Buhari And The 7 Trillion Naira Question
"We were told at the beginning of the exercise that the government was in deficit of at least N1.3 trillion and by the end people were talking about N7 trillion; everything is in a state of collapse. The civil service is bloated and the military and police, if you are a Nigerian, you know what they have been facing for a long time; everywhere is in a mess and these things have to be fixed." (Alhaji Ahmed Joda (Chairman, APC Transition Committee)
Just in case he didn't know it before, the report of the Ahmed Joda-led transition Committee he established in the weeks leading to his inauguration on the 29th of May 2015 should have given President Muhammadu Buhari a clear view of the herculean task that confronts him and the APC in their quest to right all the wrongs the vanquished PDP foisted on Nigeria in the past sixteen years.
And, if the report of the same Committee supports the view of its Chairman as expressed in the extensive interview published by the Sunday edition of the Trust newspaper at the weekend in which he astounded Nigeria with the news that the previous administration left behind a 7 billion Naira deficit, then Nigerians must brace themselves and accept that things are likely to get worse before they begin to get better.
The revelations from the Transition Committee Chairman should also buy valuable time and understanding from some Nigerians who have grown increasingly wary of what they believe to be the very slow pace of the current administration complicated as it were with leadership crisis in the National Assembly (NAS).
If anyone expected President Buhari's new administration to hit the ground running, the Joda interview certainly provided sufficient justification why it could not, and cannot do so, given the fact that the outgoing government only provided details of its hand-over notes only a few days before May 29th 2015. Whether it was part of a grand strategy or not, President Buhari, along with the millions of Nigerians baying for the blood of those who mismanaged the economy under the maladministration of Goodluck Jonathan, are now saddled with the astonishing reality that in the past six years or so, 7 trillion Naira was expended on their behalf in an epoch when they lacked the basic necessities of life.
At the moment life in Nigeria has never been cheaper. There is insecurity everywhere we look. Boko Haram attack villages and hamlets at will. Kidnappers are also on the prowl in many locations while the pathetic energy situation has never being more tragic. Healthcare is in shambles while the education sector is still crisis ridden. Worst still, the Excess Crude Account hopelessly depleted beyond recognition, while the nation's foreign reserves stands at a paltry 28 billion dollars as I write this.
Now, when we add all these to the 20 billion dollars His Highness the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II maintains were not remitted to the Federation Account we are confronted with only one question: where did all the money go? Allowing for all the leakages in the system how could an administration that was supposed to be accountable to the Nigerian people generate a 7 trillion Naira deficit and was still unable to pay civil servants their salaries?
Seven trillion Naira is not peanuts. At the official rate of 199 Naira to the dollar, we are talking of approximately 35 billion dollars here. Just imagine what that amount could achieve for a developing nation such as ours. In 2008, just a year after Obasanjo third-term bid met its Waterloo, the Chinese commenced the construction of the 1,316 kilometre High-Speed rail line to link the major cities of Beijing and Shaghai. The project was commissioned two years later in 2010 at the cost of 34.7 billion dollars.
The entire cost of the world-class Dubai rail metro system which attracted the participation of numerous Japanese companies is put at 7.8 billion dollars. Next month, Ethiopia is expected to commission the first ultra-modern light rail system for the city of Addis-Ababa at the entire cost of 475 million dollars. I shudder to even compare these sums to the various antiquated systems the Jonathan administration bequeathed to Nigerians in the name of modernizing our railways in the past six years.
Not only do the sums quoted for most of the projects beggar belief, nearly all have not been completed to date. So where did all the money go? How did we end up with the 7 trillion Naira deficits? So far it is obvious from President Buhari's body language that he wants his government to be viewed as very civil and in conformity with democratic norms. We cannot fault him for that.
But there are also certain crimes committed in the lives of nations that require drastic action to avert the drift into oblivion. There is no place in statecraft for the mindless plunder of the public treasury of the type we witnessed during the previous administration.
What transpired in the life of Jonathan administration was treason pure and simple and the new government of president Buhari must view it as such. With millions of dreams differed and over 70 percent of Nigerians living below the poverty line, this is one crime that must not pass without an inquest. President Buhari and the APC must know that Nigerians demand nothing less.
BETWEEN OMAR AL-BASHIR AND THE ICC
Yesterday, a major drama played out in South Africa. The Sudanese President was attending a meeting of the African Union when a South African High Court ordered his virtual detention and repatriation to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for trial following his multiple indictment for alleged atrocities committed during the Darfur crisis which were somehow linked to him.
While I believe that all accused should have their day in whatever court that is entitled to try them, I cannot help but applaud the South African government for its refusal to restrain Omar Al-Bashir from leavings its shores in this instance. Even as I write this someone – and American – is idling away on a Texas ranch after causing the mayhem that threatens the peace and security of the entire world. By invading Iraq on the basis of blatant lies told on its possession of weapons of mass destruction, George W. Bush literally opened the doors of hell from which the world is yet to recover.
The unjust and illegal invasion of Iraq led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. It also produced the murderous gang called ISIS who now threatens Nigeria through Boko Haram their affiliate group. If Bush did not listen when Mandela cautioned on the invasion of Iraq, why should South African pander to the wishes of the West this time?
If Bush and a certain Benjamin Netanyahu who has also committed untold atrocities in Palestine are walking free, why shouldn’t Al-Bashir? Why are both the US and Israel not signatories to the ICC protocols? And, if at all, the protection of human rights is the ultimate goal, why should the signing of the protocol be made optional in the first place?