The immediate past Minister/Deputy Chairman, National Planning Commission (NPC), Dr. Abubakar Sulaiman, yesterday, faulted claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that his administration met an empty treasury.
Suleiman said the former administration as at May 29 left behind $30 billion, adding that the sum would have been higher had the governors not insisted on sharing the fund.
He warned that the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, must not be criminalized and painted a plunderer and looter of the nation’s treasury before the generality of Nigerians.
The clarification was in response to the President’s statement during an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, where he was quoted to have said that his government met “virtually an empty treasury.”
President Buhari reportedly said that it was a disgrace that Nigeria cannot pay salaries of its workforce.
Expressing his dismay over the President’s statement, Sulaiman in a statement in Abuja described the report as “unscientific and unfair,” stressing that the immediate past administration “left behind close to $30 billion.”
He said: “Government can’t tell us that there is no Excess Crude Account (ECA), Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or are we saying the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIR) and related agencies had not in the last one month been generating revenue?
“Until they are able to prove they had no receipts from these government agencies in the last one month before Nigerians can now buy into Mr. President’s claims of an empty treasury.”
He recalled that under the Jonathan’s administration, Nigeria was rated the largest economy in Africa and 26th largest in the world, querying how come such a government would leave behind an empty treasury.
He said: ”Money made by government is meant to be spent, and this the immediate past administration did responsibly. Every government operates on deficit even in the so-called western world, including the US which today remains one of the largest debtor nations in the world.
“Is it not on record that President Obama inherited $3 trillion debt, a collapsed banking sector and mortgage industry, yet he never raised any alarm. None of these has happened in Nigeria under Jonathan.
“Under Jonathan, Nigeria became the largest Africa economy and 26th in the world amidst deadly security challenges and dwindling international prices of oil. In spite of all these, the Federal Government never owed salary.
“Upon inception of Jonathan’s administration, it is on record that the price of oil at the global stage was over $100 per barrel and at the close of the administration, it dropped to $46. Yet, there wasn’t collapse of government and federal civil servants were paid as at when due.
“It will be misleading, therefore, for our respected President Muhammadu Buhari and indeed the ruling APC to claim to have met an empty treasury.”
He further reminded the new government that “aspiration to governance is a call to meeting and confronting challenges headlong. So, we urge the APC-led government to hit the ground running as promised Nigerians by confronting the challenges.
“We are not in doubt of the capability of Mr. President to do it. He should, therefore, get to business, put in place structures and personnel to redeem the pledges made to Nigerians.”