Port Harcourt — A former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, has called on Nigerians to prevail on the National Assembly to enshrined savings in the Excess Crude Account, ECA, a constitutional obligation.
ECA, set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004, was economically created to save revenues in excess of the budgetary benchmark price that was generated from crude oil sales.
Ezekwesili while delivering a lecture at the master class on oil and gas reporting, organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, said the country’s economic growth mirrors the volatility structure of crude oil prices.
According to the former Minister, ECA was a deliberate policy measure of Obasanjo administration, to save resources when oil prices are high, and to be drawn on when oil prices are low, adding that over $20biilion was left in the account at the end of that administration in 2007.
She explained that poor governance rests on oil and gas operations, and urged Nigeria to follow the footsteps of Botswana, who, according to her, was using the proceeds from her solid mineral (gold) to create intergenerational equity for her citizens.
She also added that the best time to carry out reforms is when oil prices are down while maintaining that the country needs a constitutionally based mechanism to solve her economic problems.
According to her, “The best option is a direct constitutional amendment initiated by the executive arm of government and the 36 state governments, accepted and acted upon by the National Assembly, that will institute the culture of savings in the constitution.
“The second option is a national process instituted by the civil society, directly aimed at constitutional reforms, that is, citizens’ participation, where citizens will wake up and say enough is enough like we recently witnessed in Algeria and Sudan.”
“The third option is for us to do nothing. Let’s us all just sit back and doing nothing at solving our economic problems.”
On subsidy, Ezekwesili said the issue of subsidy under this current administration was woeful and also shrouded in secrecy. She regretted that the country is a rentier state, which relies so much on consumption.”
“The story of subsidy under this administration is woeful. Today, nobody knows the total expenditure for a subsidy, there is a high level of opaqueness, and nobody is asking questions.
“I saw in the newspapers that money spent on subsidy is bigger than the budgetary allocation for education, health, defense, and infrastructure.”