A political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, has asked the Federal Government to immediately apologise to the Senior Economic Adviser, African Economic Policy Development Initiative, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili.
Utomi said the FG must, as a matter of obligation, explain to Nigerians the accountability questions surrounding the Excess Crude Account and $67bn (about N10.6trn) in foreign reserves.
He made the call in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH against the backdrop of a recent call by Ezekwesili, challenging the Federal Government to open a public debate that will disclose the management of oil revenue after the tenure of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ezekwesili, a former Vice-President of the World Bank, had in a speech delivered at the 42nd convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, demanded accountability by the Federal Government on the issues of poor management of oil revenue, especially as it affects the Excess Crude Account and the Foreign Reserve Account.
But rather than cash in on her request to enlighten Nigerians on the issue in question, the FG, on Sunday, described the allegation of mismanagement as “factually incorrect, outlandish and clearly fictitious.”
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, had said that the verdict passed on the education sector by Ezekwesili was a self-indictment, as she presided over the sector without bringing any positive impact on it.
He said her criticism of the education sector amounted to hypocrisy as she was part of the sector and contributed to its sorry state.
He said, “Despite receiving N458.1bn between 2006 and 2007 for the sector, there is nothing to show for it in terms of achievements.”
But Utomi said that she had only performed her duty as a proper citizen of Nigeria, adding that she deserved a better answer from the FG.
He said the government owed it as an obligation to her and all Nigerians to explain how it spent the oil revenue.
“What she did was right. She deserves to know; that is why we have the Freedom of Information Act. Governments all over the world would take advantage of such challenges to explain things to their citizens.
“I wrote on my tweeter page that from its response so far on this issue, the FG is playing Abacha in mufti. The FG must apologise to Ezekwesili and explain to Nigerians what happened to the money,” he said.
Among other things, Ezekwesili had alleged that the governments of Presidents Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan had squandered $67bn in reserves (including $45bn in external reserves and $22bn in the Excess Crude Account) left by the Obasanjo Administration at the end of May 2007.
She had also told an online news agency that she remained undeterred.
“I remain resolute in demanding full disclosure and accountability by the Federal Government on the issues of poor management of oil revenues – especially the Excess Crude Account and the Foreign Reserve Account.
“The recent reaction by the spokesperson for the administration failed to respond responsibly to my demand for accountability,” she said.