Say No to Gagging : Ezekwesili Questions Frittering of $45b Foreign Reserves Post – Obasanjo



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You don’t have to be a fan of Nigeria’s former Minister , Dr  Oby Ezekwesili to appreciate what she did at the weekend. All she did was to speak at a convocation lecture about the rot in the country.We all have our testimonies.But government’s furious reaction to her comment is an attempt to gag and intimidate ex officials into submission.They are being told by implication  to see to evil.Nigerians should  to say no to gagging under any guise.Here is the story about her comments .Happy reading:

Former double portfolio minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency Dr Oby Ezekwesili  has stated that the squandering of $45b in foreign reserve account and $22b in Excess Crude Account by the two regimes after it is “the most egregious” instance of Nigeria’s failure to make the right developmental choices.

Dr Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, a former Vice President (Africa) at the World Bank, stated at the Convocation Lecture of the University of Nigeria Thursday that Nigerians had lost dignity because of ravaging poverty arising from poor choices of the elite, corruption and lack of investment in education.

Noting that Nigeria had enjoyed five cycles of oil boom, she decried the failure to convert oil income to renewable assets through training of human capital, development of other sectors or investment in foreign assets as other resource-rich countries did with their oil income.

Mrs Ezekwesili, a founding director of Transparency International, asserted, “The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is however much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. This is because we are still caught up in it and it is more egregious than the other periods in revealing that we learned absolutely nothing from the previous massive failures.”

The former Minister of Solid Minerals and later Education  lamented the “squandering of the significant sum of $45billion in foreign reserve account and another $22billion in Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased  earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007”.

She stated, “Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one most Nigerians but especially the poor continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions.”

She then queried, “One cannot but ask what exactly does symbolize with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources and the additional several hundred dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last five years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately misapplied? Tragic choices.”

Ezekwesili asked graduating students of UNN and other educated young people to become the Turning Point generation of young and educated Nigerians willing to make the right choices by serving or having a say in political affairs of the country. She averred sorting out the “Nigerian political mess” is critical as there is a strong correlation between politics and economic development.

According to her, university graduates account for 4.3% of Nigeria’s youthful population in 2013, a slight increase from the 3% when she graduated in 1985.  This compares unfavourably with opportunity for university education in other countries put at 37.5% in Chile, 33.7% for Singapore, 28.2% for Malaysia and 16.5% for Brazil.

Ezekwesili linked Nigeria’s poor capital formation to the low development of its people through education. “Our lag in tertiary education enrolment is quite revealing and could be interpreted as the basis of the competitiveness gap between the same set of countries and Nigeria. The countries with the most highly educated citizens are also some of the wealthiest in the world in a study by the OECD published by the Wall Street Journal last year.”

Said Ezekwesili: “The appropriate response to the revenue extracted from our oil over the period 1959 to date would have been to use it in accumulating productive investment in the form of globally competitive human capital and physical asset of all types of infrastructure and institutions. Such translation from one form of non-renewable asset to renewable capital would have been the right replacement strategy for a wasting asset like oil. Unfortunately unbridled profligacy has made us spend and continue to spend the free money from oil like a tragic Rentier state that we are called in development circles.”

“Resource wealth has tragically reduced your nation –my nation – to a mere parable of prodigality”, Ezekwesili declaimed.  She asserted, “Nothing undignifies nations and their citizens like self-inflicted failure. Our abundance of oil, people and geography should have worked favourably and placed us on the top echelons of the global economic ladder by now.”

 

She posited that it was up to the younger generation to restore the dignity of Nigeria by making the right choices to lift the nation out of poverty. The former World Bank executive described Nigeria as “a paradox of the kind of wealth that breeds penury” noting “the trend of Nigeria’s population in poverty since 1980 to 2010 suggests that the more we earned from oil the larger the population of poor citizens.”  The figures of the poor in Nigeria grew from 17.1million in 1980, 34.5million in 1985, 39.2million in 1992, 67.1million in 1996, to 68.7million in 2004 and 112.47million in 2010, according to the former Minister of Solid Minerals.

Ezekwesili espoused a new vision for Nigeria couched simply as “we believe in dignity”. She said the resurgence of entrepreneurial spirit based on hard work and sound education are critical factors to changing Nigeria. “For Nigeria’s dignity to be restored your generation must build a coalition of young entrepreneurial minds that are ready to ask and respond to the question, what does it take for nations to become rich? Throughout economic history, the factors that determine which nations became rich and improved the standard of living of their citizens read like a Dignity Treatise in that they all revolve around the choices that ordinary citizens made in defining the value constructs of their nation”.

The 42nd Convocation ceremonies of the University of Nigeria commenced Thursday with the Convocation Lecture and the Prize and Awards night for distinguished graduands.  First degree holders, numbering 18, 150, would receive their certificates on Friday while higher degrees and honorary awards would be celebrated on Saturday, January 26 and conferred on 1, 730 recipients.

There are 116 First Class Honours recipients and 195 Doctorate degrees. Vice Chancellor of UNN Prof Bartho Okolo disclosed on Monday that the University was rebuilding its intellectual capital by offering employment to 300 First Class Honours graduates over the last three years.

 …Urges educated youth to be Turning Point generation to change Nigeria

Former Education Minister Dr Oby Ezekwesili has urged educated young people in Nigeria to be the Turning Point that would restore Nigeria’s dignity by active participation in the political life of the country based on sound values.

Ezekwesili noted that while research has shown a link between higher education and economic growth among nations, only 4.3% of Nigeria’s youth population has opportunity for higher education compared with 37.5% for Chile, 33.7% for Singapore, 28.2% for Malaysia and 16.5% for Brazil.  “Our lag in tertiary education is quite revealing and could be interpreted as the basis of the competitiveness gap between the same set of countries and Nigeria”, she stated

The former Minister of Solid Minerals spoke Thursday at the Convocation Lecture for the 42nd Convocation ceremonies of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where she graduated in 1985.  Her paper was on “The wealth and poverty of a nation: who will restore the dignity of Nigeria?”

She stated that Nigeria’s political elite had made “tragic choices” in failure to invest the country’s oil income in renewable assets of people, infrastructure and investments. She identified failure in education as a major constraint to national productivity and development.

Ezekwesili stated, “The crawling progress in tertiary education enrolment since my graduation more than two and half decades ago is therefore one key reason previous peer nations left us behind at the lower rungs of global economic rankings. Economic evidence throughout numerous researches proves that one key variable that determines how fast nations outgrow others is the speed of accumulation of human capital especially through science and technology education.”

Ezekwesili said, “Nigeria is a paradox of the kind of wealth that breeds penury” because of dependence on oil, noting however, that “the trend of Nigeria’s population in poverty since 1980 to 2010 suggests that the more we earned from oil, the larger the population of poor citizens”.  She gave the figures as 17.1million poor citizens in 1980, 34.5million in 1985, 39.2million in 1992, 67.1million in 1996, and 68.7million in 2004 to 112.47million in 2010.

According to the former Vice President of the World Bank (Africa region), “Resource wealth has tragically reduced your nation –my nation-to a mere parable of prodigality. Nothing undignifies nations and their citizens like self-inflicted failure. Our abundance of oil, people and geography should have worked favourably and placed us on the top echelons of the global economic ladder by now.”

The former minister accused the two governments after the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency in which she served of “the squandering of the significant sum of $45billion in foreign reserve account and another $22billion in the Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased oil earnings that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007.”

She queried, “Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources plus the additional several hundred dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last five years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately misapplied? Tragic choices”.

Ezekwesili told the 2013 graduating class that change would come to Nigeria when educated young people participate actively in the political life of the country based on right values. They would restore the dignity of Nigeria, she stated, saying the political foundations of nations is a major determinant of how the nation fares.

“For Nigeria’s dignity to be restored your generation must build a coalition of your entrepreneurial minds that are ready to ask and respond to the question, what does it take for nations to become rich? Throughout economic history , the factors that determine which nations became rich and improved the standard of living of their citizens read like a Dignity Treatise in that they all revolve around the choices that ordinary citizens made in defining the value constructs of their nation”, Ezekwesili charged.

She said the youth have to sort out the political mess of Nigeria, adding that their education and developments in a globalized world are good foundations.

Speaking further on the role of the youth, the Senior Economic Adviser of Africa Economic Policy Development Initiative, Open Society Foundation affirmed, that the youth “are the generation for whom the stakes are highest on how well this nation turns its governance corner. You are the generation that can birth a New Nigeria devoid of all negatives that have inhibited our greatness and one in which every citizen  is mobilised to construct a National Integrity System which is imperative for the building of every decent society”.

The 42nd Convocation ceremonies of the University of Nigeria commenced Thursday with the Convocation Lecture and the Prize and Awards night for distinguished graduands.  First degree holders, numbering 18, 150, would receive their certificates on Friday while higher degrees and honorary awards would be celebrated on Saturday, January 26 and conferred on 1, 730 recipients.

There are 116 First Class Honours recipients and 195 Doctorate degrees. Vice Chancellor of UNN Prof Bartho Okolo disclosed on Monday that the University was rebuilding its intellectual capital by offering employment to 300 First Class Honours graduates over the last three years.

University of Nigeria is the first full-fledged university in Nigeria, founded in Nigeria’s independence year 1960. The 52-year old institution runs diverse programmes in arts and sciences featuring 15 faculties, 105 departments and seven directorates charged with special projects. It has a student body of 40, 000 in four campuses of Nsukka, Enugu, Ituku Ozalla and Aba.

The main campus in Nsukka houses programmes in agriculture, basic and biological sciences, engineering, arts and social sciences while the Enugu campus houses professional courses in management, architecture, law and environmental sciences. The College of Medicine, with a teaching and referral hospital, is located at Ituku-Ozalla, on the outskirts of the Enugu state capital, while the School of Languages is located at Aba, in Abia State.


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