The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were again at each other’s throats yesterday, following the latter’s criticism on Saturday of President Muhammadu Buhari’s management of the economy.
This is just as ex-ministers, who served in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, came out in defence of their former boss and the projects executed by his government.
But the stance of the former ministers was dismissed by the presidency, which wondered what they were afraid of.
In a statement yesterday, APC claimed that there would have been more than enough money to deliver on its campaign promises, including feeding school children and paying N5,000 each to the 50 million most vulnerable Nigerians, if the treasury had not been emptied by the past administration.
APC said a major cog in the wheel of fast progress for a new Nigeria under Buhari has been the discovery that the pot housing the commonwealth was licked dry by the “looters of yesterday”.
While providing new instances of what it described as “insane looting” of the treasury by some officials of the Jonathan administration, the ruling party said not until the corruption mess that characterised the administration is cleaned up, Nigeria would not be able to actualise its potential.
APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said those who would rather give comfort to the looters by dismissing the media exposure of looting as mere hell-raising should realise that no sane person can be silent in the face of what is unfolding as the worst cases of brazen stealing of public funds in Nigeria’s history.
“On August 16, 2015, we listed some instances of the breath-taking looting of the treasury by some officials of the immediate past administration. Today, we bring three more heart-rending cases to the attention of Nigerians. We will not relent until closure has been brought to this issue.
“A mind-shattering $2.2 billion arms scandal, a $6.9 million fraud by the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to President Jonathan, committed under the guise of buying three mobile stages for the president and a $2.5 billion scam involving the rent of house boats.
“While those charged with handling these cases are finalising the details of bringing the suspects to justice, our immediate concern is the attempt by the PDP, under whose umbrella the looting took place, to blame the Buhari administration for the mess and then infer that things have been worse in Nigeria in the past three months under the APC-led federal government than in the 16 years under the PDP. This is totally provocative, shameless and uncharitable,” APC said.
Despite the discovery of cases of corruption under the Jonathan administration on a daily basis, the party assured Nigerians of better days ahead, as all its campaign promises would be kept because of the commitment and determination of the president not only to clean the Augean stable but also ensure purposeful governance for the benefit of all Nigerians.
APC canvassed the need to work meticulously to recover the looted funds and facilitate the delivery of good governance that would manifest in abundant jobs, a strong economy and improved welfare and security for Nigerians.
It said while the PDP, ever steeped in the pursuit of lies, presents the recently released data on job creation and economic growth as “clear signals” that President Buhari is failing Nigerians, the disgraced party mischievously omitted the fact that those numbers are basically a manifestation of the disastrous final days of President Jonathan’s failed economic policies.
“The PDP omitted the fact that these numbers measure job creation and economic growth for the second quarter of 2015, which covers April to June 2015, a period in which President Jonathan was in office for 2 months while President Buhari was only just settling in to discover even more of the mess left for him to clear.
“Since the PDP has become insular to global events, the APC will also like to educate the party that every country in the world is struggling to adjust to the effects of a global downturn at the moment.
“Only very few countries, if any, are growing as fast as they did, in say two years ago. From China, India, Russia, South Africa, to Ghana, Malaysia and Brazil, every country is feeling the effects of a sustained slowdown in global growth.
“The APC will also like to categorically state that it supports the policies of the CBN in its quest to ensure greater transparency in the forex market and eliminate currency substitution in our economy.
“The CBN’s policy to stop cash deposits of foreign currency is in line with global best practices and has led to a drastic reduction in the BDC exchange rate for the dollar,” the party said.
However, the PDP in an immediate riposte decried what it described as the deliberate resort to diversionary blackmail and overused excuses by the Buhari-led APC government to shy away from providing answers to the salient issue of unprecedented damage it has done to the nation’s economy in its 90 days in office.
PDP said rather than hide their heads in shame for poor performance in the last 90 days that has resulted in the sudden economic retrogression, the worst ever experienced by the nation, the APC and presidency have continued to grope and look for excuses.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement yesterday, said discerning minds were appalled that instead of providing answers to issues of economic retrogression, the presidency and APC resorted to wild allegations and insults in an attempt to cover their ineptitude and divert attention from their list of bogus promises which they have no intention to fulfill.
“We challenge the APC and presidency to be honest enough to respond to issues instead of resorting to propaganda. Is the so-called mess clearing an answer for the adamant stance of the APC and President Buhari in running a government without a cabinet and precise fiscal policy direction, a strange totalitarian approach that has taken a serious toll on the economy and the polity in general?
“Is it an answer to the resort to constitutional violations, abuse of financial regulations, halting of development projects and the pervading uncertainty that resulted in the regression of domestic and foreign direct investments with attendant avoidable losses to Nigerians?
“Are we not already experiencing the consequences of abuse of rules such as the foisting of foreign exchange transaction restrictions in violation of the Foreign Exchange Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, otherwise known as Decree No. 17 of 1995?
“What is the APC-led government’s answer to the report by Fitch, which alerted that Nigerian banks and other businesses in the sector are now at risk following the economic slowdown occasioned by the incompetence of the Buhari-led APC government?
“Why have the government and the APC refused to provide answers to the recent depletion of funds inherited from the previous administration without recourse to appropriate statutory arms of government, while no corresponding improvement has been witnessed in the economy?
“We challenge this administration to present to Nigerians a score card of investments it has made in any critical sector of the economy in the last 90 days. What investment has the Buhari administration made in power, health, education, the railways or petroleum sectors in the last 90 days, to warrant its posturing on achievements?” PDP asked.
In a related development, the immediate past ministers, who served under the administration of former President Jonathan, stated yesterday that the administration did not encourage corruption but fought it vigorously and laid a solid foundation for the development of the country.
They further contended that the present improvement in the electricity supply, national security, social services and other sectors of the economy were some of the good works of the past administration which also represented evidence of the “products of a solid foundation laid by the same Jonathan administration”.
The ministers said they found it increasingly alarming that the Buhari administration and members of the APC have made concerted efforts to condemn, ridicule and undermine the efforts of the past administration as well as to impugn the integrity of its individual members.
In a statement signed by the immediate former Minister of National Planning Commission (NPC), Dr. Abubakar Suleiman on behalf of other ministers under Jonathan’s government, they stressed that “we are proud to have served Nigeria and we boldly affirm that we did so diligently and to the best of our abilities”.
They also charged Buhari to prosecute the present anti-corruption campaign objectively.
The former ministers recalled that the Jonathan administration, among other things, ended the fraud in fertiliser subsidies and developed the Government Integrated Financial Management Platform, the Treasury Single Account (TSA), and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management Systems (IPPIS) as well as the biometric registration of civil servants and pensioners through which over N100 billion was recovered from ghost workers.
The ministers said: “While we concede that every administration has the right to chart its own path as it deems fit, we nevertheless consider the vilification of the Jonathan administration to be ill-intentioned, unduly partisan and in bad faith.
“The effort that has been made to portray each and every member of the Jonathan administration as corrupt and irresponsible, in an orchestrated and vicious trial through the media, has created a lynch mentality that discredits our honest contributions to the growth and development of our beloved nation.
“Contrary to what the APC and its agents would have the public believe, the Jonathan administration did not encourage corruption, rather it fought corruption vigorously within the context of the rule of law and due process.”
Continuing, they maintained that to ensure greater transparency and integrity in the oil and gas sector, the Jonathan administration ordered investigations and put mechanisms in place to check the theft of Nigeria’s crude oil.
“It was also under the Jonathan administration that a Nigerian Content policy was introduced, which opened up that sector to Nigerians in a manner that was not previously the case.
“It was also the Jonathan administration that mobilised and secured the support of our neighbouring countries to ensure a robust multinational response to the menace of terrorism and insurgency, resulting in notable advancements in the fight against terror.
“President Jonathan personally initiated the collaboration that led to these advancements and ensured that Nigeria provided the needed financial support for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
“It was the Jonathan administration that repaired and rehabilitated over 25,000 kilometres of our nation’s roads. Nigeria also became a profitable and preferred investment-friendly destination.
“It was under President Jonathan, for example, that Nigeria’s electric power sector became more competitive and attractive to local and foreign investors.”
According to them, the same administration promoted the rule of law, free speech, fundamental human rights, and a robust freedom of information regime.
“Women’s rights to participate in public life and the federal character principle as well as other constitutional principles were also respected. In every respect, our administration promoted inclusive governance and encouraged all stakeholders including the private sector to play key roles in the transformation of Nigeria.
“It should also not be forgotten that the Jonathan administration strengthened electoral institutions and created a peaceful environment for democracy to thrive.
“On this score, it is sad and ironic that the chief beneficiaries of that same legacy are the most vociferous today in condemning President Jonathan and his team.
“Perhaps the new administration and the APC would be sincere enough to publish the details of the handover notes they received. In addition, the Buhari administration should be fair enough to acknowledge the good works of the Jonathan administration.
“No administration can be either completely bad or completely good. President Jonathan’s achievements in moving this country to greater heights deserve to be duly acknowledged. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to build on these achievements,” they added.
On the anti-corruption campaign against past political office holders, the former ministers said: “We also urge him to press on with the anti-corruption fight, but in a fair and non-partisan manner, in line with due process and not as a political witch-hunt.
“The various lies and fabrications being peddled by some self-appointed spokespersons of the administration may entertain the unwary, but such sensationalism may achieve the unintended effect of de-marketing our country within the international community.
“All such persons playing to the gallery for whatever gains should be called to order. The name-calling of members of the Jonathan administration and the trial by news media should also stop.
“We have reserved our comment until now in the fervent hope that once the euphoria that may have inspired the various attacks on the past administration wears off, reason will prevail.
“But we are constrained to speak up in defence of the legacy of the Jonathan administration and shall do so again for as long as those who are determined to rubbish that legacy, are unrelenting in their usual deployment of blackmail, persecution, and similar tactic.”
Responding to the former ministers, the presidency yesterday encouraged them to be a bit more self-reflective on the sort of government they handed to Buhari in May to “determine for themselves if it would have been right for any incoming government, not just this one, to ignore the brazen theft of public assets, perhaps the first of its kind we have ever seen in this country”.
A statement by the president’s media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu, reiterated its position that the Buhari-led administration would not embark on a witch-hunt while attempting to recover stolen assets.
According to him, the war against corruption knows no “friend or foe”.
He said: “There is no intention to deny anyone of their good name where they are entitled to it and that Buhari reserves the highest regards for the country’s former leaders including Dr. Jonathan Goodluck whom he continues to praise to the high heavens for the way and manner in which he accepted defeat in the last election.
“That singular action remains a feat that has earned the former president and Nigeria as a country befitting commendations all over the world, the latest coming from Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations who visited a week ago.
“For the purpose of emphasis, the issue of fighting corruption by Buhari is non negotiable. It is sine qua non to the overall reconstruction of the economy and social systems which suffered destruction and severe denigration under the last administration.”
Shehu pointed out that all the “president has been doing is to put things together, organising to defeat Boko Haram, paying outstanding salaries, cleaning up the mess left behind, improving security and restoring Nigeria’s relationships with neighbours and the world”.
“So what are former ministers afraid of in these things? Have they become a new trade union? Let this collection of ex-VIPs allow the president the peace he needs to handle the reconstruction of the economy and the nation in a manner that most serves Nigeria’s best interests.
“Buhari does not need these types of distractions presented by the so-called association of former ministers,” he said.