By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
Former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi has admitted that governors under the Goodluck Jonathan administration refused to save for a rainy day.
Obi said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of finance, and Muhammad Sanusi II, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), begged the federal government to build its savings but the governors kicked against the idea.
Speaking on CNBC Africa, Obi said he was not against the Muhammadu Buhari government’s plan to borrow, but he was against borrowing without a plan.
“I was in government when the likes of Ngozi Iweala, Aganga, Sanusi were crying let’s save; we collectively said we don’t want savings, and we are now in this mess; we cannot afford to increase it by going to borrow without a clear road map on what we would use it for,” Obi said.
“People start saving in crisis. Go and check most nations that save, they started it in crisis situation, because they could see the point of not saving yesterday; and that is where we are.
“I have said it before that even if we saved five percent of all our oil earnings from 1960 to date, which is about $1.2 trillion, considering a compound interest of about five percent, we should have about 150 billion today.”
Obi said the country could put up a savings plan that helps prepare for tomorrow, and could possibly allow government to borrow today.
“Imagine what would have been happening if we were in that situation. That was 56 years ago; we have 44 years to our 100th year of independence.
“What I am saying is that if we decide today to save on 50% of our own budgeted output of 2.2 million barrels per day, we decide to save on just 1 million barrels per day, with our earnings at $50 per barrel, in the next 44 years, we would be at 50 to 60 billion dollars.”
“I was in government when Ngozi Iweala was crying meeting after meeting, let’s save money; we need to save for a rainy day. We said no. Some say this woman should not be found near this country,” Obi added.
“We even went to court as a body to challenge savings, and look at where we are today. Instead of us realising from that mistake to say, today let’s start….
“Change that constitution that says we cannot save; what type of constitution is that? When we are talking about constitution amendment, we should amend things that are immediate.
“Issue of savings should be included in our constitution today; oil is a depleting asset, and we are not even saving for tomorrow.”
He urged the federal government to embrace restructuring and let the country’s strengths be found in its diversity.