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Ezekwesili queries how Yar'Adua, Jonathan spent $67bn

By The Citizen
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Former Vice President (Africa), World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, has said the Umaru Yar'Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan administrations need to tell Nigerians how they spent the $45bn left in the foreign reserves account and $22bn in the Excess Crude Account by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

Ezekwesili, said at the convocation lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on 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 the country 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 and investment in foreign assets as other resource-rich countries did with their oil income.

Ezekwesili, who was a former Minister of Solid Minerals and Education under Obasanjo and a founding director of Transparency International, said, 'The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is, however, much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s 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 lamented the 'squandering of the significant sum of $45bn in the foreign reserves account and another $22bn in the Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007.'

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

'One cannot but ask what exactly does symbolise 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 realised 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 the graduating students of UNN and other 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 said sorting out the 'Nigerian political mess' was critical as there was a strong correlation between politics and economic development.

According to her, university graduates account for 4.3 per cent of Nigeria's youthful population in 2012, a slight increase from the three per cent when she graduated in 1985.

'This compares unfavourably with opportunity for university education in other countries put at 37.5 per cent in Chile; 33.7 per cent for Singapore; 28.2 per cent for Malaysia; and 16.5 per cent for Brazil,' she said.