The ‘empty treasury’ and ‘bankruptcy’ claims by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration have stirred controversies.
This is even as Nigeria’s rising inflation continues to bite harder, pushing more citizens into poverty as the cost of living and purchasing power shrink under the current dispensation.
DAILY POST reports that Nigeria spent over 96 per cent of its revenue in 2022 on debt servicing, according to the World Bank, as the country’s total debt stocks rose to N87.38 trillion in the second quarter of 2023.
The government insists the nation is not all gloomy as it continues to ‘take baby steps’ towards solving its economic problems.
However, the recent statements from the presidency have created mixed feelings among Nigerians.
DAILY POST reported that the National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu, recently disclosed that President Bola Tinubu’s administration inherited a bankrupt country from the previous government.
Ribadu, while speaking at the Chief of Defence Intelligence Annual Conference 2023 in Abuja, claimed that the revenue generated by Tinubu’s administration was being used to repay what was taken from the country.
Before now, former lawmaker, Shehu Sani had in June urged Tinubu to keep aside party solidarity and tell the country the truth about what he inherited from erstwhile President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Sani claimed it was unfair to ask poor Nigerians to make sacrifices without knowing what happened under the last administration.
“The Tinubu Government must set aside party solidarity and tell the country the truth about what they inherited as contained in the handover book.
“It’s unfair to ask the poor masses to make sacrifices without knowing the details of what happened under the last administration,” Sani said.
Meanwhile, DAILY POST findings show that the federal government has saved about N1.45tn from earnings generated from the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, between June and September.
This is according to FAAC allocation documents obtained from the website of Nigeria’s Governors Forum and National Bureau of Statistics.
Recall that Tinubu had, in a nationwide broadcast on August 1, revealed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has saved N1tn in the two months (June and July) since the removal of the petrol subsidy.
“In a little over two months, we have saved over a trillion Naira that would have been squandered on the unproductive fuel subsidy, which only benefitted smugglers and fraudsters,” the President said.
Speaking on the matter, Dr Samson Simon, an Economist of the ARKK Economics and Data limited told DAILY POST that Nigerians deserve to know the details and the true state of the economy.
According to him, the previous and now the current administration have not done enough to tackle oil theft in the country, which he blamed for the paucity of foreign exchange.
Acknowledging that the economy is in a perilous state, the economist stressed that it is the right of all Nigerians to demand accountability and transparency from the nations’ leaders.
He added that it is only when Nigerians have the specifics and understand the nature of the problem then they can contribute their quota towards fixing the economy.
He said, ‘‘The truth is that the Nigerian economy is in a parlous state, and being in a parlous state means that it is bankrupt as they mention.
“Bankruptcy in the sense that they can hardly keep up with their obligations, even to service our debts is a huge challenge. Just to service our debts is a problem, let alone meeting up with other obligations talking about salaries, infrastructure, tackling insecurity. So it is really in a bad state.
‘‘And if you look at it, we are heavily indebted but I understand some people say our problem is not debt, our problem is revenue. Why did they say so?
“Because if you look at our debt to GDP ratio it is largely okay as much as we have accumulated debt and then this devaluation of foreign exchange has also made the external debt to go high.
“The issue is we can hardly generate revenue. We have issues in generating revenue. And if you look at it, our GDP to revenue generation is one of the worst in the world.
“So because we generate next to nothing, at least relatively, and use most in debt servicing, we are in a very perilous state.
‘‘The removal of subsidy, which so many of us have clamoured for, was not done the right way. You don’t just remove fuel subsidies like that, you need to put some things in place.
“That was the mistake the government made. You don’t just say you are unifying the foreign exchange market. There are certain things you need to do. There are certain things you have to put in place. They did not do that. And that is why despite the fact that they claimed that they removed the fuel subsidy, they are still paying for the subsidy.
“Why? Because they did not do the right thing in the same manner they said they unified the foreign exchange market, which is a good thing. But because they did not put things in place, they now have a backlog, there is scarcity of dollars.There is paucity of foreign exchange.
‘‘Generally, they have not done anything to solve that problem. So certain things have to be put in place before some of those things work the way they should have to work.
‘‘If you look at the major problem we have around that paucity of foreign exchange, it is because of oil theft. The major source of foreign exchange to Nigeria has been crude oil. And because of oil theft, the government has been struggling to meet up with the OPEC quota.
“This problem is solvable but are we doing anything about it? We have serious oil theft in Nigeria and it did not start today, it has been a problem for a while now. It got worse under Buhari. What did Buhari do to solve the problem? Next to nothing. What is Tinubu doing to solve the problem of oil theft? Next to nothing.
‘‘So the truth is we are not yet serious about fixing any of our problems. And this affects the state of the economy.
“The truth is nobody is really serious about fixing any of our problems, maybe when we have the right crop of leaders that will take this problem head-on or put anything about their own interest on the back seat and face Nigeria’s problem seriously.
‘‘One of our biggest problems is lack of transparency. If you look at this corruption people talk about, it is because of transparency. If everything was transparent, corruption would hardly exist.
“And we are all Nigerians, nobody is superior. Because you are president today does not make you more Nigerian than others. We are all equal Nigerians and we deserve to know. We are now in a democracy. We are not in a country where we have masters and servants.
‘‘The government owes it to everybody to be transparent. If it is the state of the economy, we know it is bad but we need more details. And we are entitled to know that. I think it is the right of all Nigerians to demand accountability, to demand for transparency.
“If we have the specifics, that will help us to understand what we have to do and how we can contribute our quota to fix the problem, but if we don’t know the exact nature of the problem, you can only be talking in generality, which is not targeted and may not give you what you are looking for.
“I think they owe it to us. Being transparent is the way to go, it will make us a greater country. If all our leaders will be transparent, selfless,” he added.
Also speaking to DAILY POST, the Executive Director of Daniel Ukwu Foundation, DUF, Daniel Nkemaloma Ukwu urged the government to give Nigerians the breakdown of the liabilities left behind.
According to him, the government should set up a probe panel if it is serious, unless it was an empty statement.
He said, ‘‘They are just playing with Nigerians. It is the same political party saying they left the nation bankrupt.
“They should declare what were the liabilities they met on the ground, if they are sincere. But they cannot do that because their lifestyles do not portray what they are saying. At least, they were busy buying SUVs the last time we checked.
‘‘They should stop giving excuses. The time they were struggling to get into office, they did not see bankruptcy. They are just trying to give us excuses whereas they are there to solve problems.
‘‘If they actually inherited bankruptcy, they should reverse it. Just like someone who has a car that its engine knocked, the best thing is to try and put it in order.
‘‘To Nigerians, the excuse is not acceptable. If they insist that is the situation, let them give us the breakdown. Let us know the liabilities left behind and what effort they are making to recover them or even probe the administration, if they are actually sincere.
“But I see that they are just trying to play a game, if not let the administration set up a probe panel so that we will know they are serious, unless it is an empty statement.’’(DAILYPOST)