FG should embrace debate on foreign reserves management, Ezekwesili insists - Former Vice-President of World Bank, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, Thursday said the Federal Government was avoiding her earlier call for a debate on the foreign reserves and Excess Crude Account (ECA) management by the Yar'Adua and Jonathan administrations.
Ezekwesili, who said this in a statement also maintained that in her convocation speech at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, what she said was that the foreign reserves was $45 billion at the time former President Olusegun Obasanjo left office in May 2007, and not the $67 billion that was reported in the media.
She, however, pointed out that with Tuesday's admission of fiscal leakages by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a debate would afford Nigerians the opportunity to learn more on the matter.
She argued that even when the CBN under its former governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, had to defend the naira with the foreign reserves, "he spent about $15 billion of it and still left behind about $45 billion when he departed as governor in 2009."
Ezekwesili added: "Now imagine that since that time oil prices have averaged between $95-$100 per barrel and we export an average of 750 million barrels per annum.
"How then can the foreign reserves only now be starting to grow back to the same size it was in 2009 after such hefty earnings of the last four years? The FG numbers do not add up at all and we need to know why! The citizens need an explanation and that's why I called for accountability. It is simply a patriotic call which should not result in the name calling by officials of government."
Continuing, she alleged that Sanusi knew that the point she raised was being distorted."
She further stated: "My speech stated $45billion foreign reserve and $22 billion Excess Crude Account (ECA) and he more than anyone knows that ECA is a sub-set of foreign reserves!
"Sanusi knows that the foreign reserves are a 'composite' or 'aggregate' amount of all official foreign exchange belonging to a country. So I wonder why they are seeking to confuse the point for citizens?
"He knows that I separated the ECA amount in that speech deliberately to make a separate point on the terrible fiscal choices of expenditure that wrecked what was supposed to be "savings for rainy days".
According to her, since the CBN governor admitted that there were fiscal leakages, it was proper that Nigerians know the magnitude of such leakages, since we are in a democratic setting.
"Why won't the federal government agree to the public hearing called by National Assembly? It was scheduled for the 5th and when invited, I had to painfully cancel my trips abroad for long scheduled commitments only to be told that the Executive was not 'ready'?
"They were not and still not ready for a public discussion of the issues but they seize every opportunity to make 'side comments' on such a serious issue?," she added.
The former minister urged the media to continue to pile pressure on the executive to agree to the public hearing called by the National Assembly.
"This serious issue is not about me at all but about Nigeria and how the political class abuses it with impunity," she declared.
By Nume Horsfall