Ezekwesili has limited understanding of government finances – Maku

The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, has expressed surprise about the position of a former Vice President for Africa in the World Bank and two time minister in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, that the administrations of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan frittered $67 billion in five years.
Maku, on Sunday, said Ezekwesili, who spoke at a convocation lecture of the University of Nigeria Nsukka on Thursday, showed limited understanding government finances.
He said that the position of Ezekwesili is factually incorrect.
He said: “The recent statements by Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili at UNN’s convocation ceremony on January 24, 2013, betray a surprisingly limited understanding of government finances.
“These statements are even more curious in light of the fact that she has held senior positions in government, and more recently, a position as a Vice President of the World Bank. However, rather than speculate about her motives, we would focus on the facts.
“The statement by the former World Bank Vice President that the governments of Presidents Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan have squandered $67 billion in reserves (including $45 billion in external reserves and $22 billion in the Excess Crude Account) left by the Obasanjo Administration at the end of May 2007 is factually incorrect.”
Maku said in the first place, Nigeria did not have up to $67 billion in its accounts, based on the records of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He said what was available in all the accounts Ezekwesili referred to was $43.13 billion.
He said further that the reserves have gone through periods of fluctuations and was at an all time low of $31.7 billion in September 2011.
He said: “At the end of May 2007, Nigeria’s gross reserves stood at $43.13 billion – comprising the CBN’s external reserves of $31.5 billion, $9.43 billion in the Excess Crude Account, and $2.18 billion in the Federal Government’s savings. These figures can be independently verified from the CBN’s records. The figure of $67 billion alleged in her statement is therefore clearly fictitious.
“However, since President Obasanjo left office, the reserves have experienced fluctuations, rising from $43.13 billion in May 2007, peaking at $62 billion in September 2008 during the Yar’adua/Jonathan Administration when oil prices peaked at $147 per barrel, and falling subsequently to a low of $31.7 in September 2011.
“This fall in reserves was a result of the vicissitudes of the global financial crisis which caused CBN interventions in the currency market to defend the value of the naira.
“The Excess Crude savings, a component of the reserves, was also used to stimulate the economy at the height of the global financial crisis to the tune of about $1 billion (or 0.5 percent of our 2009 GDP).
“As a result, Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world that did not seek assistance from international financial institutions.
“It should be noted that the fiscal stimulus used to shore up the economy during that period was shared by all 3-tiers of government, including commitments of about $5.5 billion made under the Obasanjo Administration for power projects.”