By Akin Akande, Abuja
As reactions continue to trail allegation by Oby Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s former Minister of Education, that late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan squandered $67 billion, the federal government on Tuesday said she goofed and lied shamelessly.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Dr. Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Public Affairs, said federal government cannot debate with somebody who lied shamelessly.
He explained that former President Olusegun Obasanjo only left $43.1 billion in the external reserves when he left government in 2007, contrary to the figures the former Minister of Education is giving out, which she accused the government of squandering.
Okupe said that the present external reserve under President Jonathan is more than what Obasanjo left, adding that it is factually incorrect to say that the reserves of the government were dipped into or misapplied.
He said: “It is obviously preposterous for Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili to be asking for a national debate on the outlandish and reckless disinformation she made to incite the Nigeria people against the government. This is a deliberately calculated, albeit unsuccessful effort to bring the Jonathan administration into disrepute unjustifiable.
“I regret to say that Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili should show dignity and character by letting the Nigerian people, whom she sort out to fool, to know the source of her figures otherwise, she should be honourable enough to retract her statement and apologise to the government and people of Nigeria. Else, she should be regarded by all as a willfully perjured individual not worthy of any respect or recognition whatsoever.”
Okupe disclosed that within seven months, from June to December, 2007, when President Yar’Adua and Jonathan took over from Obasanjo, the external reserves rose to $51.3 billion.
He revealed that it was only the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that has the control of external reserve and not federal government, explaining that as at 2008 the external reserves was $53 billion, (2009 ) $42.3 billion, (2010) $32.3 billion, (2011) $32.6 billion, (2012) $43.8 billion and as at January 22 2013, $45.3 billion.
With this explanation, Okupe said Ezekwesili ought to have known better being a former Vice President of World Bank, adding, “Oby Ezekwesili lied shamelessly by quoting figures that cannot be substantiated and I challenge her to cite where she got her figures.
She should produce documents that can substantiate her claims. Any person who said government squandered such amount is not responsible.”
He said Ezekwesili is a woman that Nigeria should be proud of, but rather than substantiate the claims, she “chooses conveniently to grandstand, claiming that she will remain silent until a responsible response is given to her demand on accountability.
A more rational approach would have been for her, being the accuser or agent provocateur to assume the responsibility of providing the facts to back her claims.”
By Akin Akande, Abuja