The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has described the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last election, Atiku Abubakar, as lacking basic understanding of economics and governance.
The group was reacting to a recent claim by Atiku, that President Muhammadu Buhari between 2015 to 2019 doubled Nigeria’s debt profile from N12 trillion to N24.9 trillion.
“Nigeria’s debt has more than doubled from N12 trillion in 2015, to N24.9 trillion in 2019, yet we became the world headquarters for extreme poverty. Irresponsible borrowing results in unprecedented sorrowing,” Atiku had said in a recent statement.
But in its response, the BMO said Atiku’s comment on the country’s debt profile is a clear example of a person dabbling in a matter beyond his pay grade.
This was made known in a statement signed by its chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and secretary, Cassidy Madueke, and made available to journalists in Abuja on Sunday.
BMO said it is obvious from the manner Atiku jumped on a statement “Nigeria’s total public debt portfolio as at March 31 2019”, released by the Debt Management Office (DMO) that Atiku only wanted to make political gains without fully digesting the document.
It regretted that Atiku, despite being a former Vice President, allegedly lacked a basic understanding of economics and governance.
“We have seen the latest position of the former Vice President on the nation’s debt profile and how he sought to trivialize it in order to whip up sentiments. We are however surprised that he does not know that a nation’s debt portfolio cannot be discussed in isolation of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), especially in terms of income and national assets.
“People who understand basic economics would tell you that at 19 per cent of GDP, Nigeria’s borrowing is quite low when compared to countries like South Africa, Brazil, Ghana and Angola but Atiku Abubakar is opting to play to the gallery with beer parlour analysis couched in flowery language.
“It is even a far cry from the 25 per cent debt-to-GDP benchmark set by the Nigerian authorities.
“One other thing that the former VP showed little understanding of is the difference between public and Federal Government debt
“The debt stock document noted that the Federal Government owes N13.1 trillion domestically, while the states and the FCT owe N3.97 trillion but this means nothing to an opposition element that needs to hang on to any straw to be on the front pages of the media.
“And just like the DMO said, and as the government has affirmed through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo even before now, the debt stock has risen but unlike what the PDP presidential candidate that has yet to come to terms with his electoral loss wants Nigerians to believe, it has nothing to do with profligate spending.
“A large chunk of the debt is tied to projects and Nigerians could easily see the impact of Sukuk bond on the hundreds of kilometres of roads under construction or that are being rehabilitated. This is aside from the nationwide railway project that is bound to touch every state of the federation before the end of the President’s second term in office,” BMO statement read in part.
The group also said it found laughable that Atiku suggested that the Buhari administration used a chunk of the debts on Trader Moni scheme as well to pay salaries.
BMO said, “We know for a fact that Nigeria has long passed the era where she had to borrow to pay salaries, as former Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala attested to in 2014. That was a period the country was earning so much as a result of higher crude oil prices but racked up an external debt stock of $63 billion (about N12.5 trillion).
“It is instructive that Atiku alluded to the debt relief Nigeria got in 2006 which he surreptitiously claimed credit for but he also needs to be reminded, in case he forgot, that Nigeria earned approximately N87 trillion between 1999 and 2015 yet his party left behind a debt stock as high as almost $70billion and a country with major infrastructure deficit that a government that is earning far less is working hard to plug.
“In fact, the country earned N51 trillion in the four-year period from 2010 to 2015 but the then Jonathan administration cannot point at a 100-kilometre motorable road or a fully completed infrastructural project that was handed over to the Buhari government.
“And by attacking one of President Buhari’s social welfare schemes, Trader Moni, in his ill-conceived criticism, Atiku has once again shown his disdain for the Nigerian masses. How could an individual that has tried, thrice but failed, to be President be so scornful of a group of people whom this administration is working so hard to lift out of a poverty threshold that successive PDP administrations literally forced them into?”