Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday said that the country never had up to $67 billion as external reserves, adding that the highest level of reserves attained by the country was $62 billion.
He said this at the Metropolitan Club Luncheon in Lagos, in reaction to the recent debate over the nation’s external reserve between the federal government and former, Minister of Education, Dr. (Mrs) Ezekwezili.
The former Minister had said that the federal government under President Yaradua and Goodluck Jonathan had wasted external reserves of $67 billion saved under the Obasanjo administration to $67.
Commenting on debate, Sanusi said, “First of all, let us talk about the numbers, Nigeria never had $67 billion of reserves in its history. The highest level reserves had been was $62 billion under late President Yaradua.
“There is also a certain truth to a basic proposition that if we saved money when oil price was high, it is expected that when oil price crashes, we would de-save. Look at Germany, US, UK, after the crisis, they all had huge deficits. So our incurring of deficit was a reduction in reserves. Now having said that, no one can deny that between 2010 and 2011 when oil price was going up, we should have saved more than we actually did and we spent more than we ought to. As CBN governor I spent the whole of those two years talking about fiscal leakages.
“We cannot deny that there is a need for serious governance review of transparency and accountability in the oil sector because the Excess Crude Account (ECA) is what is used to pay subsidy and if subsidy moved from N300 billion to N2.1 trillion in a few years, then questions should be asked. So there is truth on both sides, but I think it is unfair to say reserves were so high then because, so as the government does not ground to a halt, money had to be made available to pay salaries and the reason GDP continued to grow was because savings were there to continue financing government spending.
“This is not to say they were no truth in the questions raised. But I must say that there have been tremendous amount of progress made on the fiscal side. We have seen a lot of work being done to shut down some of these leakages and it is that work that is being done by the Finance Ministry since Ngozi took over that has actually helped in bring up reserves and stabilising exchange rates.”