Sunday, 4 December 2016

How Obasanjo, Yaradua, Jonathan blew over N70trn in 15yrs

A fresh report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative yesterday revealed that Nigeria under the administrations of President Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan blew a mind-boggling N70 trillion of earnings from sale of crude oil and gas between 1999 and 2014.

NEITI made the disclosure that Nigeria in the last eight years had lost over $200bn it could have earned from the exportation and sales of mineral deposits found in several states of the federation.

Making the shocking disclosures yesterday, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Mr. Waziri Adio, told the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs during an oversight visit to his office that unless Nigeria develops a prudent way of spending, the country may be in for very rough times in the coming years.

He added that it was unfortunate and unthinkable that despite the huge earnings recorded from crude oil sales over the years, Nigeria is unable to account for at least $100 billion in the excess crude account.

Mr. Adio therefore called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to develop a saving mechanism that accommodates drastic slash on government spending to the barest minimum, if indeed his administration must succeed.

He said: "Let me inform the committee that we discovered that between 1999 and 2014, the country spent over N70 trillion it received from oil and gas alone. That is a whole lot of money. And what is sad is that it was spent without the country being able to show for it. I think it is quite unfortunate."

"For the sake of emphasis, however, I think if previous administrations had developed a culture for prudent management of resources, Nigeria ought to have over $100 billion saved in the excess crude account. So, going forward, it is necessary for government to think about saving a lot more, and do all it can as well to cut down on wasteful spending if the nation must make progress," the Executive Secretary added.

Lamenting the challenges confronting the agency, Mr. Adio told the Senate committee that Nigeria risks suspension from the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), if the agency fails to complete its audit report by a given deadline which times out in December this year.

The Executive Secretary who also decried the unavailability of funds owing to late releases by the Ministry of Finance, told members of the panel led by its Chairman, Senator Tijjani Kaura (APC, Zamfara North), that same was responsible for the inability of the agency to conclude work on its audit report to the world body, EITI.

He added that should Nigeria be suspended from the world body as a result of the agency's failure to met the December deadline for the submission of its audit report, such development would be an embarrassment on the image and reputation of the nation before the international community.

"The agency has been battling with the issue of funding, and this is due to late releases. As a result of this challenge which we face, we have been unable to conclude work on the 2014 audit report.

The deadline which we have been given is December, and this is due to the 2 years interval required to come up with one as stipulated by the world body. Failure to meet it may result in Nigeria's suspension. That, will be very embarrassing for us as a nation," Adio lamented.

Responding, Vice Chairman of the Senate committee, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North), Said that the committee would require the effort of NEITI to close the communication gap between the agency and the upper chamber with a view to ensuring effective collaboration.

According to him, NEITI is the second agency among all government agencies that has not got its capital releases adequately met by the federal government, describing the development as "a misnomer."

He added that under the present administration, "all agencies have had releases between 45 percent and 65 per cent. It is a misnomer to find that your agency up until this time has got less than 30 per cent, a figure which falls short of the average release.

"Our focus now is to help you achieve greater heights, and this involves working with you and putting heads together so as to avoid a repeat of non-release of funds in the 2017 budget," the lawmaker said.

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