Atiku Berates FG over Public Assets Sale to Fund Budget

Atiku Abubakar
  • PDP rejects Osinbajo’s comment on debt profile

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has described the decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to sell some public assets to fund 2019 budget as irresponsible.

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had said recently that the federal government might not be able to fund 2019 budget unless some national assets are sold.

Buhari had on Monday while delivering the 75th anniversary/ business lecture of the Island Club, Lagos accused past leaders of the PDP of not building public infrastructure.

However, some of the assets listed for sale in the policy document of the Buhari-led federal government are assets built or established under the PDP administrations that governed Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.

Atiku in a statement by his campaign organisation yesterday said, “The attention of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation has been drawn to a policy statement by the Buhari administration evincing a plan to sell national assets to fund the 2019 budget.

“Our first response would be that this action by the Buhari government has the effect of ridiculing their principal. Our question is this: If the PDP did not build infrastructure, as alleged by President Muhammadu Buhari, who built these assets that this administration wants to sell to fund their 2019 budget?”

The former vice president said as the head of the Economic Management Committee during the Obasanjo administration, he supervised the successful policy of privatisation.

He explained that privatisation works as a long-term strategy to engender efficiency in the economic system and expand the frontiers of private sector activity.

Atiku stressed that its primary goal was not to raise money for short term stabilisation of what is clearly a fragile fiscal system, adding that government’s planned sale of assets would cause long term pains and only provide short term gains.

He stated, “It makes no sense to sell public assets simply to fund a ‘business-as-usual’ budget that is essentially 70 per cent recurrent. It is irresponsible to part with valuable assets simply to consume the proceeds—like selling your family house to take a trip overseas on holiday.

“We knew that such a day would come, which is why Atiku has on various occasions made it clear that what is needed at this time is fundamentally fiscal restructuring to eliminate our addiction to oil revenues and strengthen our internal revenue generating capacity and a restructuring of the budget in favour of capital spending.

“For instance, last month, the PDP presidential candidate questioned the wisdom behind the federal government sharing $322 million Abacha loot to certain Nigerians, only to obtain a $328 million loan from China, allegedly for ICT development.”

Atiku said rather than share that money, the Buhari administration ought to have put that $322 million in an escrow account to be used for funding the 2019 budget.

He said $43 million was found in an Ikoyi apartment, noting the failed promise of the Buhari administration to come clean on who was behind those monies and stated that those funds should equally have been placed in escrow for use in funding the 2019 budget.

PDP Rejects Osinbajo’s Comment on Debt Profile

Meanwhile, the PDP has called on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to refrain from bandying figures that he cannot substantiate, saying his claims on legacy debts inherited by the Buhari administration were misleading.

Osinbajo had last Saturday at the ninth Public Lecture of Sigma Club at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, said the Buhari-led administration inherited $63 billion debt and had 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, $57.8billion in 2016, $70 billion in 2017 and $73 billion in 2018.

“The nation’s debt as at today is $73 billion, 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 had 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 had said.

But the National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, while addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, said in a desperate attempt to divert attention from the failures of the Buhari administration, Osinbajo falsified financial templates to argue that this government had no blame in the accumulation of debts under its watch.

He stated, “The PDP also wishes to bring to the attention of Nigerians to the deliberate distortion of facts by Vice President 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 Nigerians are aware that between 2016 and 2017, under President Buhari, our annual borrowing was about N3.7 trillion as against the N1.04 trillion annual borrowing perimeter between 2008 and 2015. Between 1999 and 2007 the annual borrowing perimeter was as low as N96 billion naira.

“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 database 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 show that the Buhari administration has accumulated more debts than 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.

PDP stated, “We therefore charge the vice president to refrain from bandying figures that he cannot substantiate in an attempt to score cheap political point. 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.”

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 half years under an insensitive administration.