By Ibidapo Balogun
More trouble seems underway for the country as President Muhammadu Buhari opened up on Monday, saying he met a ‘virtually empty’ treasury as he took over from former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Buhari spoke at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja during his first meeting with the State House Correspondents. It was on the day he resumed work at the Villa, three weeks after his inauguration.
The president said his government is facing severe financial strain from a treasury that’s “virtually empty” and billions of dollars in debts.
The government is under “so much pressure” that it’s unable to even regularly pay some state workers, he said, adding, “This is the bad management that we find ourselves in.”
Former Minister of Finance, Prof. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had stridently denied before the Jonathan regime ended that the country was broke, even though the Federal Government took a loan to pay April salaries of federal workers.
His blunt statement on the state of the finances of the country will further hit the states where the governors have been unable to pay salaries.
The governors have asked for a bail out and scheduled to meet President Buhari soon.
Buhari has yet to name a cabinet since being sworn in as president on May 29 after defeating Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28, 2015 elections.
But he has scaled up the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents, moving to solidify the multinational force against Boko Haram and moving the operational command of the army to Maiduguri, the epic centre of the Boko Haram insurgency.
He took over as a plunge in crude prices forced the government to scale back budgeted spending and devalue the naira while foreign-currency reserves fell.
The government relies on crude for about 70 percent of its income and Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of oil.
The government has been using its international reserves, which fell to $29 billion as of June 18 from $34.5 billion at the start of 2015, to help defend the currency, which has declined 7.8 percent against the dollar over the same period.
Growth in the economy is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to slow to 4.8 percent this year from 6.3 percent last year.