An official of former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration said current President Muhammadu Buhari lied about inheriting a “virtually empty” treasury from the previous government. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, former deputy chairman of the National Planning Commission, said Jonathan left behind 5.97 trillion naira (about $30 billion), according to Nigerian newspaper the Daily Post.
Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress party have accused previous administrations of corruption and burying Nigeria under millions of dollars of debt. Ahmed Joda, chairman of Buhari's transition committee, also said the country was “in a state of collapse” because Jonathan’s government had left behind a deficit of at least 7 trillion naira ($35.2 billion). But Sulaiman called the claims “unscientific and unfair,” asserting that Jonathan left behind plenty of funds, the Daily Post reported.
“Under Jonathan, Nigeria became the largest Africa economy and the 26th in the world amidst deadly security challenges and dwindling international prices of oil,” the ex-minister said in a statement Tuesday in Abuja, the capital. “It will be misleading therefore for our respected President Muhammadu Buhari and indeed the ruling APC to claim to have met an empty treasury.”
Buhari, who was inaugurated May 29, was quoted by local media this week as saying his administration took office “with [the] treasury virtually empty, with debts in millions of dollars, with state workers and even federal workers not paid their salaries.” Nigeria is Africa’s richest and most populous nation as well as the largest oil producer on the continent. But the oil-dependent country has suffered from the falling price of oil. Nigerian lawmakers have called for a bailout to cover months of unpaid government salaries in several states, where some employees have not been paid for as long as 10 months.
“It is such a disgrace for Nigeria,” Buhari told the media in Abuja Monday, according to Vanguard.
Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party accused Buhari’s administration of misrepresenting facts and misleading Nigerians to believe that Jonathan’s government had accumulated the total federal debt when a greater chunk of it was inherited, PDP spokesman Olisa Metuh said in a May 25 statement obtained by the Premium Times newspaper.
Sulaiman said Buhari’s administration has no proof to back up its claims of a penniless treasury. “[The] government can’t tell us there is no Excess Crude Account, Sovereign Wealth Fund or are we saying the Federal Inland Revenue Service and related agencies had not in the last month been generating revenue?” the ex-minister said Tuesday, according to the Daily Post. “Until they are able to prove they had no receipts from these government agencies in the last one month before Nigerians can now buy into Mr. President’s claims of an empty treasury."
Sulaiman also said Jonathan’s administration handled federal funds responsibly and never owed salaries to its workers. For perspective, the ex-minister drew comparisons to the United States, which is the tenth-biggest debtor nation in the world.
“Money made by the government is meant to be spent, and this the immediate past administration did responsibly. Every government, even in the so-called Western world, including the U.S., which today remains one of the largest debtor nations in the world, operates on deficit,” Sulaiman said, according to the Daily Post. “Is it on record that President Obama inherited $3 trillion debt, a collapsed banking sector and mortgage industry, yet he never raised any alarm. None of these has happened in Nigeria under Jonathan.”