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Investigation: Buhari lied on economy, past leaders

By Lolade Akinmurele on 24/05/2018

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 •President Buhari
•President Buhari

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday dished out some numbers to buttress how previous administrations “lacked imagination in the management of the economy.”

A fact check on some of the 75-year-old President’s assertions showed they were mostly wrong.

First, he claimed that oil prices averaged $100 per barrel between 1999 and 2014, when in actual fact, Brent crude, the benchmark grade for Nigerian oil, sold for an average of $55.8 per barrel in nominal terms within that period, data compiled from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has revealed.

Buhari had said: “I challenge anybody to check from Europe, America and Asia; between 1999-2014, Nigeria was producing 2.1 million barrels of crude oil per day at an average cost of US$100 per barrel and it went up to US$143.”

That puts the President’s claim at nearly double the actual price.

“The President is not a “numbers” person, so let’s not hold that against him,” a financial analyst jokingly said, implying that the 75-year old isn’t famed for his accuracy with numerical data.

“I was working in Canada in 1999 and I remember oil prices fell as low as $10 per barrel,” it would then go on to average about $60 per barrel between 1999 and 2014, the person said.

When adjusted for 2017 inflation, the price for a barrel of Brent averaged $64.7 in the period under review.

Not only was the President off the mark with his oil price figure, he was also some way off with his claim that “when we came into power, oil was at $37 per barrel.”

Buhari was elected on May 29 2015, on that day, a barrel of Brent crude traded for $65.56, according to a historical price compilation on the Financial Times markets portal.

Brent would average $57 that year and it wasn’t until December 2015 that the price slipped to an all-year low of $37.93 per barrel, perhaps, this is the period the President was referring to, as a supply glut exacerbated by American shale output and the resumption of Iranian exports, combined with slowing Chinese demand to send prices tumbling.

Buhari is, however, closer to the actual daily production average with his claim of 2.1 million barrels daily.

Between 1999 and 2014, the average daily production was 2.3 million barrels.

The low point in that period was in 2002 when Africa’s largest oil producer pumped an average of 2.1 million barrels daily. Three years later, in 2005, the country pumped its highest volumes of the period – some 2.6 million barrels daily. However, there was a huge slump in production to as low as 700,000 barrels per day at some point at the height of the Niger Delta militancy between 2006 and 2009, before President Umaru Yar’Adua declared an amnesty that helped oil out rebound.

Fast forward to Buhari’s statement that “I went to the CBN Governor, with my cap in my hand, and asked if we had savings. He told me we had only debts, no savings.”

Firstly, the external reserve is the dollar equivalent of oil revenue that the country earns and has already been disbursed to the government in naira by the central bank, meaning it shouldn’t be considered as the government’s savings, except if adjusted for cash stashed away in the ECA or Federal government savings.

The Excess Crude Account (ECA) is used to save oil revenues above an amount derived from the budgeted benchmark price and was created in 2004 by then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

There was $2 billion in the account as at May 2015 when Buhari came into power. The savings in the ECA was as high as $20 billion before the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

It is unclear if Federal government savings were factored into the gross $30 billion external reserves with the Central Bank in May 2015.

Regarding debts, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s debt profile was N12.12 trillion as at June 2015, a month after Buhari assumed office.

The domestic portion amounted to N8.4 trillion, with Federal government bonds accounting for the largest chunk at 63 percent, while the external portion was $10.3 billion, with multilateral loans from the World Bank Group and Africa Development Bank Group dominating the pack at $7.23 billion.

As at December 2017, the domestic debt has nearly doubled to N12.6 trillion, with bonds still accounting for the largest share- 69.23 percent, while external debt rose 83 percent to $18.9 billion.

It would appear that the debt has all but risen since Buhari rode into power, but then he could point to ailing oil revenues as a reason why his administration racked up record debt to stimulate an economy that choked under the pangs of the oil price and production downturn and slipped into its first recession in 25 years in 2016.

The President’s claim that his administration splurged on capital budgets in 2016 and 2017 is not far from the truth, as far as it is in naira terms but not in dollar terms.

Meanwhile, as President Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo lock horns over who has a better understanding of the economy as well as accusations and counter-accusations over expenditures on power projects, former President Obasanjo has dared Buhari to probe him over the projects.

BusinessDay investigations reveal that Obasanjo has addressed the issues of the power sector and the allegations against him on many occasions and platforms, including in his widely publicised book, My Watch in which he exhaustively stated the facts and reproduced various reports by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which conducted a clinical investigation into the allegations against him, and the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the Recommendations in the Report of the Committee on Power on the Investigation into how the Huge Sums Of Money was Spent on Power Generation, Transmission And Distribution between June 1999 and May 2007 in which the ex-President was largely absolved of blame.

In a statement made available by Media aide to former President Obasanjo, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo said President Buhari displayed “ignorance” on the issues around the power projects and referred the President to several reports on the issue.
The statement stated that “Obasanjo challenges, and in fact encourages, anybody to set up another enquiry if in doubt and unsatisfied with the EFCC report and that of the Hon. Aminu Tambuwal-led ad-hoc committee.”

“It has come to the attention of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari, apparently without correct information and based on ignorance, suggested that $16 billion was wasted on power projects by “a former President”.

“We believe that the President was re-echoing the unsubstantiated allegation against Chief Obasanjo by his own predecessor but one.

“While it is doubtful that a President with proper understanding of the issue would utter such, it should be pointed out that records from the National Assembly had exculpated President Obasanjo of any wrong-doing concerning the power sector and has proved the allegations as false. 

“He, therefore, recommends that the President and his co-travellers should read Chapters 41, 42, 43 and 47 of My Watch for Chief Obasanjo’s insights and perspectives on the power sector and indeed what transpired when the allegation of $16 billion on power projects was previously made. If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand.”

In response to the President’s query on where the power generated is, Obasanjo said:
“The answer is simple: The power is in the seven National Integrated Power Projects and eighteen gas turbines that Chief Obasanjo’s successor who originally made the allegation of $16 billion did not clear from the ports for over a year and the civil works done on the sites.”

The NIPPs have today received bids in excess of $5 billion in a privatisation process that is currently being stalled by President Muhammadu Buhari.

•Text (excluding headline) courtesy of BusinessDay.

 

Source News Express

Posted 24/05/2018 12:37:20 PM

 

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