Taking a walk down memory lane, the lawmaker said that in 1999 when Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected into power, “the mood of the nation was for a southern president from the western part of Nigeria”
Adding that when Obasanjo was to leave in 2007, the mood of the nation shifted to the north, hence the emergence of late Ex-President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua .
He further noted that in 2015, Goodluck Jonathan would have been re-elected but the mood of the nation at the time was still for a president from the north.
According to the lawmaker, this was the major reason why President Muhammadu Buhari won his election into office.
Having established the role of ‘moods’ in Nigerian polity, Ekweremadu projected that the mood of the nation would be “a product of Igbo extraction” in 2023.
Speaking on the performance of the legislature, Ekweremadu who said that Nigeria’s legislative arm of government is mostly misunderstood because the public doesn’t really know too much about it noted that the nations needs institutional memories.
He said so much money is spent on training parliamentarians but most of those trained are often kicked out of the parliament before they can impact the nation with the skills and knowledge acquired.
The Deputy Senate President also talked about other pressing issues including security challenges.
Labeling the recent attempt on his residence as unfortunate, the lawmaker said the incident is one that raises questions regarding the security of the ordinary citizens of the country.
He charged the authorities to ensure that every Nigerian is well protected and hoped that the police will get to the root of the attempt on him and his family.
The Federal Ministry of Finance has debunked claims that President Goodluck Jonathan has squandered the Nigeria’s reserves, insisting that it was used appropriately in the course of normal transactions required for the development of the Nigerian economy.
In a statement released to clarify the facts of the recent history and status of Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account and foreign reserves, the Ministry said “it is important to restate the true position in the interest of the Nigerian public as well as local and international investors.
“It is absolutely not true that the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has squandered the nation’s reserves”, it said, maintaining that “at the end of May 2007, Nigeria’s gross reserves stood at $43.13 billion – comprising the CBN’s external reserves of $31.5 billion, $9.43 billion in the Excess Crude Account, and $2.18 billion in Federal Government’s savings. These figures can be independently verified from the CBN’s records”, insisting that “the figure of $67 billion cited in some recent commentary is therefore factually incorrect”.
The statement further added that “it is a misconception to think that reserves are immutable or cast in stone. The reality is that since May 2007, the reserves have fluctuated in line with developments in the international oil market, rising from $43.13 billion at that time, peaking at $62 billion in September 2008 during the Yar’adua/Jonathan Administration when oil prices reached a peak of $147 per barrel, and falling subsequently to a low of $31.7 billion in September 2011”.
“This fall in reserves was largely a result of the vicissitudes of the global economy and oil market which caused the CBN to intervene, using some of the reserves, to defend the value of the naira.
“The Excess Crude savings, which it should be noted is a component of the reserves, was largely used to cushion the economy at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008-2009. As a result, Nigeria was one of the few countries in the world that did not seek assistance from international financial institutions at that time.
“The fiscal stimulus used to shore up the economy during that period was shared by all 3-tiers of government. Similarly, savings in the ECA were also used to pay for fuel subsidies for the entire nation and that sharing continued after the crisis ended. Starting in 2012, such payments have been published each time they are made”, it said.
The Federal Ministry of Finance also explained that the savings in the ECA would have been higher but for the fact that “a number of Governors, against strong professional advice, actively kicked against continuous building up of the ECA and, indeed, pushed for its sharing” adding that they “took the Federal Government to court on this matter, and the case is still pending at the Supreme Court.
“It is also worth noting that the Jonathan administration built the first ever Sovereign Wealth Fund for the nation in which savings are being made for future generations of Nigerians and important infrastructure investments are being supported.
“It is also a matter of public knowledge that the Fund would have generated more savings and investments if the same sort of opposition that blocked savings in the ECA had also not been at work.
“Furthermore, by common agreement between the FGN and State Governors, in 2009, an amount of about $5.5 billion was drawn from the ECA and used for investment in Independent power projects. Today, various State governments are shareholders in the projects and hold share certificates confirming their stake in the projects” the said.
On the use of reserves, the Ministry maintained that “it is not correct to say that the nation’s external reserves were dipped into or misapplied by the Administration. Anyone familiar with foreign reserves management will be aware that the Federal Government cannot dip its hands into the external reserves.
“Like in other countries, the management of external reserves is one of the statutory mandates of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Section 2 sub-section (c) of the CBN Act (2007) states that the Bank shall maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the legal tender – in other words, to defend the value of the Naira. No President since the democratic dispensation has contravened this Act.
“The reserves are also used to settle both public and private sector foreign currency obligations, including the importation of goods such as equipment for power sector. Whenever an Agency of Government or a private individual/company needs to make a payment in foreign currency (e.g. payment of goods and services, settlement of external debt, etc) it must provide the naira equivalent to the CBN in exchange for the required foreign currency.
“From the above, it is clear that Nigeria’s reserves during the period were not squandered but used appropriately in the course of normal transactions required for the development of the Nigerian economy”.
He said that his administration left $25 billion in the excess crude accounts in 2007 which was shored up to about $35 billion by the Yar’Adua’s administration, while he left $45 billion in external reserve.
“Our economy should not have been this bad. When I was leaving office about eight years ago, I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts. Almost $25billion we kept in what they called excess crude. The excess from the budget we were saving as reserve for the rainy days. When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have been raised to $35billion,” he said.
“But today, that reserve has been depleted! Today, that reserve has been depleted. The reserve we left when we finished paying all our debts, our debts that was about 40billion dollars, that is including debt forgiveness, the remaining debt was not more than $3billion. Our reserve after we had paid off this debt was about $45billion. As I said, they continued till the end of 2007, I heard that the reserve increased to almost $67billion before the end of the year. Our reserve now, learnt is left with around only $30billion.
“That is why the Naira has been falling against the dollar. What would now happen, I learnt if you want to buy a dollar now, it’s about 192 Naira or 195 Naira. What it means is this, what you have been buying at N150 to a dollar, now you need N192 or N195 to buy it. That is the real situation. Is there any remedy? There is, but it does not come overnight because it means we have to give up all the bad things we have been doing,”Mr Obasanjo said.
These funds, he said, had been mismanaged by the present administration.
After years of litigation, the Federal Government of Nigeria has recovered the Ajaokuta Steel Complex in Kogi State. Speaking in an interview with journalists at the National Assembly complex, a Senator lawmaker representing Kogi state, Smart Adeyemi said the federal government is also in the process of negotiating the return of the Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe, also the state.
The Federal Government has been locked in arbitration with Global Steel Holdings Limited (GSHL) and Global Infrastructure Limited at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), London, for the return of Ajaokuta since 2007.
The legal tussle started in 2008 when Global Steel dragged the federal government before the ICC.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo during his administration concessioned the complex to (GSHL) in 2005, despite criticisms from steel workers and labour leaders.
The Indian firm was allegedly accused of going against the concessional agreement, which led to a faceoff between the firm and the company’s workers. The agreement was terminated in 2008 by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua , who set up an Interim management Committee (IMC) to oversee it.
President Goodluck Jonathan today remembered with an “undiminished feeling of great personal loss, the fulfilling partnership he enjoyed with the late President at the helm of Nigeria’s ship of state.
The president made this known in a statement by his special adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati.
He said “On this third anniversary of the passage of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, President Goodluck Jonathan remembers with an undiminished feeling of great personal loss, the fulfilling partnership he enjoyed with the late President at the helm of Nigeria’s ship of state”.
“As always, President Jonathan continues to honour the memory of the immensely humble, insightful, patriotic and dedicated servant leader who truly served his countrymen and women with all his strength and God-given abilities.”
President Jonathan “urged Nigerians, especially public officials at all levels of government to rededicate themselves to emulating President Yar’Adua’s exemplary commitment to upholding due process, the rule of law and other globally-accepted principles of democracy and good governance.” On the third anniversary of the former presidents demise.
He also joined “late President Yar’Adua’s wife, children, relatives, the people of his home-state, Katsina as well as his friends and associates across the country in praying that the soul of the departed President continues to rest in perfect peace.”
The House of Representatives has mandated its committees on Finance and Appropriation to investigate allegations and counter allegations by the former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili and the federal government.
In a motion presented by Mr. Umar Bature, the lawmakers decided to wade into the on-going war of words between the federal government and Dr Ezekwesili over allegations that the administration of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan squandered $45 billion foreign reserve.
She had alleged that the squandering of $45 billion in the foreign reserve and another $22 billion in the excess crude account from increased earnings from crude oil, which the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor administration has worsened poverty in the country.
Mr. Bature asked the House to conduct an investigation into the matter, noting that Dr Ezekwesili as a Special Adviser to a former President was in the position to know the status of the country’s foreign reserve during that period.
The Federal Government on Sunday accused former minister of education and former World Bank group for Africa vice president, Obiageli Ezekwesili, of misappropriating a total of N458 billion allocated to the country’s educational sector when she served as minister between 2006 and 2007.
The government also described as factually incorrect Mrs Ezekwesili’s claim that late President Umar Musa Yar’adua and President Goodluck Jonathan squandered $67 billion in reserves, comprising $45 billion in the external reserves and $22 billion in the Excess Crude Account left by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the end of May 2007.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, who spoke on the behalf of the Federal Government, argued that Mrs Ezekwesili’s made no single reference of what she did during her stay in office in such sectors.
The Minister said, “We also found Mrs Ezekwesili’s interrogation of the educational system somewhat disingenuous and borderline hypocritical. During her tenure as minister of education between 2006 and 2007, she collected a total of N352.3 billion from direct budgetary releases.
“In addition, she received about N65.8 billion under the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund, and over N40 billion from the Education Trust Fund (ETF). In view of these humongous allocations, a few legitimate questions arise: what did she do with all these allocations? What impact did it have on the education sector? One wonders if our educational system would have been better today if these allocations were properly applied.”
Mr Maku further alleged that Mrs Ezekwesili’s alleged claims during UNN’s convocation ceremony on January 24, 2013 “betray a surprisingly limited understanding of government finances.”
He said, “These statements are even more curious in the light of the fact that she has held senior positions in government, and, more recently, a position as a vice president of the World Bank. However, rather than speculate about her motives, we would focus on the facts.”
Mr Maku further stated that the government did not intend to take her to court “but we will only explain and leave her in the court of public judgement.”
Clarifying the allegation of misappropriation of fund by late President Yar’Adua and President Jonathan, Mr Maku said, “At the end of May 2007, Nigeria’s gross reserves stood at $43.13 billion – comprising the CBN’s external reserves of $31.5 billion, $9.43 billion in the Excess Crude Account and $2.18 billion in the federal government’s savings. These figures can be independently verified from the CBN’s records. The figure of $67 billion alleged in her statement is therefore clearly fictitious.
“However, since President Obasanjo left office, the reserves have experienced fluctuations, rising from $43.13 billion in May 2007, peaking at $62 billion in September 2008 during the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration when oil prices peaked at $147 per barrel, and falling subsequently to a low of $31.7 in September 2011.
“This fall in reserves was a result of the vicissitudes of the global financial crisis which caused CBN interventions in the currency market to defend the value of the naira. The Excess Crude savings, a component of the reserves, was also used to stimulate the economy at the height of the global financial crisis to the tune of about $1 billion (or 0.5 percent of our 2009 GDP).”
This move, he said, ensured that Nigeria was one of the few countries in the world that did not seek assistance from international financial institutions. He also remarked that the fiscal stimulus used to shore up the economy during that period was shared by all three tiers of government, including commitments of about $5.5 billion made under the Obasanjo administration for power projects.
“No one disputes that Nigeria still faces challenges, most of which were built up over a long time,” the minister further stated, “but we need to acknowledge the significant achievements of this administration in the aftermath of difficult but necessary macroeconomic and structural reforms being implemented in the country.
The minister went on to name some the achievements of the Jonathan government on the economic front, some of which have attracted international recognition.
“This administration,” he said, “has restored macroeconomic stability against the backdrop of global economic uncertainty, slow growth in the United States and high unemployment and unsustainable debt in Europe. In the first three quarters of 2012, Nigeria’s economy grew by about 6.4 percent and is set to continue at a similar pace in 2013 according to independent forecasts. We have reduced our fiscal deficit to only 2.17 percent of GDP in the 2013 budget, while rebalancing our spending in favour of capital expenditure.
“These achievements have already received strong endorsement from international ratings agencies. At a time when many advanced and emerging markets are being downgraded, Fitch and S&P have upgraded our sovereign credit ratings. The inclusion of Nigeria’s sovereign bonds in the emerging market bond indices of JP Morgan and Barclays also testifies to the growing confidence of the international investment community in our economy.”
Mr Maku also listed commencement of rail transport from Lagos to Kano, improved electricity supply, rehabilitation of road and aviation infrastructure and improvement in agriculture value-chain, where new jobs are being created every day, in addition to providing enabling environment for the private sector to create jobs for the youth as some of the good work done by President Jonathan.
The Federal Government has dissociated itself from the conviction of Henry Okah, the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) by a South African court following threats by the group to resume hostilities.
The government insisted that this is not the time to threaten Nigeria but to stand up in unity for it.
MEND had allegedly threatened to renew attacks and evolve fresh dimensions to it following the conviction of its leader in South Africa.
In a statement dated January 23, 2013 and signed by one Comrade Azizi, MEND insisted that the conviction of Mr Okah by the South African Court on all 13-count charge of involvement in the 2010 Independence Day bombing in Abuja which killed many people amounted to a betrayal.
It said Nigerians would feel its impact when it eventually commences attacks which it disclosed will not be restricted to the Niger Delta region. Reacting to this threat, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku insisted that Mr Okah was tried in South Africa under due process of the law of the country.
He said it was very shocking that any Nigerian or group would take up arms against Nigeria on account of that conviction.
The minister said on the contrary, expectation was that all citizens should show higher level of patriotism. He argued that, “We should not live in a nation where we should abandon the law.”
Mr Maku noted that citizens should understand that the country offers the best opportunity to live in and urged for support for the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.