The last is yet to be heard of the rift between the former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, and the Federal Government as the former minister has declared that the Federal Government was avoiding a public debate on her claims that the nation’s $45 billion Foreign Reserves, saved by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was squandered between 2007 and 2009.
“Madam Due Process”, as the former minister, was famously called, made the position known in a statement in Abuja in which she said that the government has also distorted the facts presented by her at a lecture, adding that whereas she claimed that the sum of $45 billion was squandered, the government has been consistently quoting $67 billion. Noting that the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had also deliberately misquoted her figures in order to accuse her of giving false information, the former minister said that her decision to call attention to the perceived mismanagement of the Reserve was a simple patriotic call aimed at saving the nation of mismanagement.
Her words: “The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi more than anyone knows that my speech stated that the Foreign Reserves was $45b and not the ‘$67b Foreign Reserves’ they have been quoting to paint the picture of ‘false accusation’ and hence manipulate and distract everyone… He knows that they are distorting the point of my article by using their ‘straw number’ of $67b which I did not use in my speech. My speech stated $45b Foreign Reserves and $22b ECA and he, more than anyone knows that Excess Crude Account is a sub-set of Foreign Reserve!
“Sanusi knows that the Foreign Reserves is a ‘composite’ or ‘aggregate’ amount of ALL official foreign exchange belonging to a country. So I wonder why they are seeking to confuse the point for citizens? He knows that I separated the ECA amount in that speech deliberately to make a separate point on the terrible fiscal choices of expenditure that wrecked what was supposed to be ‘savings for rainy days’”.
“He admits fiscal leakage! Well then, is it not proper that we should know the magnitude of that leakage of public resources especially in a democracy? Is it not proper that we should learn how it is that our Foreign Reserves depleted and was not growing over a period of at least 4 years of high oil prices – double the prices at the time that the $45b Foreign Reserves was accumulated?
“Except for a few months in 2009 when oil prices fell significantly but then sharply rose again what explains the fact that our public finance is under stress at a season of Oil Boom which other OPEC nations are relishing?”