Olawale Ajimotokan and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
For daring to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to quit over his poor handling of the economy, the federal government has said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a shameless irritant bent on distracting the government from its rescue mission and returning the country to “Egypt”.
Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said in a statement yesterday that the government was on a rescue mission to revive Nigeria after the PDP left it in a coma, adding that the party was out to sabotage the rescue efforts.
Mohammed said if the PDP had understood the meaning of shame, it would never have dared to even make a single comment on the same economy that it did everything to kill.
“While the PDP was emasculating Nigeria on all fronts, including social, economic and political, the rapacious party was deceiving Nigerians by giving them the illusion of growth and prosperity,” he said, adding: “Instead of showing remorse and rebuilding itself to a strong opposition party, the PDP has continued to blame the successor Buhari administration which is left to clear their mess.”
Mohammed said the PDP had continued to engage in a blame game, when it should be hiding from the shame it brought upon the country.
Apparently angered by the Eid-el-Kabir message by Buhari, where the president had dismissed its 16 years in the saddle as extremely wasteful and without a corresponding savings and lack of investment and infrastructure, the PDP had asked the president to quit for failing to meet the public expectations.
But Mohammed in a burst of rage, described the economy under PDP’s watch as nothing but a bubble that was buoyed by massive corruption and chronic incompetence. He said such was the scale of graft under the former ruling party that the sum of $31.5 million was allegedly traced to a former First Lady without any known means of earned livelihood.
“They keep saying we should stop talking of the past, yet the past will not stop rearing its head. They keep saying we should no longer refer to the past, but how can we forget so soon that our foreign exchange reserves plummeted from $62bn in 2008 to $30bn by 2015, at a time when oil prices were at a historic high, reaching a level of $114 per barrel in 2014,” he said.
The information minister explained that at a time the country’s reserves were nose diving, Indonesia, another oil producing economy with a high population, increased its reserves from $60 billion in 2008 to $120 billion in 2015.
He said: “The candid truth is that we failed under the successive PDP administrations to save for the rainy day, and we need to constantly remind ourselves of that so that we won’t repeat the mistake.”
He pointed out that the excess crude account fell from about $9 billion in 2007 to about $2 billion in 2015, contending that the argument that it was the state governors that depleted the account did not hold water since there were governors in place when the account was being built up.
He accused the PDP federal government of short changing the states, claiming that $14 billion in revenues from Nigerian LNG remained unaccounted for, adding that until the Buhari administration came to office, state governments never got any allocations from the LNG, a funding source, he said belonged to the Federation Account.
He accused the PDP government of profligacy, saying at the time that it was earning large revenues from oil, it only managed to double the external debt from $5.6 billion to $10.7 billion between 2011 and 2015.
“The case of domestic debt was even worse, almost tripling from N888 billion to N2.1 trillion in the same period,” he said.
The information minister said while the government would continue to welcome constructive criticism, it had nothing to learn from a party that was in charge of the nation’s affairs at a time of plenty, but ended up frittering away the commonwealth, looting the nation blind and setting the stage for today’s economic crisis, which the Buhari administration was working tirelessly to put an end to.
Also rising to the defence of the president yesterday, his All Progressives Congress (APC) described the call by the PDP on Buhari to quit office as silly and senseless.
The ruling party rejected the call and claimed that PDP was plotting a return of the country to the years of looting of the public treasury.
In a statement by APC’s National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, the party said that Buhari was already employing all legitimate and innovative means to restore the country’s battered economy to health in the quickest possible time.
“PDP’s silly call for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari is not worth the ink it is written with. Hence the APC will not dissipate energy responding,” it said.
APC said rather than seek to return Nigeria to its old corrupt ways, the PDP should apologise to Nigerians and toe the path of honour by returning public funds stolen under its watch.
“The PDP faction by its demand to return the country to the years where looting of the public treasury was the order of the day, has taken its orchestrated plot to deflect attention from the economic mess it left behind to new insensitive and shameless heights,” the APC said, adding: “Instead of this charade, we advise the PDP and their cronies to apologise to Nigerians and toe the path of honour by returning public funds stolen under its watch.”
Meanwhile, as the National Assembly resumes session next week Tuesday, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, has asked the members of both chambers to recommend urgent measures to the executive on how to deal with the current economic recession facing the country.
Frank said that Nigerians were anxiously waiting for the resumption of their representatives at the National Assembly so as to join Buhari’s team in the effort to bring succour to Nigerians over the current economic hardship in the land.
The APC spokesman, in a statement, however, dismissed the call by the PDP on the president to resign, saying most Nigerians still believe in the leadership of Buhari and the APC.
“I think it is shameful and unheard of for the degraded PDP carcass to call for Mr. President’s resignation. It is clear that PDP is not in tune with what is happening all over the world,” Frank said.
He said though the economic recession was a global problem, it was expected of leaders at all levels to ensure the well-being of their citizens, stating that the APC was committed to that.
He said: “I want to commend the leadership of the Senate under Senator Bukola Saraki and the House of Representatives ably led by Hon. Yakubu Dogara for their commitment to ensure that the APC government succeeds.
“I must at this point in time tell the NASS leadership not to shy away from telling the executive the bitter truth even if it will cost some ministers and managers of our economy their jobs for the sake of Nigerians and the betterment of our economy.
“In the light of this, I want to support the promise made by the Senate president recently that upon resumption, the National Assembly will make tough recommendations to Mr. President.”