The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Tuesday said the $3 billion allegedly stolen under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan could have built the 2nd Niger bridge and seven major roads in the country.
Mr. Osinbajo spoke at the Ogun State Investors’ Forum, held in Abeokuta on Tuesday.
The vice president said that the ultimate goal of the Buhari administration has been the diversification of the economy, away from the kind of unhealthy dependence on oil and gas revenues that led Nigeria to the dire straits in which it found itself.
Mr. Osinbajo also noted that a sum of $3 billion allegedly stolen under the previous administration could have helped rehabilitate Nigeria’s crumbling infrastructure if judiciously used.
The vice president had earlier on Monday in Abuja accused the Jonathan government of embezzling the fund some few weeks to the 2015 presidential elections.
But in his reaction Tuesday, Mr. Jonathan challenged Mr. Osinbajo to provide evidence that his government embezzled the money.
A statement released by a former spokesperson to Mr. Jonathan, Reno Omokri, which the former President confirmed on Tuesday morning he stood by, also accused Mr. Osinbajo of repeatedly lying to score cheap points in the public arena.
But the vice president again on Tuesday insisted the Jonathan government stole the money, adding that it could have been used to fix the East-West Road, Lagos-Abeokuta old road, among other major roads across the country.
“Yesterday at the Quarterly Presidential Business Forum, I said that the main reason for Nigeria’s recursive growth is not just a matter of our relying heavily on a single commodity, it is the fact that the proceeds of that single commodity were regularly hijacked consistently by a few,” Mr. Osinbajo said.
“The most of the proceeds go to rent seekers, who invest little in industry and production.
“So, for example in a so called strategic alliance contracts with the NDPC, the promoters of the companies made away with over 3 billion US dollars, almost a tenth of our reserves at a point!
“Here is a list of possible roads 3 billion dollars could have built, and at the moment we are in the course of getting 3 billion dollars to build these roads that I am about to name: Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road; 2nd Niger Bridge; Enugu-PH road; East-West road; Sagamu-Ore-Benin road; Kano-Maiduguri road; Abuja-Lafia-Akwanga-Keffi road; Lagos-Abeokuta (old road).
“That is what 3 billion US dollars that some people made away with could have done, and that is why it is important for us to understand that our country’s problems must be analysed from the perspective of what the real issues are. We talk of the Nigerian economy without talking about the blight that was caused years ago by people simply stealing the resources of this country.”
Mr. Osinbajo said in one single transaction, the sum of N100 billion and $289 million in cash were released a few weeks to the 2015 elections, adding that “it was not released as such, it was the money embezzled.”
“When one considers that in 2014 when oil prices were an average of 110 dollars a barrel,” the vice president explained, “only N99 billion was spent on Power, Works and Housing. Agriculture and Transportation got N14 Billion and N15 billion respectively”.
He allegedthat the total amount spent on capital projects in these critical areas was only N153 billion, “and over N150 billion was released and allegedly shared within three days”.
“This is enormity of what we are talking about; there is no country in the world that can survive on grand corruption on the scale that we are talking about. And that is why it is important for the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse that grand corruption,” he said.
“So, we spent, in 2017, N1.3 trillion on capital, the highest spend in the history of the country, earning almost 60 per cent less than we were earning in 2014. So, you can do far more with less if we are prudent with the resources of this country.
“Today, with less revenue but no leakage, we have increased funding capital in Power, Works and Housing, Defence, Transportation and Agriculture by as much as 400 per cent.
“Today, we are two quarters out of the recession and firmly on the path of recovery. Our external reserves are at their highest levels in five years. Inflation has dropped for 13 consecutive months, manufacturing confidence is on the rise and in 2017, Nigeria moved ahead 24 places on the World Bank’s annual Doing Business Index. And the World Bank reported that Nigeria is among top ten reforming economies in the world.”
Mr. Osinbajo added that it was now a good time to speak confidently about “consolidating gains, and accelerating growth”.
The vice president also added that Ogun State has benefitted immensely from the federal government economic roadmap, saying a significant portion of the Foreign Direct Investment that came to Nigeria between 2016 and 2017 ended up in Ogun State.
He said, “It is not difficult to see why. Between 2011 and today, the State has moved from 35th place on Nigeria’s subnational Doing Business Index, all the way to the fifth place.
“Ogun’s claim to the title of ‘the Industrial Hub of Nigeria’ is more than mere rhetoric. I was here in December 2017 to commission the largest Petroleum Tank Farm in Nigeria, the Petrolex project, which includes a refinery in its plan. And again, just last month, we commissioned a new Nestle factory and the Belloxi Biscuit factory, all here in Ogun State. These are only two of the several industrial facilities that have opened here in recent years.”
He said reforms championed by the state government have touched everything from soft infrastructure – land acquisition, construction permits, and business registration to hard infrastructure – an ambitious programme of road upgrades across the state, adding that “the future looks even more promising for the state”.
Mr. Osinbajo also announced that the government is creating an inland terminal at the railway station at Ilugun on the Lagos-Kano narrow gauge rail route, a path between Ogun and Oyo states, about 150km from Apapa in Lagos.
He said the GE led consortium through the APM Terminal is providing the investment and the project will take ten weeks and will be used to move freight from Apapa port to Illugun and importers will take their freight from there and same for exporters.
“This will decongest Apapa port and bring more opportunities to this axis,” he said.
“The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, one of the busiest highways in the country, and at the moment the primary land connection between Lagos and the rest of Nigeria, is another infrastructure priority of the federal government. We expect that now that the contractors are back to site, that project would move on very quickly.
“These two transport projects will further bolster Ogun’s special standing as Nigeria’s “gateway” state and no doubt attract even greater investment – and migration – to the State.”
Mr. Osinbajo said it is unlikely that any administration since the birth of the state has developed infrastructure as rapidly and as ‘sure-footedly’ as the Ibikunle Amosun administration, adding that the governor and his team “certainly deserve the loudest commendation”.
Noting that the government needs to be encouraged to do more, he said it was heart-warming to note that Ogun State has made clear its aspiration to move from 5th place on Nigeria’s Doing Business Index for States, to 1st.
He said, “On our part as the Federal Government, we will continue to do everything within our power to support every State in Nigeria to reach its full economic potential. It is gladdening to note that Ogun has been consistently enthusiastic in its reception of our hand of cooperation.
“It would be hard to find a Federal Government in Nigeria’s recent history that has been as supportive of the development ambitions of the states as the Buhari administration. We have been attentive and responsive to their needs and wishes, and have treated state governments, regardless of partisan affiliation, as partners, not minions.
“So far, in terms of support, which includes the Paris Club Refund which Ogun State was owed, we have spent N1.91 trillion on support to the various states.”