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President Can Expressly Order Disbursement From ECA… Obi

Happy Birthday to you, Your Excellency!

Thanks for the compliments.

We only read about it in the newspapers; you did not invite us.

My brothers, you know I don’t celebrate I would rather use the resources of celebration to help schools. I have been to five secondary schools in the past few days, I am sure you know them, I am helping them to build either a library or a laboratory.

What was your experience at Oxford University where you recently completed a programme; becoming a student again?

Like I have always said even while I was governor, learning and living are inseparable. So for us to be involved at the stage where we are involved you can’t stop learning. I am actually in school till July of the coming year

The news all over the place is that state governors did not receive any money from the ‘Excess Crude Account” in the past 16 years. Is it true?

I am no longer a Governor. I believe those in office are best-placed to answer your question. With all due respect, the question is better answered by former governors, as their tenures fall into the period in focus. Aside from your eight years in office, you were also the Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum… If you insist, let me fore-warn you that I can only speak for Anambra State and within the period I was the governor. The truth is that during that period at several times, Anambra State received her own portion of what was shared from the Excess Crude Account.

It is also alleged that the Jonathan administration disbursed funds from that Account without the approval of the National Economic Council (NEC). We even heard, as well, that Governors’ Forum did not approve of the disbursement.

I don’t think that was correct; let me clarify it properly: There was never a time the NEC, Governor’s Forum or any other body approved the release of excess crude money. The release of excess crude money was only, and only, by the express approval of The President. The practice was that the Governors’ Forum would meet and agree to appeal to The President to release funds to assist them in fulfilling their various states’ obligations. I was a state governor during the Presidencies of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the procedure was the same.

Some Nigerians are presently seeking the indictment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala supposedly for the reason that she mismanaged the Nigerian Economy. What is your take about this?

It is rather unfortunate that we have this attitude of trying to pull down our best. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a global star and only came back to serve her country and she did that with passion. We gain nothing trying to pull her down. We did it with Arunma Otteh, but we know what she is today. I have been in several meetings where this woman (Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) was almost crying as she explained and pleaded with all and sundry on the need to save for the rainy day. She advised that proceeds from excess crude sales should be saved in the Sovereign National Wealth Fund for effective management. I have read newspaper reports that it is ironic that she spoke of a rainy day when it was already pouring. I personally remain indebted to her because it was from her persistent preaching on the need to save in the Sovereign National Wealth Fund that made me incorporate savings in foreign currency – that is why one third of the money we left, on leaving office, was in foreign currency -$156 million (N25 billion at that time). With interest now it would be about $170 million and with the current rate it is almost   N40 billion. My position in all this is that we must cultivate the attitude of saving as a country. Excess crude money should be saved in the Sovereign Wealth Fund. No country will survive without saving for the future. Even in animal’s kingdom, the ant saves. We must save bearing in mind that natural resources that we enjoy today are depleting assets.

Today, practically all the State Governors are complaining of “empty treasuries” and seeking bail-out from the Federal government. With the benefit of the impressive savings you made for your State, what are your impressions on the current hue and cry?

I have said severally that there is nothing wrong with bail-out or restructuring of debts, but I insist that such reliefs must be with conditions to instill fiscal discipline; else we make it a bad habit. A debtor must live and behave like one. Let me give you a revealing example: EU Ministers had to make comment on the leather jacket of Yanis Varoufakis (Greece Minister of Finance) at a meeting to reschedule his country’s debts and this eventually led to his resignation. So as a nation, whenever there is a need for a bail-out, be it for a State, banks or another sector we must ensure that such bail-outs do not allow the same irresponsibility that brought about its occurrence.

-Former Anambra state governor, Mr. Peter Obi, was spotted at the funeral service for the late Chief (Mrs.) Chinyere Asika which held at All Saints Cathedral, Onitsha. He was cornered by some journalists for a little chat. He answered questions bothering on raging issues as captured here.

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