Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Monday bemoaned the state of economy of Nigeria in view of its declared 2016 budget deficit, warning against another episode of ‘Dead On Arrival’.
Chief Obasanjo made the declaration at the inaugural conference of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), an initiative of a retired Permanent Secretary in the Communications Ministry, Dr Tunji Olaopa .
Chief Obasanjo said, “This programme is coming at a time when the country is in search of new ways of doing things given the crises of governance that now manifest in rigorous ways affecting the drastic fall in oil price in the international market has unravelled the weaknesses of governance in Nigeria. Minister of Finance has recently announced that the 2016 budget deficit may be increased from the current N2.2trillion in the draft document before the National Assembly to N3trillion due to decline in the price of crude oil. That means our budget is 50% deficit.
“With the current fiscal challenge if not critically addressed, Nigeria may be on its way to another episode of Dead On Arrival. This does not augur well for the country. You will recall that few years ago, we rescued Nigeria from its creditors. These creditors were bad. My first year in government as elected President, we were spending about $3bn to service our debt and anytime we could not pay (the quantum of debt not inclusive) , they pile up at a punishing rate to what we owed. We were in the region of $35m to the debt. We were lucky, finally dealing with the Paris Club who wrote off $18billion of our debt. That was Africa’s largest that has ever taken place.
“Nigeria should move from that of oil exporting to pay off our over $2bn debt in arrears. We ended up with a quantum of debt of less than $7bn. Falling commodity prices have put pressures on local currencies and if caution is not taken, it may lead to mounting debts. It is indeed proper for us in Nigeria to ask questions.
‘The government position is to deal with the challenges affecting this misgovernance, good governance in the 36 states where some governors have become sole administrators. The governors have rendered public institutions of the 774 institutionally-recognized local governments to private estates. When governors take their money, Chairmen of Councils take the balance of the money, put it on the table and share it out among the council members.
He further lamented, “Have governors not hijacked the resources of the local governments and expended them to serve their whims and caprice instead of using the resources to galvanise growth and development. Have we embraced the principles of presidential system such that it will enable us to realise our vision and the potentials of our great country instead of waste that we experience?
“Has the National Assembly been able to live up to its role as an agent of oversight and public accountability? When are we going to be able to practise federalism in a way that promotes healthy competition among the states for the benefit of the citizens? When are we going to subordinate partisanship to collective goals and deploy the full potentials of our diversity to advance public courses by serving aspirations of the teeming masses of on people crying under the yoke of poverty, disease, unemployment? When shall we all unite around the Nigerian dreams in our quest for the giant that God has graciously endowed us with? Why is it that every model that has worked elsewhere never seem to work for us here?”
The former president therefore challenge the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy “to focus on these in consonance with its promise of problem-solving independent think-tank, helping proffer solution to complex problems of governance “.
He noted that the questions he raised were apposite “in view of the structural deficit unemployment, decay in infrastructural facilities, the impoverished living standards of citizens with regard to food, housing, water supply, health care which have deepened in recent years. This development in governance shows the failure of the systems, disregard for institutional processes and the general decline of institutions that used to function to guarantee reasonable service delivery to citizens”.
At the programme that held at the International Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan, many dignitaries were in attendance, including Chief Emeka Anyaoku, (former ECOWAS Secretary General and keynote speaker), Professor Richard Joseph of the John Evans University USA, Guest Speaker, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka (Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan), Professor Akin Mabogunje (Chairman, Board of Governors of ISGPP), Dr. (Mrs) Tokunbo Awolowo Dosunmu, President, Association of Political Science scientists, Professor Shuaib Ibrahim, and former Nigerian Ambassador, Mrs Toyo.


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