Over N30tn stolen under Okonjo-Iweala – Soludo

Renowned economist and a former Governor
of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, on Sunday alleged
that over N30tn had been stolen under the watch of the Minister of
Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Soludo, in a 10-page response to
Okonjo-Iweala’s rebuttal of his earlier criticism of the management of
the Nigerian economy under the administration of President Goodluck
Jonathan, said the nation was in for a very turbulent time this year
because the economy had been grossly mismanaged.
The Federal Government had last Wednesday
described the five-year tenure of Soludo as the governor of the CBN
between 2004 and 2009 as a disaster to the banking sector.
The comment came on the heels of an
earlier article by Soludo last Monday in which he claimed that the
Nigerian economy under Jonathan had performed woefully.
Okonjo-Iweala had in a statement on Wednesday described Soludo’s as an “embittered loser in the Nigerian political space.”

But Soludo, in his new article, which was
made available on Sunday, said if the prices of crude oil in the
international market failed to rebound, Nigeria would face an
unprecedented level of economic crisis with horrible attendant hardships
for the citizenry.
“Our public finance is haemorrhaging to
the point that estimated over N30tn is missing, or stolen, or
unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged,” the former CBN governor
stressed.
In the piece entitled, ‘Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala and the missing trillions’, Soludo said the sharp decline
in the naira-dollar exchange rate from 158 a few months ago to 215
currently showed that trouble was already at the doorstep.
He added that “unless oil price recovers,
this is just the beginning,” adding, “For the sake of Nigeria, I won’t
keep quiet anymore!”
The former CBN boss said his earlier
article was written out of concern that the 2015 election campaigns were
being conducted in a manner that did not show that the economy was in a
crisis.
“Part of my frustration is that five
years after, everything I warned about has come to happen and we are
conducting our campaigns as if we are not in a crisis. As a concerned
Nigerian, I have a duty to speak out again,” he said.
Soludo, who gave the details of the N30tn
allegedly stolen under Okonjo-Iweala’s watch, said, “Under you as the
Minister of Finance and coordinator of the economy, the basket of our
national treasury is leaking profusely from all sides. Just a few
illustrations! First, you admit that ‘oil theft’ has reduced oil output
from the average 2.3 – 2.4 million barrels per day to 1.95 mpd (meaning
that at least 350,000 to 450,000 barrels per day are being ‘stolen’). On
the average of 400,000 per day and the oil prices over the past four
years, it comes to about $60bn ‘stolen’ in just four years.
“In today’s exchange rate, that is about
N12.6tn. This is at a time of cessation of crisis in the Niger Delta and
the amnesty programme. Can you tell Nigerians how much the amnesty
programme costs, and also the annual cost for ‘protecting’ the pipelines
and security of oil wells? And the ‘thieves’ are spirits?
“Second, my earlier article stated that
the minimum forex reserves should have been at least $90bn by now and
you did not challenge it. Rather, it is about $30bn, meaning that gross
mismanagement has denied the country some $60bn or another N12.6tn. Now,
add the ‘missing’ $20bn from the NNPC. You promised a forensic audit
report ‘soon’, and more than a year later, the report itself is still
‘missing’. This is over N4tn, and we don’t know how much more has
‘missed’ since Sanusi cried out.
“How many trillions of naira were paid
for oil subsidy (unappropriated?). How many trillions (in actual fact)
have been ‘lost’ through customs duty waivers over the last four years?
As coordinator of the economy, can you tell Nigerians why the price of
Automotive Gas Oil, popularly called diesel, has still not come down
despite the crash in global crude oil prices, and how much is being
appropriated by friends in the process?
“Be honest: Do you really know (as
coordinator and minister of finance) how many trillions of naira self-
financing government agencies earn and spend? I have a long list but let
me wait for now. I do not want to talk about other ‘black pots’ that
impinge on national security.”
Soludo added, “My estimate, Madam, is
that probably more than N30tn has either been stolen, or lost, or
unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged under your watchful eyes in the
past four years. Since you claimed to be in charge, Nigerians are right
to ask you to account. Think about what this amount could mean for the
112 million poor Nigerians, or for our schools, hospitals, roads, etc.
“Soon, you will start asking the citizens
to pay this or that tax, while some faceless ‘thieves’ are pocketing
over $40m per day from oil alone.”
The former CBN governor also maintained
that the banking sector consolidation exercise that he supervised was a
huge success contrary to Okonjo-Iweala’s assertion that it failed
woefully.
He described it as both “a revolution and a war, and most people thought it was impossible, but thank God we succeeded. “
Soludo said, “For the first time in
Nigeria’s history, a policy of that magnitude was announced and the
deadline kept with precision. We were courageous to revoke the licences
of 14 banks, including those of my friends, in one day. The FT-Banker
concluded that the scale, precision and cost of the transformation were
unprecedented in the world. Before then, Malaysia had the least cost of
banking consolidation at five per cent of the Malaysian GDP.
“It did not cost Nigerian taxpayers one
penny. Twenty-five new and stronger banks emerged, but the powerful idea
behind the consolidation ignited something even more powerful – the
race to the top. Banks raised more capital, and even banks like First
Bank, Zenith, GTB, etc. that did not merge with others went on capital
raising several times. The consequence was higher levels of
capitalisation and within two years, 14 Nigerian banks were in the top
1,000 banks in the world and two in the top 300 (no Nigerian bank was in
the top 1,000 before I came).
“Even after I left office, still nine
banks were in the top 1,000. Our vision was to have a Nigerian bank in
the top 100 banks within 10 years. As I see the new Access Bank, Zenith,
GTB, Fidelity, Diamond, UBA, FBN, FCMB, Skye, Stanbic IBTC, Union,
Ecobank, etc., I cannot but feel that we have taken giant steps forward.
“Deposits and credit soared (from barely
N1.2tn to over N7tn); new technologies (ATM and e-banking) boomed, and
banks had 57,000 new jobs; mega businesses emerged (ask any major
operator in the Nigerian economy their experience with banking and
credit before and after Soludo; – the Dangotes, Arik, MM2, oil and gas
operators etc.); capital market boomed and dominated by the banking
sector.
“It was a new dawn for the Nigerian
private sector. I have heard Dangote twice say that he would not be near
as big as he is today without the banking consolidation. Many other
stakeholders still say it today. FDI and portfolio inflows flooded into
Nigeria. The world celebrated, and one single transformative idea has
changed the face of the private sector and the economy forever. Banks
became Nigeria’s first transnational corporations, with about 37
branches outside of Nigeria.”
He also said he would write about the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria later as a separate topic.

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