By Adedayo Akinwale and Mercy Apollos in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to refrain from bandying figures that he cannot substantiate, as regards the nation’s debt profile, which it said escalated to a frightening proportion under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The main opposition party also said that it amounts to a huge disservice to the country if a person of such high office of the vice-president would allow himself to be used to distort figures to deceive Nigerians.
Osinbajo had last Saturday at the 9th Public Lecture of Sigma Club at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, said that the Buhari-led administration inherited a debt of $63 billion and has only borrowed $10 billion since it took office in 2015.
He had said: “In 2010, our debt was $35 billion, $41 billion in 2011, $48 billion in 2012, $64 billion in 2013, $67.7 billion in 2014, $63.8 billion in 2015, $57.8 billion in 2016, $70 billion in 2017 and $73 billion in 2018.
“The nation’s debt as at today was $73 bilłion, an increment of $10 billion from the $63 billion inherited in 2015.”
He said the nation’s oil earnings was $119.8 billion between 1990 and 1998, $481 billion from 1999 to 2009 and $381 billion from 2010 to 2014, while the present administration has only earned $112 billion from June 2015.
“The earnings from oil from 2010 to 2014 were the highest recorded in the history of the country. This is a period when the price of oil per barrel sold from $100 to $114,” he said.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, while addressing a press conference Wednesday in Abuja, said that in a desperate attempt to divert attention from the failures of the Buhari administration, Osinbajo falsified financial templates to argue that this government has no blame in the accumulation of debts under its watch.
He stated: “The PDP also wishes to bring to the attention of Nigerians the deliberate distortion of facts by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo regarding the nation’s debt profile, which escalated to a frightening proportion under the Buhari administration.
“It is an incontrovertible fact that the Buhari administration has accumulated more debts than any other administration in the history of our nation.
“Our dear vice-president forgot that Nigerians are aware that between 2016 to 2017 under President Buhari, our annual borrowing was about N3.7 trillion as against the N1.04 trillion annual borrowing perimeter between 2008 to 2015. Between 1999 and 2007, the annual borrowing perimeter was as low as N96 billion.
“To deceive the public and divert attention to the alarming borrowing spree of the Buhari administration, the APC-led federal government converted domestic debt borrowed in naira under its watch to the US dollar so that the very high exchange rate will make the domestic debt look smaller in dollars.
“This is a deceptive picture because domestic debt was accumulated in naira and not in dollar.”
Ologbondiyan pointed out that the domestic debts of states were not part of the data base until 2013, and therefore, a sincere comparison of debts over the years should have focused on total external debt and federal government’s domestic debt.
According to him, “In view of the above, if Vice President Osinbajo, a professor of law, was not being economical with the truth, the appropriate comparison should be to have the domestic debt in naira and convert the external debt to naira to get national debt for each of the years, which shows that the Buhari administration has accumulated more debts that any other administration.”
The opposition party stressed that an appropriate comparison would further show that the annual growth rate of public debt was only 0.44 per cent under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, 20.14 per cent under the Yar’Adua and Jonathan administration and 29.6 per cent under President Buhari.
“We therefore charge the vice-president to refrain from bandying figures that he cannot substantiate, in an attempt to score cheap political points. Nigerians have moved beyond the lies, deception, propaganda and beguilement of the APC. It amounts to a huge disservice to our nation if a person of such high office of the vice-president will allow himself to be used to distort figures to deceive Nigerians,” he said.
The PDP said that its presidential campaign would be issue-based, as the party would focus on issues that have direct bearing on the welfare of Nigerians who have suffered enough hardship in the last three and a half years under an insensitive administration.
Ologbondiyan added that the party would not allow itself to be dragged down into the marshes of propaganda, smear campaign, lies and deceit of the fading, discredited and rejected APC.
“We will focus on issues of putting our people back to work by creating opportunities for the youths and the over 30 million Nigerians who have lost their means of livelihood because of the harsh economic policies of the Buhari administration,” he said.
Ologbondiyan said that the party will proffer direction to reduce cost of governance and release funds for development purposes; cut harsh tariff and tax regimes, eradicate corruption and engender enabling environment for business to thrive in a manner that will strengthen the naira and restore investor-confidence in the country’s economy.