Toks David, Lagos
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s speech at the 7th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum in Abuja has been receiving a fair amount of notice and commentary, especially his point about what ails the Nigerian economy.
The Forum, which took place Monday, March 19, at the Presidential Villa, is a consultative group consisting of public and private sector stakeholders who meet regularly to discuss the broad strokes of economic policy, projects and their implementation.
Monday’s speech was notable for Osinbajo citing “Grant Corruption” as the single greatest flaw in what the Vice President calls an “abnormal economy”. Illustrating his point, the Vice President named instances in which large sums of public funds were routinely diverted by officials of the Jonathan administration, particularly during the 2015 general elections where, Osinbajo revealed, “in a few weeks to the elections… the sum of N100 billion and $289 million in cash were embezzled by a few.”
Osinbajo’s statements and revelations have proven alarming as it drew attention to both the scale and degree of embezzlement previous governments have engaged in. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose administration Osinbajo’s speech made reference to in defining Grand Corruption, responded on Tuesday through a spokesman Reno Omokri, pushing back on the claims of the Vice President, and accusing him of spreading “slander and lies”.
Omokri, in a scathing press statement, and in press interviews across major and social media, vehemently denied the characterisation of the Vice President regarding Jonathan’s administration.
Osinbajo, in turn, has not reacted to the salvo of criticism from the past administration which are contained in its press release below:
“It is sad that the Vice President has again surrendered his lips to satan to be used to spread slander and lies.Nigerians may recall that lying is the most consistent achievement of Professor Osinbajo’s almost three years as Vice President.
“Only on October 20, 2017, Vice President Osinbajo was in Anambra state where he lied that the present administration had paid $2 billion for the second Niger Bridge.
“I personally exposed that lie and forced the Presidency to issue a ‘clarification’. The money released was 2 billion Naira and it came from the Sovereign Wealth Fund set up by the Jonathan administration which the APC resisted and challenged in court.
“Even after Jonathan left office, it is still monies that he left behind that the Buhari administration is using.
“It will also be recalled that in February 2016, the Vice President again lied when he claimed that both the Jonathan and Yar’adua governments did not build a single road. This fact was easily disproved when even members of this administration, including Osinbajo’s boss, President Buhari, began commissioning projects, including roads built by the Jonathan administration.
“Some of the roads either built or rebuilt by the Jonathan administration include the Benin-Ore portions of the Benin-Lagos road, the Vom-Manchok road, the Kano-Zaria Road bridge (named after late Emir Ado Bayero) and many more.
“On this most recent allegation by Vice President Osinbajo, let me state categorically that former President Jonathan DID NOT share 150 billion two weeks to the 2015 election. If Professor Osinbajo has proof that former President Jonathan did so, then we challenge him to publish his proof. He is a professor of law and ought to know that he who alleges must prove.
“Again, it is a lie from the pit of hell that the Jonathan administration spent only N14 billion on agriculture and N153 billion on infrastructure in three years as alleged by the fallacious Osinbajo.
“The Jonathan administration budgeted and spent over $10 billion on infrastructure in the 5 years between May 6, 2010 and May 29, 2015.
“The single most expensive and valuable project built in Nigeria in the last 20 years is the $1.8 billion Abuja-Kaduna 187 kilometres super-fast railway that enables Nigerians work in Abuja and live in Kaduna.
“This project was built and completed by the Jonathan administration. Is the Vice President aware of this?
“Also, former President Jonathan revived Railways in five of the six geo-political zones and restored direct rail services from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and Makurdi to Gombe.
“When Rotimi Amaechi took over as minister of transport in 2015, he said (this is a direct quote)
” ‘In fact, I think we have a problem; most people don’t believe that the railway transport is functioning in Nigeria. I didn’t even know, until I started this tour, I never knew that the railway was functioning, it was even from his (MD’s) speech that I learnt that there are some coaches or services that go to Kano or Port Harcourt or elsewhere.’
“My question to the Vice President is who built these rail infrastructures that Amaechi was referring to?
“Who built the only Federal University in President Buhari’s home state of Katsina including 13 other Federal Universities and 165 almajiri schools? It was ex President Jonathan.
“In contrast, the Buhari administration, which in less than three years has borrowed more money than the PDP borrowed in 16 years cannot point to even one major project they have started and completed.
“Both President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo keep accusing the Jonathan administration of being corrupt and claim that they run an anti corruption government.
“If this is true, how come Nigeria made her best ever improvement in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index under former President Jonathan in 2014 when we moved 8 places forward from 144 to 136 and why have we made our worst ever retrogression in the Corruption Perception Index under President Buhari, moving 12 places backward from 136 to 148 in 2018?
“The truth is that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo continues to make these discredited comments because he is a man promoted above his competency.
“He was never a deputy Governor or Governor or an ambassador or a minister. His highest portfolio before becoming Vice President was that of a commissioner in Lagos state.
“No wonder he was referred to as ‘ordinary commissioner’ by a prominent member of the All Progressive Congress and leading figure in this current administration.
“Finally, let me say that If President Buhari will not intervene and rein in his Vice President by call lying pastor Osinbajo to order, I respectfully call on Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God to remember the biblical admonition in Revelations 21:8 that “all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” and step in to call Pastor Osinbajo to order.”
On Monday, at the 7th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had, again, pointed accusing fingers at former President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration for unbridled corruption.
He said: “I have asked the question, and I ask again? What was wrong with the Nigerian economy and what did we need to do to correct the flaws?
“There are several issues, many of which have been well articulated in all earlier presentations. But I want to talk about what I think is probably the biggest problem but which we for some reason hardly talk about when discussing our National economy. This is grand corruption in the public finance space!
“Sometimes, the way we talk about the Nigerian economy, it appears like it is the economy of say Norway or Sweden, where all things are equal. Even when we refer to what has taken place in our economy, we almost sound as if this is a normal business environment, a normal public finance environment but that is not the case. I don’t think that any considerations of our economic development can be properly or honestly done without fully analysing the role of grand corruption in the public finance space.
“So despite record high levels of oil prices, very little was invested in infrastructure and record levels of leakages were recorded, especially in the past few years. This is the fundamental issue in our economy. Corruption affects everything, it even affects judgement as to what sort of infrastructure to put in place or whether to even put infrastructure in place or whether it would be completed. It is so fundamental that we cannot even think of our economy, without thinking of what to do about it.
“Sometimes when we talk about our economy, we say that we have relied on a single commodity, and that is one of the reasons why we are where we are. Yes, that is true but it is the fact that the proceeds of that single commodity were regularly hijacked consistently by a few. That is really the problem. If we spend the proceeds of that single commodity the way we ought to spend it, we won’t be where we are today.
“That most of the proceeds go to rent seekers, who invest little in industry and production.
“So for example, I’m sure many of us are familiar with the so called strategic alliance contracts with the NNPC and NDPC, the promoters of the companies made away with close to 3billion US dollars, almost a tenth of our reserves at one point! There is no way if someone made away with that amount, a tenth of your reserves, that there won’t be a major economic shock! If we don’t deal with it and talk about it, how do we really discuss our economy in any real honest way with a view to ensuring that these things do not happen again?
“In one single transaction, a few weeks to the elections in 2015, the sum of N100billion and $289million in cash were embezzled by a few. When you consider that in 2014, when oil prices were an average of $110 per barrel, only N99billion was spent on Power, Works and Housing, and in one day, N100billion was issued and people essentially shared it and N99billion was spent on Power, Works and Housing. When we talk about our economy, we talk about it like it is normal but it is abnormal by every standard, completely abnormal. Nobody should talk about the economy when you have these huge leakages and corruption; corruption that makes what you allocate to capital and infrastructure nonsense.
“From the presentation of Minister of Finance, N14billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation N15billion. The total spend on capital in those critical areas was N153billion and in two weeks to the 2015 election, N150billion was shared and essentially shared! So if your total capital spend is N150billion and you can share N153billion, let’s face it, that is completely incredible! It is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. When we talk about the economy, we absolutely must understand that is the problem
“Today with less revenue, we have increased capital funding by 400% in Power, Works and Housing, Defence, Transportation and Agriculture. Economic analysis in Nigeria is either fraudulent or ignorant if we do not bring the money lost to corruption into the maths.
“This is what distinguishes this administration from any other. It is the fight against corruption especially in public finance. And I can say that will all sense of responsibility, if you have a President who is not corrupt, at least 50% of your financial problems, especially in public finance, is over. This is what I have seen, and I can prove it with facts and figures.
“If the President is corrupt, the entire financial system of the country is compromised, that is what we have seen from the figures. That is an absolute important point that we must take into account….”