Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The Federal Government on Thursday said the present administration was not responsible for the current economic situation which is impoverishing Nigerians.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, said this while answering reporters’ questions after the last meeting of the National Economic Council for the year at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Udoma’s position was corroborated by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, who said any Nigerian accusing the present government of impoverishing the citizens was not being charitable.
They had earlier briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo during which members did an overview of the key policy actions undertaken by the states and federal governments to address the economic challenges facing the nation.
Udoma said rather than being responsible for the country’s problems, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was on a rescue mission.
The challenges notwithstanding, he said, the government would not spend its time looking backwards.
He said the present administration was determined to change things in the country.
The minister said, “We did not create and are not responsible for the current economic situation we find ourselves. We are actually a rescue team, a team working on rescuing Nigeria from the position we find ourselves in.
“Under President Muhammadu Buhari, we are determined to take Nigeria out of the situation. The situation started long before we came.
“As you know, oil price started falling from 2014 when it was about $110 and by January this year, it was below $30. Unfortunately, they did not save.
“None of us here now was there but we are not going to spend our time looking backwards, we are determined to change things in this country.
“We are determined to take Nigeria from a consuming nation to a producing nation. That is why we are developing the economy recovery and growth plan and that is our focus. We are committed to success.”
Corroborating the minister’s position, El-Rufai said the governance structure inherited by the present administration was based on the assumption that oil price would remain at $100 per barrel.
The governor also accused past administrations after former President Olusegun Obasanjo of allegedly wasting the savings they inherited from Obasanjo as well as government’s earnings during their tenure.
El-Rufai said, “When people say that this administration has impoverished them, they are not being charitable because I have said we inherited a governmental structure that was based on the assumption that the price of oil will remain $100 per barrel.
“By the time we took over, prices reduced to as low as $26 per barrel. Eighty per cent of government revenue depends on the price of oil and the quantity of oil sold.”
“You must expect a cut in your consumption if the price collapses. If in your own household, your salary is slashed by 80 per cent, what will you do?
“This is what Nigeria is going through. Our revenues have collapsed by about 40 per cent to 60 per cent if you compare it to say 2014.
“This collapse happened because there is a reduction in price of oil. Secondly, we were producing over two million barrels of oil per day but because of the situation in the Niger Delta, we are now producing about 1.1million barrels per day.
“It is therefore inevitable that there will be cut and pain. But to say that it is government that is doing it without referring to the cause is not fair.
“When I left government as minister in 2007, we left $40bn in reserves and $27bn in the Excess Crude Account, that was what we handed over to Yar’Adua.”
To check the disruption in oil production as a result of the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta, El-Rufai said the governors had resolved to set up a committee that would work with the Federal Government to resolve the issue.
He said Osinbajo told the governors that the Federal Government was willing to address the problem.
The governor also said he presented a paper titled “Doing More With Less” to the council in which he called on his colleagues to reduce cost and size of government.
He said he also advised that the budget reforms being done at the national level should be replicated at state and local government levels..
The governor said the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, also made a presentation on Fiscal Roadmap for 2017.