Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday alleged that large sums of money in local and foreign currencies were stolen by some people in the former President Goodluck Jonathan-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration a few weeks before the 2015 general elections.He spoke at the Seventh Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for Private Sector stakeholders at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja.
He said with the level of corruption which held sway in that government, there was no way the country would not experience a major economic shock. “I must ask again what was wrong with the Nigerian economy and what do we need to do to correct the flaws? There are several issues many of which have already been articulated, but what I think is the biggest problem, which for some reasons, we hardly talk about when discussing our national economy 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 say 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 analysing corruption, especially grand corruption in the public finance space,” he said.Osinbajo lamented that despite record high levels of oil prices, very little was invested in infrastructure and a high level of leakages occurred in the past few years. He said though the country’s reliance on single commodity had been faulted,
the proceeds from that single commodity were regularly hijacked 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.”For example, 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, if someone made away with a tenth of your reserves, 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 elections 2015, N100billion and $295million were just fretted away by a few,” he disclosed.He further said that in 2014, oil price was on an average of $110 a barrel but only N99 billion was spent on power, works and housing.The VP said: “Nobody should talk about the economy when you have this kind of huge leakages and huge corruption, the menace completely makes nonsense what is allocated to even capital projects.
“We saw from the presentation of minister of finance that N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation N15 billion, so the total spent on infrastructure in those three years was N153 billion. But 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.” The vice president noted that “today, with less revenue, the Federal Government has increased capital funding by 400 percent as the minister has said, in power, works and housing, defence, transportation and agriculture.”
According to him, what distinguishes this administration from previous ones is that President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of integrity. “When you have a president who is not corrupt, 50 per cent of your financial problems are over. If the president is corrupt, the entire financial system is compromised.”
Osinbajo, who acknowledged that corruption under this administration has not been completely dealt with, said where corruption had become systematic, it would be impossible to deal with it in one swoop.
In its reaction, the PDP challenged the vice president to name those involved in the allegation he made, otherwise his claim would be regarded as part of the “figure propaganda and blame game” the ruling party has adopted to cover its ineptness since it assumed power in 2015.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, wondered in a telephone interview with The Guardian where Osinbajo got the figures. He asked what the government had done to arrest those involved and prosecute them to recover the money “because this is new and also strange.”
“Nigerians are sick of the ruling party’s propaganda. Since the APC started its anti-graft crusade, it has not been able to convict one person for corruption, neither has it clearly told Nigerians what it has been able to do with the recovered money. “While, to me, the claim by the vice president sounds flimsy and sheer excuse, the ruling party should justify why it has plunged the country into more debts in less than three years than any previous administrations without any concrete thing to show for it.”