Renowned political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi has asked the Federal Government to immediately apologise to the Senior Economic Adviser, African Economic Policy Development Initiative, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, and explain to Nigerians as a matter of obligation, the questions of accountability surrounding the Excess Crude Account and $67bn (about N10.6trn) in foreign reserves.
He made this call in an interview where he also challenged the Federal Government to open a public debate that will make information available about the management of oil revenue after the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ezekwesili, a former minister and World Bank Vice President, had stirred the hornet’s nest when in a speech delivered at the 42nd convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka demanded accountability by the Federal Government on the issues of poor management of oil revenue, especially as it affects the Excess Crude Account and the Foreign Reserve Account.
However, the FG described her allegation of mismanagement as “factually incorrect, outlandish and clearly fictitious”, rather than use the occasion to enlighten Nigerians on the issue.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, had said that the verdict passed on the education sector by Ezekwesili was a self-indictment, as she presided over the sector without bringing any positive impact on it, adding that her criticism of the education sector amounted to hypocrisy as she was part of the sector and contributed to its sorry state.
He said, “Despite receiving N458.1bn between 2006 and 2007 for the sector, there is nothing to show for it in terms of achievements.”
But Utomi, in her defence, said that having performed her proper duty as a Nigerian, she deserved a better answer from the Federal Government as it owed her and all Nigerians an explanation on how the oil revenue was spent.
What she did was right. She deserves to know; that is why we have the Freedom of Information Act. Governments all over the world would take advantage of such challenges to explain things to their citizens.
“I wrote on my twitter page that from its response so far on this issue, the FG is playing Abacha in mufti. The FG must apologise to Ezekwesili and explain to Nigerians what happened to the money,” he said.
Among other things, Ezekwesili had alleged that the governments of Presidents Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan had squandered $67bn in reserves (including $45bn in external reserves and $22bn in the Excess Crude Account) left by the Obasanjo Administration at the end of May 2007.
She had also told an online news agency that she remained undeterred.
“I remain resolute in demanding full disclosure and accountability by the Federal Government on the issues of poor management of oil revenues – especially the Excess Crude Account and the Foreign Reserve Account.
“The recent reaction by the spokesperson for the administration failed to respond responsibly to my demand for accountability,” she said.