21 March 2018, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has disclosed that Nigeria lost over $3 billion to the Strategic Alliance contracts the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and some companies signed during the previous administration.
Osinbajo, who spoke on the troubled economy and the Buhari administration’s battle to revive it, stressed that, in his view, corruption has been the major hindrance to the country’s development.
He painted a gloomy picture of the mismanagement of the economy under the Dr. Jonathan administration.
According to him, “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, that 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 in 2015, sums of N100 billion and $295 million were just frittered away by a few,” Osinbajo told a gathering of businessmen, government officials and journalists in at the Seventh Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for Private Sector stakeholders at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja.
Osinbajo noted that when oil prices went up, Nigeria did not save for the rainy day, adding that the problem was not just that of a single commodity.
He said, “Sometimes when we talk about our economy, we talk about the fact that we have relied on single commodity and that is one of the reasons why we are where we are. Yes, that’s quite true, but the fact is that proceeds from that single commodity were regularly hijacked consistently 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.”
He added that, “When you consider that in 2014, as the minister of Finance has said, that oil price was an average of $110 a barrel and only N99 billion was spent on power, works and housing and when we talk about the economy we talk as if these are normal by every standard.
“Nobody should talk about the economy when you have this kind of huge leakages and huge corruption. Corruption that completely takes what you are allocating to capital projects.
“We saw from the presentation of Minister of Finance N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation N15 billion, so the total spent on infrastructure in those three years were N153 billion and 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.
“And when we are talking about the economy, we must simply understand that this is the problem.”
The Vice-President said with less revenue, the current administration had been able to increase capital funding by 400% in power, works and housing, in defence, transportation, agriculture.
“If we want to do analysis in Nigeria, it is either fraudulent or ignorant if we do not bring money that belongs to corruption into the mass.
“This is what distinguishes, in my own respectful view, this administration from the other. I can say that with what I have seen, if you have a president who is not corrupt, 50 per cent of your financial problems are over.
“This is what I have seen, I can demonstrate it with facts and figures. If the president is corrupt, the entire financial system is compromised and that is what we have seen with the figures we have just seen. That is an absolutely important fact that we must take into account,” he said
Osinbajo, however, noted that corruption has not been completely wiped out under the current administration.
“Where corruption has become systematic, such as we have in our country today, you cannot deal with it in one fell swoop; it is not possible. In any event, you still have a lot of corruption fighting back. The system fights back and it’s both an internal and external fight back and you have to be steadfast and strategic to win the battle.
“There’s no way that you have a system such as ours that has consistently thrived on corruption and proceeds of corruption and public financing, in particular, that will give up and say, ‘guys, the problem has been solved’. No.
“It is a system that has fed on corruption and it affects all aspects of governance; so, trying to deal with it is certainly not a walk in the park.
“But I want to say that task has already begun and that task is being done consistently and I believe that going forward in the next few years, no matter how we are criticised, if we stick to policy especially controlling excesses and corruption in public finance, this country will make the kind of progress that it deserves to make with all the resources at our disposal.
“If we stick to the policy of ensuring that as far as public finance is concerned, there is no impunity and that we hold people to account, I’m absolutely confident that this country has what it really takes to make the kind of progress we deserve to make as a nation.” Osinbajo said.
Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Trade and Investment Minister, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah and Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs, Zainab Ahmed, highlighted the various reforms being undertaken by the present administration.
Private sector participants at the meeting complained of various problems facing businesses, including power supply, high cost of production, high excise duty, abandoned Lagos-Ibadan expressway and non-linkage of small and medium entrepreneurs to the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan focus labs.
Osinbajo’s conclusion is that it will be impossible to develop any economy without first tackling corruption.
According to him, the massive corruption in the last administration is still having adverse effect on moves by the current administration to develop the economy.
He said: “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 I want to talk about what I think is the biggest problem which for some reason we hardly talk about when discussing our national economy.
“This 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 economy’s development can be properly and honestly done without fully analysing corruption, especially grand corruption in the public finance space.
“You see that despite record high levels of oil prices, very little was invested in infrastructure and a record level of leakages were recorded in the past few years.
“This is the fundamental issue in our economy. Corruption affects everything. It affects even judgement as to what sort of infrastructure to put in place or whether infrastructure will ever be complete. It is so fundamental that can’t even think of our economy without thinking of what to do about it.”