• Says Jonathan shared N150bn two weeks before 2015 polls
In a departure from the mantra of the administration, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo Monday in Abuja admitted that the federal government is yet to deal effectively with the menace of corruption in the country.
Speaking at the 7th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for private sector stakeholders at the State House conference centre, he said the administration has been unable to deal decisively with corruption because it is endemic and has fought back on all fronts.
He also criticised the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that while it spent a paltry N14 billion on agriculture in 2014, N15 billion on transportation, and only N153 billion on infrastructure in three years, it shared N150 billion two weeks to the 2015 elections.
Osinbajo faulted the perceived taciturn nature of Nigerians on the adverse effects of corruption on the nation’s economy, saying the absence of unanimity on the impact of corruption was dragging the country backwards and advocated a change of mindset.
He said: “I must ask again what was wrong with the Nigerian economy and what do we need to do to correct the flaws. There are several issues which many of you have already articulated, but I want to talk about what I think is the biggest problem which, for some reason, we hardly talk about when discussing our national economy.
“That is grand corruption in the public finance space. Sometimes the way we talk about the Nigerian economy it does appear as if it is the economy of say, Norway or somewhere, where all things are equal.
“Even when we refer to what has taken place in our economy, we almost sound as if this is in every sense a very normal business environment, a very normal public finance environment. But that is not the case.
“I do not think that any consideration about our economic development can be properly and honestly done without fully analysing corruption, especially grand corruption in the public finance space.
“You see that despite the record high levels of oil prices, very little was invested in infrastructure and a record level of leakages were recorded in the past few years.
“That is the fundamental issue in our economy. Corruption affects everything. It affects even judgment as to what sort of infrastructure to put in place or whether infrastructure will ever be completed.
“It is so fundamental that we can’t even think of our economy without thinking of what to do about it.
“Sometimes when we talk about our economy, we talk about the fact that we have relied on a single commodity and that is one of the reasons we are where we are.
“Yes, that’s quite true but the fact is that proceeds from that single commodity were regularly hijacked consistently by a few. That is really the problem.
“If we had spent the proceeds from that single commodity the way we ought to, we won’t be where we are today.
“Most of the proceeds went to rent seekers in the industry. For example, I’m sure many of us are familiar with the so-called Strategic Alliance Contract between Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited and NPDC. The promoters of the company made away with close to $3 billion, almost a tenth of our reserves.
“There is no way if someone made away with a tenth of your reserves that you will not have a major economic shock. And if we don’t deal with it, if we don’t talk about it, how will we be able to discuss our economy in an honest way with a view to ensuring that these things do not happen again?
“In one single transaction, a few weeks to the 2015 elections, the sums of N100 billion and $295 million were just frittered away by a few.
“When you consider that in 2014, as the Minister of Finance has said, oil prices averaged $110 a barrel but only N99 billion was spent on the power, works and housing sectors.
“Yet, when we talk about the economy we talk as if these are normal by every standard.
“Nobody should talk about the economy when you have this kind of huge leakages and huge corruption. Corruption completely makes nonsense of even what you are allocating to capital projects.
“We saw from the presentation of the Minister of Finance that N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation got N15 billion, while infrastructure in three years got N153 billion, and yet in two weeks before the elections, N150 billion was shared.
“So if your total infrastructure spending is N153 billion and you can share N150 billion, that is completely incredible. That sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. So, when we are talking about the economy, we must simply understand that, that is the problem.”
On what the current administration has done with the little resources available to it, the vice-president said: “Today, with less revenue, we have increased capital funding by 400 per cent as the finance minister has said, in power, works and housing, and in defence, transportation, agriculture.
“If we want to do an analysis in Nigeria, it is either fraudulent or ignorant if we do not bring money that belongs to corruption to the masses. This is what distinguishes, in my own respectful view, this administration from the other.
“I can say that with what I have seen if you have a president who is not corrupt, 50 per cent of your financial problems are over. This is what I have seen and I can demonstrate it with facts and figures.
“If the president is corrupt, the entire financial system will be compromised and that is what we have seen with the figures we have just been presented.
“And that is something that is absolutely important that we must take into account. So, I am not saying that corruption under this administration has been completely dealt with, no certainly not.
“Where corruption has become systematic such as we have in our country today, you cannot deal with it in one full fell swoop, it is not possible. In any event, you still have a lot of corruption fighting back.
“The system fights back and it’s both an internal and external fight back and you have to be steadfast and strategic to win the battle.
“There’s no way that you would have a system such as ours that has consistently thrived on corruption and the proceeds of corruption that will give up and say, guys, the problem has been solved.
“It is a system that has fed on corruption and it affects all aspects of governance, so trying to deal with it is certainly not a walk in the park.
“But I want to say that the task has already begun and that task is being done consistently and I believe that going forward in the next few years, no matter how we are criticised, if we stick to policies, especially controlling excesses and corruption in public finances, this country will make the kind of progress that it deserves to make with all the resources at our disposal.
“If we stick to the policy of ensuring that as far as public finance is concerned there is no impunity and that we hold people to account, I’m absolutely confident that this country will make the kind of progress we deserve to make as a nation.”
In attendance at the event were the Ministers of Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu; Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma; Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah; and the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Dipo Dipeolu.
In their remarks, the private sector participants spoke on a host of issues including the ongoing construction on Apapa-Wharf Road, contractors that have abandoned work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the need to revive railways for ease of transporting goods from ports, and the need to stop multiple checks at airports leading to delay in movements.
They also spoke on the need for the federal government to take an interest in education in order to stop ill-trained people from manning critical sectors of the economy, as well as the need to revive the Eastern ports comprising those in Onitsha, Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar.