A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Alhaji Bako Abdullahi, to “urgently and transparently investigate allegations that $35b of Nigeria’s foreign reserve which disappeared just as the ex president left office in 2007
The money according to Obasanjo had disappeared, mismanaged or stolen.
A similar scenario occurred when the elder statesman left government in 1979, leaving behind a large chunk of money almost similar in figure in the nation’s reserves.
Within the first two years of the succeeding government of National Party of Nigeria(NPN), headed by President Shehu Shagari tenure of office, the money was squandered, shared or stolen.
Obasanjo apparently indicating that history had repeated itself spoke at his investiture as the First Grand Patron of Nigeria-China Business Council (NCBC) held at the Golden Gates in Lagos.
He said: “Whether the money disappeared or it was shared, the fact remains that $35 billion disappeared from the foreign reserve I left in office.”
In a petition dated November 23, 2011 and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group raised concern “if proven, these allegations of corruption of the nation’s foreign reserve will be hugely detrimental to national growth and prosperity, thereby exposing millions of Nigerians to worsening level of poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment.”
SERAP said: “This situation can only continue to exacerbate the increasing level of violation of the citizens’ internationally recognised economic and social rights, including the rights to adequate food, to quality education, to water and to accessible and adequate health services. “Large-scale corruption such as the one mentioned above exposes majority of the citizens to double jeopardy.
The citizens are subjected to hardship of immense proportion, while they are also denied the freedom to explore, on the basis of free enterprise, novel and legitimate ways towards individual develdevelopment and prosperity, the most convenient path out of absolute poverty.
“SERAP is seriously concerned that the above allegations, made by a former president who is in a privileged position to know the state of our foreign reserve, should be taken very seriously, and thoroughly investigated.
“The alleged disappearance of Nigeria’s foreign reserve may also be responsible for the failure of the government to implement and meet its commitment to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including alleviating poverty and contributing to the fulfillment of basic human needs for nutrition, safe drinking water, education, health and housing.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the weekend, lampooned the squandering of the money ($35 billion), saying the country’s leaders and people needed to be prudent to get out of its economic woes.
He said Nigeria should borrow a leaf from the Chinese economy that is designed for sustainable growth and development.
According to him, “whether the money disappeared, or like the governor said it was shared, the fact remains that $35 billion disappeared from the foreign reserve I left in office. I said it before that before the middle of the century China will rule the world.
There is nothing anybody can do about it. They have what it takes; the dedication, population, technology, the will. Every six to seven years the economic growth will double again.
“When we left that money, we thought we were leaving it for the rainy day. But my brother said the rain is falling now. The fact is that when the rain is falling we will have nothing to cover our heads because we have blown it off. The Chinese do not think that way.”
Obasanjo lamented that while the Chinese were busy building their country, Nigerians and their leaders are busy taking and bringing down the economic growth.
He lamented passionately:“While Europe is wobbling and fumbling; thank God for that, America since 2008 has not come out of economic recession. I doubt if it will not affect Obama’s second tenure,” he said.
The ceremony was attended by the Delta State Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Edem Duke, and his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru.