Headlines Jan 26, 2011
By EMMA OVUAKPORIE
ABUJA—FORMER Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and presidential flagbearer of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, has raised alarm over the depletion of the excess crude account (sovereign wealth fund) and the nation’s external reserves.
Malam Ribadu make this known against the backdrop of the steady rise in the price of crude oil which is almost hitting $100 per barrel but with a steady decline in the country’s excess crude account and external reserves.
He observed that as at 2007 when late President Yar’adua was in office, the excess crude account stood at $17.3billion but had continued to decline steadily to less than $1billion, while the external reserves had dropped from $34.27 in December to $32.32 this month.
According to him, the excess crude account is meant to be savings set aside for the rainy day, while the sovereign wealth fund is for big investments that would create jobs.
External reserves, excess crude account on the decline
He wondered why the fund was being squandered on meaningless ventures and importation, while millions of Nigerians were living below the poverty line, with growing unemployment and insecurity in the country.
Ribadu also expressed concern over the neglect of the agricultural sector which is capable of employing millions of Nigerians, saying the time was rife for government to turn around the fortune of cocoa farmers in the south western part of the country by taking advantage of the decline in output from Cote d’Ivoire.
The ACN flagbearer was of the opinion that the nation’s economy would have performed better if there was a better economic team on ground to proffer alternative sources of revenue instead of the over dependence on oil as the mainstay of the economy.
He promised Nigerians a turnaround in the fortunes of the economy if voted into office this year. “The key thrust of our economic policy will be to create jobs and provide employment for our people, especially the youth. We shall budget within our means, reduce over-spending, and plan for a steady and attainable economic growth rate of 7-8% per year for the next five years and 8-10% per year for the years following that,” he said.