By Reno Omokri
This has been a most interesting week for me. As many of my readers may have become aware, the minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi, gave an interview to some select papers (ThisDay thankfully not included) and repeated the lie that former President Jonathan pilfered $49.8 billion from the national treasury and that is the reason why Nigeria has a recession.
Well I responded to his untruths with facts, figures and dates, but rather than take me up on the issues, Mr. Amaechi took me to the cleaners in an ad hominem attack that did not address the facts in issue. Well, writing is my strength and Rotimi Amaechi with all his bluster is not very strong in this area and my responses to him obviously taught him a thing or two as he has not yet recovered enough to launch another salvo at me.
Those who read the Financial Times of London would have read their latest story on Nigeria which appeared on the front page story in their global print edition on Wednesday the 1st of March, 2017. That piece clearly shows that the Buhari administration is squarely to blame for Nigeria’s recession.
In fact, the Financial Times was diplomatic. The Economist magazine was more blunt and indicted President Buhari without mincing words. In its February 28, 2017 edition, the publication said inter alia:
“The economy shrank by 1.5% in 2016. Inflation has more than doubled to 18.7% in 12 months. Meanwhile, the president, Muhammadu Buhari, has been out of the country since January 19th, being treated for an undisclosed illness. The 74-year-old former military dictator could hardly have chosen a worse time to be incapacitated. But much of the blame for Nigeria’s current economic troubles can be laid at his door.”
But that is not even the worst from The Economist. In the piece, the publication described Nigeria under President Buhari thus: “The country is almost uninvestable.”
It is hard to believe that they are referring to the same country that was rated by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as the number one destination for Foreign Direct Investment in Africa in 2013.
There are a number of reasons Nigeria is facing a recession and I will try to list some of them in summary.
The first is the rushed implementation of the Treasury Single Account instead of the gradual implementation planned by the Jonathan administration which conceived of the concept of the TSA.
The second is failing to appoint ministers on time and when he finally appointed ministers the President appointed a woman whose highest degree is a Bachelors in Economics from a second class British University (The University of East London) to succeed a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former Managing Director of the World Bank as minister of finance.
Not done with putting round pegs into square holes, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a man who studied French to replace a man who has a PhD in agricultural economics from Purdue University and who had worked at the highest levels of the Rockefeller Foundation as minister for agriculture.
The third reason is the President’s interference with the independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria and his public comments of what he would do with the naira. This led to foreign exchange restrictions that saw 270 companies fold up (according to the Nigerian Labour Congress), seven foreign airlines leaving Nigeria, 10 foreign shipping firms divesting from our economy and over $3 billion capital flight from Nigeria.
The fourth and most avoidable reason was the constant negative comments that the President made whenever he left the country on state visits. President Buhari de-marketed Nigerians by calling us ‘criminals’ to the Telegraph of London in February of last year. He went to India and declared that Nigeria’s institutions were massively corrupt and then he went to the US to say the same. Yet he expected foreign investors to flock to Nigeria? I do not think so.
So when Amaechi says, “As chairman of the Governors Forum, when I started fighting with President Jonathan, I was clear about what the fight was all about. I was the first Nigerian to raise the alarm about the former CBN governor’s letter to President Goodluck Jonathan that $49 billion was missing from the NNPC account and not paid to the federation account. If they had returned it, we would not be in recession. If that $49 billion was there plus other recovered looted funds, perhaps, we would have hit $50 billion. With $50 to $60 billion, you don’t need to look for dollars to buy.”
He reveals a lack of a firm grasp of the principles of elementary economics. He also reveals his tenuous relationship with the truth.
Nigerians will recall that this discredited allegation was made by the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who went on to change the amount that was missing three times.
In September 2013, the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Malam Sanusi Lamido alleged that the sum of $49.8 billion was not remitted to the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. When he was challenged on this amount by the National Assembly, the then Minister of Finance, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, and the NNPC, the then CBN Governor reduced the amount that was missing to $10.8 billion on December 18, 2013.
In February of 2014, the then CBN Governor wrote another letter to the Senate admitting that he did not know how much was unaccounted for, saying it could be “$10.8 billion or $12 billion or $19 billion or $21 billion — we do not know at this point”.
Eventually, it was established that no such monies were missing and even the Buhari administration has kept quiet about the matter knowing that it was propaganda to pull down the previous administration.
Nigerians should realise that it is no coincidence that this allegation is coming just days after the revelation that no record exists of Nigeria’s crude oil sales since June of 2015.
It is quite telling that the single most expensive infrastructure built in Nigeria in the last decade is the Kaduna-Abuja 187KM modern fast railway that enables you live in Kaduna and work in Abuja.
Though President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned this project on July 26, 2016, it is worth mentioning that neither he nor Amaechi had anything to do with this project beyond reaping where they had not sown!
That project was built and completed by the Jonathan administration.
If Nigerians want to know why it was very hard to save money over the last decade, they should point fingers at Rotimi Amaechi.
Those in the habit of noising about the ‘alternative fact’ that the Jonathan administration did not save up during the sunny days for the rainy day should not forget so soon that the Jonathan administration met $6.5 billion in the Excess Crude Account upon inception in 2010 and increased it to almost $9 billion by 2012.
However, the Nigerian Governors Forum, using their influence at the House of Representatives, had gotten that August body to declare the Excess Crude Account illegal in 2012.
So excruciating was the pressure from the Nigerian Governors Forum and most notably from the then Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, (now the minister of transport) for the Jonathan administration to end the Excess Crude Account and the Sovereign Wealth Fund regimes and instead share the funds in those accounts amongst the three tiers of government that they approached the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of the Excess Crude Account and then President Jonathan’s decision to transfer $1 billion from that account to the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
In fact after hosting a meeting of the forum on September 21, 2012, at the Rivers State Governor’s lodge, Rotimi Amaechi said inter alia:
“On the Excess Crude Account, Forum unanimously decided to head back to Court to enforce the Federal Government’s adherence to the constitution.”
To those who do not know what the Constitution says, let me give you an insight by quoting from Section 162.
Section 162, provides that
“(1) The Federation shall maintain a special account to be called ‘the Federation Account’ into which shall be paid all revenues collected by the Government of the Federation, except the proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, the Ministry or department of government charged with responsibility for Foreign Affairs and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“(2) The President, upon the receipt of advice from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, shall table before the National Assembly proposals for revenue allocation from the Federation Account, and in determining the formula, the National Assembly shall take into account, the allocation principles especially those of population, equality of States, internal revenue generation, land mass, terrain as well as population density;
“(3) Any amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the Federal and State Governments and the Local Government Councils in each State on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.”
From the above it was clear what the Amaechi-led Governor’s Forum wanted.
Mr. Amaechi led the governors in taking the Federal Government to court. The Jonathan administration offered an out of court settlement with the governors in a deal that would have seen the Federal Government sharing some of the money and saving up the rest for Nigeria’s future but the governors rejected the offer.
In fact, the Jonathan Administration had argued at the Supreme Court that sharing the money in the ECA would affect “the day to day running of the nation’s economy”.
Working in tandem with Mr. Amaechi and his supporters in the Nigerian Governors Forum, the then minority APC members of the House of Representatives approached a Federal High Court on the 7th of February, 2014, for a perpetual injunction restraining the Jonathan administration from operating the ECA and to pay all the proceeds of that account into the Federation Account for sharing amongst the three tiers of government.
As a result of these actions, the Jonathan administration paid the 36 states of the federation a total of N2.92 trillion from the Excess Crude Account between 2011 and 2014. Using the value of the naira at that time that amount was just above $20 billion dollars.
So it is quite clear that anyone who accuses the Jonathan administration of not saving for the rainy day is not telling the whole story.
Thankfully, in the last month, things seem to be getting better under the leadership of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The naira is appreciating; we are seeing decisiveness for the first time in two years. Gone are the days of blaming past administration (hopefully). In short, Osinbajo is a blessing to Nigeria.
But from my birth to the present moment, I have never experienced a government like Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. You criticise them and they call you a wailer. You praise their own Vice President and they complain or call you a ‘mischief maker’!
And that brings me to the call by President Buhari to his spokesman Femi Adesina. The President has so far spoken to President Donald Trump, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Kano Governor Ganduje and a few others.
However, one people that the President has not spoken to are the Nigerian people.
In March of 2010, Muhammadu Buhari heavily criticised then President Umaru Musa Yar’adua for the secrecy behind his health tourism abroad and went as far as calling for President Yar’adua’s resignation.
Today he is in the same position, but how does his own behavior square up to that of Yar’adua?
One thing you must give him kudos for is handing over to Vice President Osinbajo. Thereafter, the kudos ends.
In Yar’adua’s case, he did not call the high and the mighty as President Buhari is doing. No. His first and only public call was a call to the Nigerian people via the British Broadcasting Corporation to touch base with us and quieten our anxieties.
On that call on Tuesday the 12th of January, 2010, President Yar’adua said:
“At the moment I am undergoing treatment, and I’m getting better from the treatment. I hope that very soon there will be tremendous progress, which will allow me to get back home. I wish, at this stage, to thank all Nigerians for their prayers for my good health, and for their prayers for the nation.”
Now compare this with President Buhari’s call, not to the Nigerian people but to his spokesman.
President Buhari did not have enough time to say ‘tell Nigerians anxious about the recent killings in South Africa and Southern Kaduna that we will protect them’, but he had more than enough time to throw stones at ‘mischief makers’! I wish he was as concerned about the welfare of his fellow citizens as he is concerned about targeting his critics. “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”-Luke 6:45.
Yet, this was a man who criticised President Yar’adua! If it is not an insult to say that a man who drives a car is a driver then it is not an insult to say that a man who criticised others for things he does and even does worse is a hypocrite!
When you examine what the President says and what he does, it is clear to all but those blinded by partisanship that he does not walk his talk.
This is what makes his departure from Nigeria a relief for those who are truly progressives. Things get done better without him. I wish him well, I wish him quick recovery, although his aides tell us he is ‘hale and hearty’, but I wish him to let us enjoy Osinbajo some more.
If you are one of those, like the folks in the Presidency, who don’t think that personal leadership matters, then ask yourself how come the naira started to steadily appreciate when Professor Yemi Osinbajo assumed the mantle of leadership. What else has changed? The price of oil has not increased. The party in power remains the same. The only difference is the PERSON in power. Yes, leadership matters and that is why I support Yemi Osinbajo!
Acting President Osinbajo and substantive President Muhammadu Buhari may share a joint ticket, but they don’t share a joint brain. The brain of one is giving us a better deal than the brain of the other. So if the Presidency likes, they can call all of us who are seeing this plain truth ‘mischief makers’ all they want. The fact remains that it is better to make mischief than to make a fool of yourself.
I am wondering if the Presidency will also release a statement condemning The Economist Magazine for comparing the President’s style with that of Osinbajo and coming up with a verdict that is very unflattering for President Buhari.
In comparing the duo, The Economist said:
“Mr Osinbajo, currently in charge, has proved an energetic antidote to his ponderous boss, visiting the Delta for peace talks and announcing measures intended to boost Nigeria’s position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, in which it currently ranks a lowly 169 out of 190.”
Now, permit me to change the mood of this piece and pivot once more to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi as I end it. To those who say as a Pastor I should not have responded to Amaechi I respond thus: Where were they when Tunde Bakare and Reverend Father Mbaka did worse to a decent man like Goodluck Jonathan? Everything I have done with regards to Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is biblical.
Jesus talked about the ‘Rich Fool’ in Luke 12:20. The Bible prescribes two ways to respond to such people depending on the circumstances. I chose to use the second prescription found in Proverbs 26:5 ‘Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.’ If I had kept quiet, Amaechi would be emboldened to lie and insult both former President Jonathan and I in future!
And before I conclude this piece, let me say that few things have shocked me as a Christian as the open confession by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as his open confession that he consulted with an astrologist.
‘In fact, I went to an astronomer in India, I told him to look at my palm and tell me my real age” – Olusegun Obasanjo!
How can you as a Christian admit that you went to India for palm reading, something the Bible expressly condemns as unGodly? And then while making this revelation you complain about the loss of values amongst today’s youths! What value are you as a leader teaching, you that condemn? That we should all go to India to consult spirit mediums? ‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.’-Leviticus 19:31!
Many of my loyal readers would know me as an avid lover of Obasanjo from my early youth. While working as an aide in former Vice President Atiku’s office, I was a suspect because of my open display of affection for President Obasanjo. I openly supported the Third Term Agenda and I was convinced and remain convinced that Nigeria would have progressed much more than she has had Third Term succeeded.
I have had open confrontation with my in-law, uncle Niyi (my sister, Abiodun’s husband) over Obasanjo which led to a cold Wlwar as uncle Niyi loathes him.
But this I cannot defend. I can only follow a man to the extent that he follows Christ and I am greatly appalled by Obasanjo’s admission.
Even if it happened before he, Olusegun Obasanjo, became born again, is that the type of thing he should be saying? Does he know what he has done?
By that admission he has undermined the faith of many immature Christians and worked against the formation of virtues within the Body of Christ. Alas! Alas!
*Omokri is the founder of the Mind of Christ Christian Center in California, author of Shunpiking: No Shortcuts to God and Why Jesus Wept and the host of Transformation with Reno Omokri