Ramon Oladimeji and Alexander Okere
A former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, says it is misleading for President Muhammadu Buhari to blame past regimes for the failure of the country to save for the rainy day.
Rather than demonise his predecessors by heaping blames on them for the country’s woes, Akinyemi, who was the deputy chairman of the 2004 National Conference, told Buhari to blame the country’s plight on the constitution.
According to him, the failure of the country to save was rooted in Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, which made it mandatory for the largest chunk of the revenue generated by the country to be deposited into a central account for onward distribution among the federal, state and local governments.
Akinyemi, who said this in a statement on Sunday, clarified that he was not out to defend any of the past leaders, some of whom he said deserved bashing, having refused “to retire into graceful silence.”
The ex-minister, however, said his intervention was motivated by the desire to focus the government’s attention on the real solution to the nation’s problem.
He said, “If we have to lay blame, it should be at the door of those responsible for the 1999 Constitution. This does not mean Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalam alone, or the military regime alone but includes elements of the judiciary and civilians who were all instrumental in midwifing that constitution.
“Serious attempts were made by both the (Olusegun) Obasanjo and (Goodluck) Jonathan administrations to put in place savings through the backdoor such as the Excess Crude Accounts and Commonwealth Savings Funds. Both were frustrated by the states and the judiciary. The irony in Nigerian history is that some of the state governors, who spearheaded the opposition to the attempts to save, are now prominent in the cabinet and the Senate.”
As opposed to merely blaming his predecessors, Akinyemi advised Buhari to push for the amendment of the constitution by particularly modelling it after the Norwegian constitution.
He explained that the Norwegian model involved pooling 100 per cent of government’s revenues from royalties and dividends into a central account with a provision that not more than four per cent could be withdrawn in a year.
Akinyemi said, “What previous administrations failed to do and which the present Buhari administration should do is to single-mindedly drive a constitutional amendment that would follow the Norwegian model.
“The Norwegian experience involves setting up a Government Pension Fund Global into which 100 per cent of the government’s revenue from royalties and dividends are paid. In any one year, no more than four per cent is allowed to be drawn from the account.
“The Nigerian model, given our peculiar federalism, can include a provision that any withdrawal from the fund must be with a unanimous decision of the members of the National Economic Council. This is the way forward and goes beyond name-calling and the blame game.”
Meanwhile, the General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor William Kumuyi, has called on Nigerians to be hopeful of a better society.
Kumuyi also called on the Federal Government to diversify the economy from oil to other sectors like agriculture and tourism.
The cleric, who spoke at the Benin Airport on Saturday, en route to Delta State for a religious programme, noted that the citizens should be proactive rather than look at the “negative” side of the country.
He explained, “(We have to) look at our economy and look at diversification, so that we are not just depending on oil alone, which everybody is realising now.
“We need to go into agriculture, into tourism and other things that will generate resources and funds for the country. Look elsewhere out of oil for the country’s economic growth.”
Kumuyi also expressed concern over the growing cases of clerics allegedly indulging in immoral activities, adding that “everybody is disturbed by the development we see in some places.”
He noted that with Nigeria at 56, there was the need to thank God for the progress made so far.
The cleric said, “We thank God that democracy is taking root and we are making progress. There are things to look into for us to become a better society. But we are thanking God for what has happened already.”
On his assessment of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, Kumuyi said, “Sometimes in school, we allow the students to finish their exams before we assess them.
“Sometimes when you assess midway, you do not get the right assessment. So, I think I like to still observe more to see where we are going. So, when we get there, we will be able to assess properly.”