PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has castigated his predecessor Dr Goodluck Jonathan for being responsible for the nation’s current dire economic plight because he did not save for a rainy day when oil prices were high.
Since assuming office last year, President Buhari has been confronted with an empty treasury because receipts from Nigeria’s main foreign exchange earner crude oil have plummeted. Global crude oil prices rose to as high as $140 a barrel during the tenure of Dr Jonathan but are now at about $40 a barrel, leaving the government with limited revenue.
Speaking yesterday at in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, at the opening of the 12th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference, President expressed displeasure that the Jonathan administration failed to save for the rainy day. Represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, President Buhari spoke at a conference, with the theme Economic Diversification: Agriculture as Option for a Prosperous Nigeria.
President Buhari said: “Nigeria has nothing to rely on to cushion the effects of the lost earnings. Many other oil producing countries and fellow Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries members are faring better because they saved for the rainy day as Saudi Arabia, with about one fifth of Nigeria’s population, has foreign reserves about $600bn, which is 23 times what Nigeria has in foreign reserves.
“United Arab Emirates, with less than 10m people, has $75bn in foreign reserves, Qatar, with 2.4m people, has $36bn in foreign reserves and even Angola, with just 24m people, has about $25bn dollars in foreign reserves. Here in Nigeria, with oil selling consistently for over $100 a barrel for many years, we simply failed to save for the rainy day, with the result that a country with a population of over 170m today has just $26bn in foreign reserves.”
He added that to compound this, the fall in the price of crude oil is having a ripple effect as the scarcity of foreign exchange, which has resulted, means that industries are struggling to get capital needed to import raw materials and machinery. According to President Buhari, with falling imports, the customs service, which is another source of revenue, is collecting less duties.
“Taxation is also affected, as industries with no forex to import can neither employ more people nor produce more goods. Then, Nigeria has had to fight an existential battle to root out Boko Haram in the northeast,” President Buhari added.
Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike described the state as enormously endowed and beautiful, thereby beckoning on investors. He said Rivers residents were friendly, lovely and peaceful.