By Ibidapo Balogun
The Federal Government has slammed the Peoples Democratic Party for once again asking President Muhammadu Buhari to quit, calling the former ruling party a shameless irritant, which is bent on distracting the government from its rescue mission and returning the country to ”Egypt”.
”We are on a rescue mission to resuscitate Nigeria after the PDP left it in a coma, and the noise from the same PDP seems designed to sabotage the rescue efforts. But we are not deterred,” the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.
The Minister said if the PDP had understood the meaning of shame, it would never have dared to even make a single comment on the same economy that it did everything to kill.
”While the PDP was emasculating Nigeria on all fronts, including social, economic and political, the rapacious party was deceiving Nigerians by giving them the illusion of growth and prosperity. Instead of showing remorse and rebuilding itself to a strong opposition party, the PDP has continued to blame the successor-Buhari Administration, which is left to pack their mess.
“PDP undertakers have continued to engage in a blame game, when they should be hiding from the shame they brought upon themselves and the nation,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said what the PDP has consistently put up as a vibrant economy under its watch was nothing but a bubble that was buoyed by massive corruption and chronic incompetence, an economy in which someone without any known means of earned livelihood would boast of $31.5 million!
”They keep saying we should stop talking of the past, yet the past will not stop rearing its head. They keep saying we should no longer refer to the past, but how can we forget so soon that our foreign exchange reserves plummeted from $62bn in 2008 to $30bn by 2015, at a time when oil prices were at a historic high, reaching a level of $114 per barrel in 2014. By comparison, Indonesia, another oil producing economy with a high population, increased its reserves from $60 billion in 2008 to $120 billion in 2015.
”The candid truth is that we failed under the successive PDP administrations to save for the rainy day, and we need to constantly remind ourselves of that so that we won’t repeat the mistake. Take the excess crude account which fell from about $9bn in 2007 to about $2bn in 2015. The argument that it was the state governors that depleted the account does not hold water since there were Governors in place when the account was being built up.
”Worse still is the fact that up to $14bn in revenues from Nigerian LNG remains unaccounted for and indeed until the Buhari Administration came to office, State Governments never got any allocations from this source of funds which properly belongs to the Federation Account.
“The naked fact on the revenue front is that there was just a failure of leadership. This was compounded by the non-transparent uses of funds. We are all witnesses to the sacking of a Central Bank Governor because he raised an alarm about $20 billion that had gone missing.
”We are indeed still trying to recover huge sums looted from the national treasury under the PDP’s watch, with $15 billion stolen from the defence sector alone. Perhaps most painful is that because of the way funds (about $322m) returned from Switzerland were mishandled, we now have to accept conditionalities before our stolen assets are even returned to us,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said one of the achievements that the PDP has been touting is that it reduced the nation’s national debt.
”However, at the time that we were earning such large revenues from oil, we only managed to double our external debt from $5.6 billion to $10.7 billion between 2011 and 2015. The case of domestic debt was even worse, almost tripling from N888 billion to N2.1 trillion in the same period.
“Even these figures mask the extent of unpaid obligations to contractors and the huge plethora of uncompleted projects on which money continued to be spent without visible results. Payments to contractors stopped several years ago while not a single dollar was contributed to the Joint Venture activities. Over N4.5 trillion was spent on fuel subsidy in just two years under the PDP!
”Despite a recent oil boom, Nigerians are indeed all victims of the dilapidated and decrepit infrastructure. The economy that the Buhari Administration inherited was certainly in dire straits, if the huge amount of salary arrears that were being owed at various tiers of government is anything to go by.
“If, after earning so much resources and increasing the total debt stock, our governments were not able to meet salary obligations, sometimes for up to seven months, then something was definitely wrong somewhere and if this is not evidence of a collapsing economy, one wonders what it is.
”Indeed, it was not so long ago that the fuel subsidy regime almost bankrupted the country. Through credibility and commitment to good governance, the current administration has managed to save up to N1.4 trillion that would have been spent on subsidies for PMS. Moreover, the daily demand for PMS has halved from 1600 trucks a day to 850 trucks a day. If we could achieve such savings, then clearly the petrol sector which was and remains a huge source of foreign exchange demand was not being well managed.
”It is also important to point out that the poor security situation in the North East has had ripple effects on the economy. Apart from the dislocation of daily lives, there was extensive loss of agricultural production arising from the fact that our citizens in that zone could not go to their farms not to talk of planting and harvesting produce.
“Yet, in just a space of about 15 months, the Buhari Administration has liberated this region from the clutches of Boko Haram, which is now left to release meaningless videos when it could no longer carry out spectacular attacks,” he said.
The Minister said while the government will continue to welcome constructive criticism, it had nothing to learn from a party that was in charge of the nation’s affairs at a time of plenty, but ended up frittering away the commonwealth, looting the nation blind and setting the stage for today economic crisis, which the Buhari Administration is working tirelessly to put an end to.