EDITORIAL: Goodluck Jonathan’s Legacy of Debts

imageThe Chairman of the Transition Committee of the incoming government of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Ahmed Joda recently passed a damming judgment on the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan administration which he accused of leaving behind a debt burden of over N7 trillion.
This followed his Committee’s evaluation of the handover notes from the immediate past administration which featured a summation of its financial operations among other entries.
To accentuate the state of affairs President Muhamadu Buhari told journalists that he met an empty treasury on taking over the reins of government, and referred to the situation as ‘disgraceful’. The comment from the President has raised the context of the dilemma to a new level that is indicative of the handicap the country and the new administration will face over the task of moving ahead.
However in response to the common indictment of the Jonathan administration by Buhari and Joda, the former Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy under Jonathan Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, countered in defence of her team that the debt stock is not attributable their tenure alone. Rather it comprises historical debts that originated from as far back as the 1960’s. Besides the administration also claimed that it actually left behind only N21 billion debt for the incoming administration.
While the debate goes on the ultimate victims remain the country and Nigerians from all walks of life for whom the burden of meeting the challenges of daily life becomes more arduous by the day. This is just as the evidence of widespread and unbridled profligacy abound with the mismanagement of the nation’s resources by the past administration staring all in the face. Typical instances include the cases of unpaid salaries of workers in Federal government establishments, nationwide stoppage of work by contractors handling sensitive national development projects and the indebtedness to importers of petroleum products with the resultant syndrome of incessant queues for fuel.
This situation is compounded by the wide spread corruption in the revenue generating agencies of government – the chief of which is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) whose officials simply went to town with mindless open looting of the nation’s patrimony through shady business practices.
The case for the outgone administration is not helped by the reluctance which its officials demonstrated over the simple task of facilitating a proper handover of the reins of government to the incoming one. The short period of transition witnessed both manifest and veiled intentions not only to delay but even frustrate the handover process as incumbent public officers withheld critical information from the Transition Committee. It was such a situation that has evoked suspicion that the Jonathan administration had a hidden agenda in the handover process.
In the light of the foregoing dispensation the core challenge facing the new administration of President Muhamadu Buhari remains the recovery of the funds that were mismanaged through dubious debt deals and outright corrupt practices. This expectation reconciles with the earlier vow by the President to ensure the recovery of all stolen funds, especially in the context of which he promised that his administration is coming out with a comprehensive report on the details of sleazy deals by past government officials.
However the mood of the Nigerian public dictates that whatever has to do with such a report and the President’s plans for stolen monies and their culprits should not delay the delivery of democracy dividends, as promised during the campaigns. Already public concern is mounting over a perceived delay with respect to moving the country forward, especially on the issue of setting up a proper cabinet for the President. All that Nigerians are saying now is recover the missing funds, but let us move ahead.

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