FORMER Vice President (Africa) at the World Bank and Minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday said that both the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and his successor, Goodluck Jonathan’s regimes ‘’squandered’’ $67 billion (about N11 trillion) oil money left in two separate accounts by Obasanjo.
Ezekwesili said that the two administrations squandered $45 billion (N7.065 trillion) left in the Foreign Reserve and another $22 billion (about N3.454 trillion) left in the Excess Crude Account, bringing the total amount of money squandered to about $67 billion or N10.619 trillion.
Ezekwesili spoke while delivering the Convocation Lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN. She noted that Nigerians had lost dignity because of ravaging poverty arising from poor choices of the elite, corruption and lack of investment in education.
Recalling that Nigeria had enjoyed five cycles of oil boom since independence, Ezekwesili decried the failure by the leadership to convert oil income to renewable assets through the development of human capital and other sectors through investment in foreign assets as other resource-rich countries did with their oil income.
Her words: “The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is, however, much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. This is because we are still caught up in it and it is more egregious than the other periods in revealing that we learned absolutely nothing from the previous massive failures.
Nigeria learnt nothing from past failures
“This is because we are still caught up in it and it is more egregious than the other periods in revealing that we learned absolutely nothing from the previous massive failures.”
The former minister lamented “the squandering of the significant sum of $45billion in foreign reserve account and another $22billion in Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007.
“Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one most Nigerians but especially the poor continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions.
“One cannot but ask what exactly does this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources symbolize? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of these resources and the additional several hundred dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last five years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately misapplied? Tragic choices.”
Ezekwesili, who was a founding director of Transparency International and also, former Minister of Solid Minerals and later Education however, asked graduating students of UNN and other educated young people to become the Turning Point generation of young and educated Nigerians willing to make the right choices by serving or having a say in political affairs of the country.
She stressed that sorting out the “Nigerian political mess” is critical as there is a strong correlation between politics and economic development.
According to her, university graduates accounted for 4.3% of Nigeria’s youthful population in 2013, a slight increase from the 3% when she graduated in 1985. She pointed out that this figure compared unfavourably with opportunity for university education in other countries put at 37.5% in Chile, 33.7% for Singapore, 28.2% for Malaysia and 16.5% in Brazil.