Jonathan and the $31bn Question By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

Published:30 Nov, 2012

Jonathan and the $31bn Question
By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

When I wrote an article in 2011, stating that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan was spending two billion naira every day, including weekends, on security without commensurate returns on the lives of Nigerians, the president’s reaction was to have his then chief goon, General Awoye Azazi, arrest and detain me for publishing ‘misleading information’. In retrospect, I agree with the accusation – because the amount I stated hugely understated the grand larceny going on in government.

An opening into what is really going on in government was provided a few days back by the Punch newspaper, which found that a staggering 5 trillion naira – or $31bn has been stolen under Jonathan’s 30-month stewardship of our nation’s affairs.

Assuming that Jonathan has been in power since May 2010, that works out to an incredulous $1bn stolen each month. If you add the average borrowing of another $1bn per month since Jonathan took office, then the true scale of the epic theft becomes clearer.

President Jonathan is making a mockery of himself if he continues to insist his government is determined to fight corruption, or that Nigeria under his watch has not finally lost the war on graft. It is no accident that Nigeria is perceived as the second most corrupt country in the world by a recent Gallup poll. According to International audit firm KPMG, the cost of fraud in the first half of 2012 alone is $1.5bn (N225bn), the highest on the African continent. And that is only because they have no real idea of what is going on in government circles While Nigeria is ranked third behind USA and China in backlogs of orders for personal private jets, the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) asserted that our nation is the worst place to be in 2013 due to deteriorating indicators of human security..

One day, we read that billions of naira of pension funds have been stolen, and the next, it becomes trillions of unbudgeted fuel subsidy monies. It seems Nigerians have simply gotten numb to these figures, or have not appreciated the opportunity cost of the sums being stolen in terms of goods and services forgone. To put things in context, if one spends one hundred thousand naira daily, it will take about 53 years to spend one billion naira! A billion dollars is of course some 150 billion naira, so go ahead and do the math.

In short, what would $31bn do for Nigeria or Nigerians? For a person who lives for 100 years, he would have to spend the sum of $310m dollars a year for an entire century – near a million dollars a day, weekends included to finish it all. And if he decides to join the league of private jet owners, that amount would purchase 1,550 planes at an average cost of $20m each.

If the funds were to be used to finance the operations of the Nigerian government, the $31bn sum effectively covers Nigeria’s N4.8trn 2012 budget with a leftover of about N200bn. And is only less than N1 billion short of the proposed N4.92trn budget for 2013. From another perspective, according to an MoU signed by government this year, 6 refineries would be constructed in modular forms within 30 months at a cost of $4.5bn. Each refinery would process 30,000 barrels of crude per day with an output of 5 million litres of gasoline. This means that with $31bn about 41 new refineries can be built.

The immediate implications of that are: the very volatile fuel scarcity situation existing all over Nigeria would be solved. And hundreds of billions of naira that are ordinarily stolen annually in the guise of fuel importation would be saved. Similarly, of the 41 refineries, one would be sited in every Nigerian state, with an extra five clustered or evenly distributed around larger consumption centres like Lagos, Ibadan, Kano and Abuja. There is simply no telling how many jobs this would create for Nigeria’s tens of millions of unemployed citizens.

And speaking of employment, some of the decisions by this government are simply confounding because the MoU for the refineries indicated that 6 months of construction work will be done in America, followed by one month of test-running and dismantling of the refinery. Another month is provided for transporting the dismantled refinery, and an extra 4 months to reassemble the plant and commence production. Not one Nigerian job will be created in the construction of the refineries for which $4.5bn was to be spent! And like everything with this hapless administration, nothing has been heard of the construction of these modular refineries, only a report of yet another committee on refineries.

The design and construction of rail services in Abuja which the Obasanjo administration awarded in 2007 and due to have been completed in 2010 was recently “re-approved” by the Federal Executive Council for about the same it was originally awarded – some $823m, less than a billion dollars. The vanished $31bn would have conveniently provided a project similar to the Abuja light rail system for 32 of our 36 states. Imagine the jobs we would have created, the savings on road repairs, reduction in accidents, cost of transportation and improvement in the standards of living we would have had.

Similarly, what became the Primus Specialist Hospital in Abuja, was awarded for less than N5 billion by the FCT Administration, and reportedly finally completed at multiples of the original price. Assuming it would cost N100 billion to build and equip such a facility, it would mean that if the looted $31bn was channelled into healthcare, it would have comfortably built about 31 hospitals of that calibre. And if it had not been inflated, the same amount might have built a world class hospital in every state capital with the best equipment anywhere. Incidentally, the First Lady would not have had to go to any German hospital for any reason. Nigeria would also have saved the N450 billion we lose annually, travelling overseas for medical treatment.

In the last two fiscal years, less than N20 billion have been budgeted annually for the capital needs of all federal universities. Between 2004 and 2007, the FCT administration and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund contributed about 200 hectares of land plus $10 million, and $25 million respectively as virtually sole contribution to the set-up of the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), Abuja. With the stolen funds, the federal government would have financed the capital programmes of all federal universities for some 250 years! And if the same funds were applied to building new universities, we could easily have got at least 60 AUST- like institutions up and running all across the country.

From every perspective one looks at it, the amount of stolen funds would have improved the lives of Nigerians: if the $31bn had been invested in road construction, Nigeria would have emerged with one of the best road networks in all of Africa; even at the reported N89.53bn at which the Lagos Ibadan expressway was ‘concessioned’ in 2009, the amount would have translated into about 525,500km of roads, several multiples of the paved road network we now have nationally.

Meanwhile, was it not this administration that set up an assessment committee to look into cases of abandoned Federal government projects? The final report of the committee can be summed up in 2 points: there are 11,886 abandoned federal projects across Nigeria, and it would cost an estimated N7.78 trillion to complete these projects. With the $31bn in stolen funds, Nigeria would have successfully completed about 65% or some 7,000 abandoned projects all across Nigeria that would create jobs and improve our standards of living.
The report of the committee has not been implemented; instead, President Jonathan recently sent a letter to the National Assembly requesting approval to borrow $7.9bn to fund a pipeline of projects between 2012 and 2014. This is not to say borrowing money to fund national developmental priorities is a bad idea. But we all know that most of these monies will add up to the Jonathanian statistics of stolen funds.

On the issue of debt, if we add the proposed borrowing to our currently known $5.7bn debt burden at the end of 2011, our external debt stock would rise to $13.6bn by 2014. It leaves little to wonder if Nigeria can sustain servicing its rising debt profile. Curiously, the proposed foreign borrowing and the requests were not included in the 2012- 2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework presented to the National Assembly last year by the President himself, thereby violating the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.
The most frightening aspect of the $31bn question is: what if international and reputable audit firms had been engaged to audit Nigeria’s accounts not just at the federal, but also at state and local government areas? What would have been the findings? It is not hard to imagine that Nigeria would have been labelled the world’s most corrupt country by far, without a close second.

What should concern every Nigerian is that the President knows where mass fraud is being perpetuated, yet chooses to ignore the goings on. Why else have all the reports on the petroleum subsidy fraud only resulted in more ad-hoc committees, and then white paper committees whose reports are never ever published, and then finally abandoned to gather dust with no pretext at even attempting to implement any of the recommendations? No wonder, Dr. Faruk Lawan had to be compromised, while deliberate attempts were made to discredit the Ribadu Task Force report.

If the President wants to be regarded with any vestige of respect now or in the future, he must rise up with some spine, face corruption squarely and fight it with sincerity. He must de-emphasize reliance on foreign and domestic borrowings that simply line up the pockets of the lenders and the few unpatriotic Nigerians serving their interests. He must order the Debt Management Office to publish information on existing loans, tie them to the projects for which they were obtained, and make this information public to all Nigerians on a regular basis.
In the meantime, what most Nigerians simply want to know from the president is what happened to N5trillion in 30 months. That is the $31bn question which Dr Jonathan ought to answer

  • Modee Santuraki

    GEJ is the worst president on Earth. What pains me more is that there is more to what we just read.

  • Deji

    In as much as am not a fan of Elrufai, he has hit the nail on its head. President Jonathan is clueless, reckless and corrupt.

  • Gbemi

    This explains why the proportion of the population living below the poverty line Increases every day.

  • Akeem Iyanda

    Stealing in trillions…recklessness and coruption that can’t be rivaled!

  • Godswill

    Elrufai may not be too liked in some quarters but he is proving to be a possible rallying point, i wish he do a little tour of Nigeria and recruit interested persons in the new Nigeria dreams we must reborn Nigeria.

  • Yusuf

    What a country were a president cannot fight corruption rather encourage it i don’t think this clueless president can fight these el-rufai thanks for this information.

  • Danjuma

    Its unfortunate having GEJ as Nigerians president.he is certainly d worst of all presidents we had.may God punish dos dat punish others administratively.we hav our God they should have their money.future shall tell

  • For all those that voted for Jonah’s ‘Fresh Air’ welcome to the real world of nemesis. The figure is just $31 billion and we have 3 more years to go, enjoy yourselves while you beath your last Fresh Air!

  • For all those that voted for Jonah’s ‘Fresh Air’ welcome to the real world of nemesis. The figure is just $31 billion and we have 3 more years to go, so enjoy yourselves while you beath your last Fresh Air!

  • Yashim Joseph

    Stench…just spread my room some air freshner. 31bn ! The is unbearable.Pheeeww…!

  • Bilkisu

    What can we ordinary citizens do? There MUST be something we can do to help save ourselves and our country asides social media activism. Lest we be judged for not standing up to evil.

  • El-rufai, if i develop high BP, be aware you are the cause. Your revealations are true but dificult to believe. El-rufai, help us one more time and find out from them how long they intend to live on this earth.

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Quit whining, no body owes you anything, Fayemi tells Nigerian youths

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has urged Nigerian youths to ‘quit whining’ and that no body owe them anything. Fayemi made this known in a lecture titled ‘The Successor-Generation: Reflections on Values and Knowledge in Nation Building’ at the 2017 UNILAG Convocation Lecture in Lagos, Monday. Fayemi who went on memory line told the graduating students of his Alma Mater that as a UNILAG graduate and a post-graduate student in the United Kingdom for...

Trump’s Philosophy And Greatness For America Is Delusional, Myopic, And Dangerous – By Dr. Wumi Akintide

You can only solve a problem you fully understand. I am not so sure that Trump fully understands the true meaning and importance of governing a complex country like America and making peace with his critics if the word “enemy” is just too strong. There is no question that Trump is a very smart man, but like Adolf Hitler, he is a devil in his heart. He thoroughly understands the twists and turns of running a business which is...

UK gets evidence against Diezani, as EFCC set to proceed with interrogation.

The United Kingdom (UK) is now in possession of a pile of evidence against former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, courtesy of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A team of EFCC detectives was on standby yesterday to proceed to London to interrogate the ex-minister. Sources familiar with her investigation by the EFCC told The Nation that all the evidence gathered by the anti-graft agency on Diezani had been handed over to UK investigators. The Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu...

The Righteous Nigerian And The Rationality of Corruption – By Pius Adesanmi

Can Nigeria overcome corruption? Will Nigeria survive corruption? The optimistic, overconfident Nigerian who offered me a “no shaking yes” to both questions was only able to do so because he successfully outed me as I tried to remain incognito and maintain a low profile at the hotel pool in Lagos. Retreating incognito to a hotel in Lagos to assess our war front strategies in matters Nigeriana is something I often do with Omoyele Sowore. This time in the summer of...

VANGUARD: How 21 States Spent N37.4billion On Pension For 47 Ex-Governors

 Former governors are exerting pressure on the finances of state governments with pension payments and other entitlements draining billions of naira every year from developmental funds for the states.   Over N37.367 billion was, according to Vanguard findings, expended on servicing 47 former governors from 21 states in pension payments and provision of...

Enyeama named among Ligue 1’s top African footballers of the week

Former Super Eagles goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has been named as one of the top five African Players of the Week in the French Ligue 1.   According to the list ,published by France Football on Monday, Enyeama is the third of the lot.   His selection is as a result of his brilliant performance for Lille in their 0-0 away draw against Dijon on Saturday.   With the help of his two centre-backs, Marko Baša and Simon Kjær, Enyeama kept 11 consecutive clean...

EFCC nailed me with fake documents, says Jonathan’s former aide Waripamo-Owei Dudafa

Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, a former aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday told a federal high court in Lagos that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) forced him to implicate the immediate past president.   Dudafa, who is standing trial for alleged corruption, told the court that the anti-graft agency obtained statements from him under duress, and “nailed” him with “fake documents”.   He said his oral and written statements were all extracted through the use of force during his detention in...

Barrow names Jammeh’s ex-minister Fatoumata Tambajang as vice-president

President Adama Barrow has appointed Fatoumata Tambajang as vice-president, Halifa Sallah, his spokesman, disclosed on Monday.   Tambajang once served as minister of health under former President Yahya Jammeh.   Tambajang is a prominent pro-democracy activist. She was the driving force behind forming a coalition of opposition parties that rallied behind Barrow during the December 1 presidential election.   Barrow, who is currently in Senegal, where he took his oath of office, will return to Gambia on Tuesday.   He is returning to the country after the exit...

Nadal survives Monfils fightback to reach quarter-finals

Rafa Nadal has returned to the Grand Slam big-time by fending off Gael Monfils 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4 in a tense clash on Monday to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals. The News Agency of Nigeria reports that former champion Nadal had not reached the last eight in a major since the 2015 French Open. This explains why he celebrated wildly after closing out the two-hour 56-minute clash at a packed Rod Laver Arena. It was not the most convincing of wins for...

President Buhari has released N72bn for Lagos-Ibadan railway – Amaechi

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has released N72 billion counterpart funding for the construction of Lagos-Ibadan modernisation railway project.   Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, made this known at the quarterly presidential business forum, which was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential banquet hall, Abuja, on Monday.   The rail project, which was awarded to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, would cost about $1.5 billion (N458 billion).   Amaechi commended Kemi Adeosun, minister of finance, for ensuring full release of the counterpart funds...

Buhari Begs Senate on Behalf of SGF Lawal

President Muhammadu Buhari has sent a plea to the Senate to reconsider its stance that Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal should resign. He has also urged the upper legislative chamber to confirm acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for the position, it was learnt yesterday. Acting on the interim report of its ad hoc committee on the humanitarian activities in the Northeast, the Senate indicted the SGF...

REUBEN ABATI: Once upon a time in Gambia

I have very vivid memories of my last visit to The Gambia. This was in 2013 when President Goodluck Jonathan paid a two-day visit to the country. In the course of that visit, President Jonathan commissioned the new Chancery of the Nigerian Embassy in Banjul, and also met with the Nigerian community, in addition to the usual bilateral meetings. Nigeria and The Gambia have very strong cultural and diplomatic relations.   We were quartered at a very nice, hospitable sea-side hotel,...

FG to sack teachers not registered with TRCN this year

The Federal Government has said it will sack any teacher found in classrooms without the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria’s (TRCN) certificate and licence before the end of this year. Minister of State for Education Prof. Anthony Anwukah said this at the maiden induction ceremony for teachers in Imo State University. Anwukah, who was the chairman of the occasion, said in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by Head of Information at TRCN, Ojewuyi Muyiwa, that there would be no...

Senate to focus on 2017 Budget this week

This week, the Senate is set to begin debate on the 2017 appropriation bill submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari. Both chambers of the National Assembly had last week passed the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Fiscal Strategy Paper for 2017 to 2019, paving the way for the consideration of the 2017 appropriation bill. In the Notice Paper for the week from January 23 to 27, issued by the office of the Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Senator...

Brazil inmates dug three tunnels out of Alcacuz jail

Police searching a prison in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte say they have found three unfinished escape tunnels. The discovery comes just days after at least 26 inmates were killed in a riot at the jail in the city of Natal. Officials said inmates at Alcacuz jail had taken advantage of heavy rains to dig the tunnels in the softened ground. But they insisted that none of them had been finished and that no prisoner had managed to...

I’m ready to help Gerrard become the best manager he can be – Klopp

Jurgen Klopp has labelled Steven Gerrard’s decision to join Liverpool’s Academy staff as “wonderful news for football” as he builds a base to enter management. The 36-year-old called time on a stellar playing career last November and will help shape his boyhood club’s next generation as a coach at the same youth system that developed his talents. The former Reds skipper will begin his duties at Kirkby in February, initially in a floating role, and Klopp commended Gerrard’s willingness to swerve...

Why Buratai Sued Premium Times – Army

The Nigerian Army on Monday said the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, sued the Nigerian online newspaper, Premium Times, for libel after it failed to retract a story published on its medium. In a statement on Monday by the Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, the Army explained that the suit “is between the person of Lieutenant General TY Buratai and the Premium Times and not the Nigerian Army” adding that the case had...

JUST IN: LAUTECH receives N500 million to pay salaries – Vice Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, Suleiman Gbadegesin, on Monday said the institution had received N500 million from Osun and Oyo State governments to pay the salary arrears owed workers.   Mr. Gbadegesin disclosed this in Osogbo when he appeared before the State House of Assembly to defend the university’s N9.9 billion budget for 2017.   He said the institution received alert of N250 million each from the two owner states.   While thanking Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun and his...

BREAKING: Donald Trump withdraws US from Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that covers 40 percent of world’s economy

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order formally withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, following through on a promise from his presidential campaign. "We've been talking about this for a long time," Trump said as he signed the executive order in an Oval Office ceremony on Monday. He also called the order a "great thing for the American worker". In the same ceremony, Trump also signed an order imposing a federal hiring freeze and a directive...

Moses Doing Great Job For Chelsea – Alonso

Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso has paid tribute to Super Eagles forward Victor Moses for his impact for the English Premier League leaders so far this term. Moses has been a regular in the Chelsea team this term and has been one of the key performers in Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 formation. The Nigeria international had previously struggled to make much of an impact at Stamford Bridge but seems to have blossomed under the former Juventus manager, scoring three goals in 21...

Zambian police married to foreigners warned: Your spouse could be a spy.

Police in Zambia have been banned from marrying foreigners, according to a memo by police inspector general Kakoma Kanganja circulating on social media. The memo, dated 11 January, said those who were already married to foreigners should declare this within a week. It said failure to do so would "attract disciplinary action". Police spokeswoman Esther Katongo said: "Issues of security are delicate. If not careful, spouses can be spies and can sell the security of the country." Ms Katongo told the BBC...