nigeria is that during the same period 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 productivity ladder.

The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is however much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. This is because we are still caught up in it even as I speak today and it is more egregious than the other periods in revealing that we learned absolutely nothing from the previous massive failures.

Furthermore, it is happening back-to-back with the squandering of a significant sum of $45 billion in foreign reserve account and another $22billion in the Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007.

Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one; most Nigerians but especially the poor continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions.

Where did all that money go?

One cannot but ask, what exactly does Nigeria convey with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources plus the additional several hundred billions of dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last six years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately, misapplied? Tragic choices! Yes.

Our national dignity continues to be degraded by cycles of stagnation because of the terrible choices my generation and those before repeatedly make as a result of free oil money. The wealth and poverty of a nation never found a better Symbol!"

Public debate

"I have already asked the Federal Government to a public debate of the facts raised in my speech. Such an open debate of facts and figures of oil revenue since 2007 would help situate public accountability as the center-point of our democracy. In accepting to publicly debate the questions raised in my speech, the Federal Government would model the democratic culture of responding to citizens' demands for accountability, especially at a time when the general public is eager for improvements in the good governance records of the administration.

Maku cannot tarnish my image

I wish to reassure Nigerians that my integrity and transparent record in public office can never be tarnished by baseless allegations regarding my 10 months as Minister of Education. Citizens who follow education sector closely will know that the education sector budget which the government's spokesperson carelessly referred to represents the consolidated direct budgetary allocation by the National Assembly to the 22 parastatals plus all the Federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the country.

At no time does a sitting Minister of Education have access to the budgets of statutory bodies under her ministry. The records are at the ministry for the relevant National Assembly committees and the general public to scrutinize.

British PM, David Cameron on oil dealings in Nigeria

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister, in his address at the G8 Economic Summit in Davos said, "last year Nigerian oil exports were worth almost $100 billion, more than total net aid to the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Put simply, unleashing the natural resources in these countries dwarfs anything aid can achieve and transparency is critical to that.

"I want this G8 to lead a big push for transparency across the developing world. To illustrate why, let me give you one example. A few years back a Transparency Initiative exposed a huge black hole in Nigeria's finances, an $800 million discrepancy between companies' payments and government's receipts for oil.

"So we're going to push for more transparency on who owns companies, on who's buying up land and for what purpose, on how governments spend their money, on how gas, oil and mining companies operate, on who is hiding stolen assets and how we recover and return them.

"Like everything else in this G8, the ambitions are big - and I make no apology for that. 30 years ago more than half the planet lived on the equivalent of $1.25 a day or less. Today it is around a fifth.

This amazing story of human progress shows what's possible. We can be the generation that eradicates absolute poverty in our world. But we'll only achieve that if we break the vicious cycle and treat the causes of poverty, not just its symptoms. Let me end today by saying this."

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