20 March 2018

Nigeria: 2015 Polls - Osinbajo, PDP Trade Tackles Over N150bn Looted Funds

Photo: This Day
(file photo).

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo alleged yesterday that the sums of N100 billion and $295million were fretted away by a few persons in the Goodluck Jonathan administration two weeks to the 2015 general election.

But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) engaged the vice president in a media tirade, challenging him to mention the names of those who participated in the alleged looting or else his statement will be regarded as the usual media trial that has been the trademark of the Buhari administration since 2015.

Osinbajo made the allegation at the 7th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for Private Sector stakeholders at the old banquet hall of the presidential villa, Abuja.

Citing the Strategic Alliance Contract with NNPC and NDDC, in which the promoters of the companies made away with close to $3 billion, almost a tenth of the country's reserves, Osinbajo said grand corruption was the order of the day in the last administration.

He noted that there is no way a country will not have a major economic shock with the grand corruption that took place in the last administration.

He said, "I'm sure many of us are familiar with the so called Strategic Alliance Contract with the NNPC and NDDC. The promoters of the companies made away with close to $3 billion, almost a tenth of our reserves. There is no way someone will make away with a tenth of your reserves that you will not have a major economic shock.

"And if we don't deal with it, if we don't talk about it, how will we be able to discuss our economy in a real honest way with a view to ensuring that these things do not happen again?

"In one single transaction a few weeks to the 2015 elections, sums of a N100billion and $295million were just fretted away by a few".

The vice president wondered what was wrong with the Nigerian economy, just as he pondered on what should be done to correct the flaws, adding however that there are several issues, many of which had already been articulated.

He stated: "But I want to talk about what I think is the biggest problem, which for some reasons we hardly talk about when discussing our national economy. This is grand corruption in the public finance space.

"Sometimes the way we talk about the Nigerian economy it does appear as if it is the economy of Norway or somewhere where all things are equal. Even when we refer to what has taken place in our economy we almost sound as if this is in every sense a very normal business environment, a very normal public finance environment but that is not the case.

"I do not think that any consideration about our economic development can be properly and honestly done without fully analyzing corruption, especially grand corruption in the public finance space.

"You see that despite record high levels of oil prices, very little was invested in infrastructure and a record level of leakages were recorded in the past few years".

Osinbajo lamented that corruption affects everything, including the judgement as to what sort of infrastructure the government should put in place.

He continued: "It (corruption) is so fundamental that we can't even think of our economy without thinking of what to do about it. Sometimes when we talk about our economy we talk about the fact that we have relied on single commodity and that is one of the reasons why we are where we are.

"Yes, that is quite true but the fact is that proceeds from that single commodity was regularly hijacked consistently by a few. That is really the problem. If we had spent the proceeds from that single commodity the way we ought to, we won't be where we are today. Most of the proceeds went to rent seekers in the industry and production.

He further observed that in 2014 when oil was being sold for an average of $110 a barrel, only N99 billion was spent on power, works and housing.

The VP noted that nobody should talk about the economy with this kind of huge leakages and huge corruption, even as he pointed out that corruption completely makes nonsense of what is allocated to capital projects.

He added: "We saw from the presentation of minister of finance that N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014 and transportation N15 billion. So, the total spent on infrastructure in those three years were N153 billion and in two weeks before the elections, N150 billion was essentially shared.

So, if your total infrastructure spending is N150 billion and you can share N153 billion that is completely incredible. That sort of thing doesn't happen anywhere else in the world. And when we are talking about the economy, we must simply understand that that is the problem".

Osinbajo however pointed out that with less revenue today, the federal government has increased capital funding by 400% in power, works and housing; defence; transportation and agriculture.

He further said what distinguishes the present administration from previous ones is that President Buhari is a man of integrity, adding that when a country has a president who is not corrupt, 50 per cent of its financial problems are over.

This, he said, is what he has observed and can demonstrate with facts and figures.

"If we stick to the policy of ensuring that as far as public finance is concern, there is no impunity and that we hold people to account, I'm absolutely confident that this country has what it really takes to make the kind of progress we deserve to make as a nation," the VP stated.

But in a swift reaction, the PDP described the vice president's allegation that the Jonathan administration looted N150 billion two weeks before the 2015 general election as false and baseless.

National publicity secretary of the major opposition party in the country, Kola Olagbondiyan, challenged Vice President Osinbajo to mention the names of those who participated in the alleged looting or else his statement will be regarded as the usual media trial that has been the trademark of the current administration since 2015.

The spokesman of the PDP who noted that Nigerians are beginning to wonder why no conviction had been secured by the Buhari administration since 2015, added that Osinbajo, being a lawyer and Christian, knows so much as not to make unfounded allegations.

Olagbondiyan said, "It is a baseless allegation. And as a lawyer, who also lays claim to being a Christian, the vice president is not expected to engage in unfounded allegation. But if he is playing politics with that, we advise him to stop it because he knows what to do as a lawyer.

"Since 2015, the APC and its government has engaged consistently in media trial of members of the PDP. But it has become needful to make them know that Nigerians are no longer buying their lies, fabrication and accusations.

"And they should also know that Nigerians are wondering why they have not secured a single conviction against any PDP member. Until he is able to substantiate that allegation and mention names of those who benefitted from the allegation, we leave it in the realm of their usual media trial".

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