Former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi has opened up on how governors, during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, refused entreaties from former Finance Minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to save for a rainy day.
Obi said Okonjo-Iweala and Sanusi begged government to build savings but the governors kicked against the idea. To show how serious they were against savings, they sued the federal government.
Speaking on CNBC Africa, Obi said he was not against President Muhammadu Buhari’s government’s plan to borrow, but, that, he was against borrowing without a plan.
“I was in government when the likes of Okonjo-Iweala, (former Trade minister, Olusegun) 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 roadmap on what we will use it for.
“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 Okonjo-Iweala was crying meeting after meeting, let’s save money; we need to save for a rainy day. We said no. Some said ‘this woman should not be found near this country.’
“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.