President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday disclosed that he almost absconded the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when he met almost an empty treasury on resumption.
He disclosed this during a Presidential parley with senior executive course 38 (2016) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Noting that daily oil production of 2.1 million barrels was recorded between 1999 and 2015, he said that there was virtually no savings on ground despite the huge income during the period.
Infrastructures, he said, were also in dilapidated states.
To make matter worse, he said that oil prices in the international market, which sold for over $100 per barrel fell below $30 per barrel under his tenure.
Digressing from his prepared speech, Buhari said: “For 16 years and eight consecutive government’s of the other party and you know that there was unprecedented revenue realized, the oil projection which can be verified was 2.1 million barrels per day.
“1999 to 2015, the average cost of each Nigerian barrel of oil was $100 per barrel. When we came it fell to less $30 per barrel and it is now laying between 40 and 50.
“Actually I felt like absconding because 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries and we know they have no other source than to depend on salaries.
“And I asked any savings? I was told there was no savings, And I asked what have you done on agriculture, power, rails, roads. Nothing. You know more than I do because you move around. I have not been moving around since after elections but you do, how many of the Trunk A roads are still good enough? How many power do we have although there are some elements of sabotage.
“I was told the money was used to import food and fuel. I didn’t believe the answer and I still don’t believe it. Until now substantial number of people in the East eat garri and groundnut, in the West pounded yam, cassava, vegetables, in the north tuwo which is made from any of the grains, millet, sorghum.
“They eat it in the night and warm it in the morning and eat it and take fura danono in the afternoon. How many of those people can afford foreign food?” he queried.
“Then they say I should check out the petroleum, the legislature dedicated 445,000 barrels per day for internal consumption and that is just 60 per cent of our requirements. I said okay what of the 40 per cent? The marketers that are bringing it just present documents, papers are just stamped and monies are taken away.
“This is the type of things that the Nigerian elites are doing for our own country. When you go back look at your colleagues and encourage them to be truly Nigerians,” Buhari stated.
In his prepared speech, the President said that he was glad that the Course 38 Participants took up the challenge he threw at the Management of NIPSS last year to look at strengthening institutional mechanisms for poverty reduction and inclusive development in the 2016 Course.
He said that he was happy the report was submitted to him.
“I have carefully noted the report, most especially its findings and policy recommendations. I recall with pleasure that when I was given this task, six months after this administration came into office, the selection of the theme was not only apt but also timely.
“Today, poverty reduction and inclusive development have become pillars of this administration and very close to my heart,” he added.
The President said that he had looked forward to receiving the report because it touched on one of the fundamental problems confronting the nation.
“The Report comes at a time when our economy is experiencing a downturn and all efforts are being made by this administration to get our country moving again.”
He insisted that the current economic recession in the country is not the making of his administration, but a consequence of bad management of the economy in the past couple of decades.
Buhari also maintained that recession is not limited to Nigeria, stressing that there are far worse cases than Nigeria.
He added: “Whatever the scale of the problem the important thing is how one tackles it. Accordingly, this administration is committed to finding lasting solutions to our economic structural imbalance.
“Let us have faith in our great nation that we will come out of this recession vibrant and strong. I am glad that the report presented today has given us reason to keep faith in our ability to overcome our challenges.
“There is no doubt that poverty for decades has been a major challenge to us as a nation despite the country’s enormous wealth. Several policies and programmes that have been implemented over the years, as rightly observed by the Report, have not broken the cycle of poverty in Nigeria.”
“From the findings of the research by the Participants, it is evident that strengthening our institutions is key to reducing poverty and engendering inclusive development,” he said.
Speaking at the occasion, the Acting Director-General of NIPSS, Jonathan Juma, said that a lot can be done by the institute if more budgetary support is given to it.
“For the Institute to operate as an “apex institution” and be at the forefront of relevant researches for national development, it is required to recruit and retain top level academics, very senior technocrats and other experienced specialized experts.” He said
He said that the national institute is operating below its conceived capacity due to its inability to attract a full complement of requisite staff who would conduct research across broad strategic areas of national life and also impact new knowledge.
He said: “The financial situation of the national institute is precarious. The payments for utility services are in arrears and worse still, we have to live with threats of litigation from numerous creditors. Operational vehicles in the institute’s fleet have aged and are a source of constant embarrassment .
“We have looked inward and appealed to the generosity of individuals and corporate Nigeria for support and we are glad that some have responded positively. However, a decisive presidential intervention for a sustainable funding of NIPSS is urgently required,” he stated.