Friday, January 25, 2013

Ezekwesili decries squandering of $67b by Yar’Adua, Jonathan governments

Former Vice President (Africa) of the World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, has described the squandering of $45 billion in the Foreign Reserve Account and $22 billion in Excess Crude Account by the two administrations of the late President Musa Yar’Adua and the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as “the most egregious” instance of Nigeria’s failure to make the right developmental choices.

She stated that Nigerians had lost dignity because of ravaging poverty arising from poor choices of the elite, corruption and lack of investment in education.
At the 42nd convocation lecture of the University of Nigeria, Ezekwesili noted that Nigeria had enjoyed five cycles of oil boom, lamenting, however, the failure to convert oil incomes to renewable assets through the training of human capital, development of other sectors or investment in foreign assets as other resource-rich countries did with their oil income.

The former minister said: “The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is, however, much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. This is because we are still caught up in it and it is more egregious than the other periods in revealing that we learned absolutely nothing from the previous massive failures.”

She continued: “The squandering of the significant sum of $45 billion in foreign reserve account and another $22 billion in Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased administration handed over to the successor government in 2007. Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one, most Nigerians but especially the poor continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions. Resource wealth has tragically reduced your nation – my nation – to a mere parable of prodigality.”
She added: “Nothing undignifies nations and their citizens like self-inflicted failure. Our abundance of oil, people and geography should have worked favourably and placed us on the top echelons of the global economic ladder by now.”

Ezekwesili said that it was up to the younger generation to restore the dignity of Nigeria by making the right choices to lift the nation out of poverty. The former World Bank executive described Nigeria as “a paradox of the kind of wealth that breeds penury” noting “the trend of Nigeria’s population in poverty since 1980 to 2010 suggests that the more we earned from oil the larger the population of poor citizens.”
According to her, the figures of the poor in Nigeria grew from 17.1 million in 1980, 34.5 million in 1985, 39.2 million in 1992, 67.1 million in 1996, to 68.7 million in 2004 and 112.47 million in 2010.

According to her, the resurgence of entrepreneurial spirit based on hard work and sound education are critical factors to changing Nigeria. “For Nigeria’s dignity to be restored your generation must build a coalition of young entrepreneurial minds that are ready to ask and respond to the question, what does it take for nations to become rich? Throughout economic history, the factors that determine which nations became rich and improved the standard of living of their citizens read like a Dignity Treatise in that they all revolve around the choices that ordinary citizens made in defining the value constructs of their nation”, she asserted.

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