The Presidency said on Monday that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was handed an economy ravaged by years of mismanagement and corruption.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, stated this in a statement in Abuja.
The presidential aide was reacting to statements credited to former President Goodluck Jonathan and Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, the Caretaker Chairman of the party, to the effect that “under the previous administration, there was money but now things are very hard’’.
“It is understandable that Dr Jonathan kept his comments short, because a cursory look at any sector clearly indicated that he and his government presided over the most monumental and tragic economic mismanagement recorded in our national history.
“The oil sector boomed under his tenure, with oil prices as high as 120 dollars and peace in the Nigeria Delta. Nigeria earned unprecedented dollar revenues. Sadly, that is where the story turns sour.
“There is nothing to show for the revenues earned; no major capital project was completed, neither power generation, road development, rail nor agriculture benefited from the windfall earnings.
“Rather, the administration presided over the diversion of oil revenues on such a massive scale that even without the protection now accorded to Whistle blowers, the then Central Bank Governor blew not only a whistle but a trumpet.
“He was hurriedly shown the door.’’
Shehu added that the acquisition by public officers and their cohorts, of private jets, luxury yachts and the accumulation of expensive property portfolios world-wide continued unabated.
“Indeed the President once celebrated having the largest number of private jets, whilst our youths languished without jobs, our fields stood idle and our factories began the layoff of workers.
“Government simply reticulated oil revenue through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and salaries.
“This was done rather than investing in what would grow the economy. Economies grow due to capital investment in assets like seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing.”
The presidential aide further lamented that Nigeria could not record a single major infrastructural project in the last 10 years, saying that “in short the money was mismanaged.
“Such was the looting that even the goose that was laying the golden egg was being systematically starved.
“The direct contractual costs of oil produced in the form of cash calls, remained unpaid.’’
He, however, maintained that the President Buhari’s administration was left with the task of facing serious economic challenges from the oil majors, which included the demand for six billion dollars owed by Nigeria for oil that had already been sold or stolen.
He also highlighted that at the inception of the current administration, 21 states were unable to meet their salary bills and the spectre of workers arrears had commenced.
He said that the PDP solution was to “raid the Ecological Fund and selectively grant two billion dollars each to the PDP States.’’
He further stated that it was only aggressive borrowing by the Ministry of Finance, under Dr Okonjo- Iweala, that prevented Federal Government from also owing salaries.
“The economic wisdom of borrowing to pay recurrent bills is a questionable one, particularly as those paid would have included over 45,000 that have subsequently been removed by the Buhari led administration as ghost workers.
“It also included the lavish costs of chartering private jets, first class travel and other wasteful acts that have been eliminated under this administration.
“To compound the problem, the government was borrowing heavily and owed contractors and international oil companies.’’
The presidential aide noted that when President Buhari took over mantle of leadership on May 29, 2015, he inherited an accumulated debt back to the level it was before the Paris Club Debt Forgiveness.
He said all the factors were building up to “Nigeria heading for a major crisis if the price of oil fell. Nigeria did not have fiscal buffers to withstand an oil shock.
“The oil shock should and could have been foreseen. When Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS crisis started, it was clear that the United States of America wanted to cut off funds to terror groups by crashing the price of oil.
“When America granted permission for exploration of oil on land (Shale), the warning signs were evident, but these were ignored by Nigeria’s economic managers.
“In summary Nigeria earned a lot of money when oil prices were high but there is nothing to show for it. Now oil prices have fallen; we are suffering”.
The presidential spokesman revealed that the Buhari administration had since commenced doing things differently to find lasting solutions to the nation’s socio-economic problems.
According to him, the government has embarked on anti-corruption crusade, sanitising the huge salary bill by eliminating payroll fraud and reducing wasteful expenses like first class travel and private jets.
He said the government was also encouraging states to reform their spending and build savings or investments.
Shehu disclosed that the government had also increased spending on capital projects, especially on infrastructure needed to make Nigerian businesses competitive and create jobs.
He said that government had blocked the leakages that allowed its revenues to be siphoned into private hands while focusing on key sectors ( apart from oil) that could create jobs and or generate revenue such as agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing.
According to him, if these things have been done when the oil price was as high as 120 dollars per barrel, Nigeria will not be in the current predicament.