Time for Atiku to be more decorous and truthful in national discourse – IMPI

The Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI) has described former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s recent interventions in the public space as grudge statements targeted at demonizing President Bola Tinubu’s policies through deceptive generalisations.

It said in a policy document signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju that all the press statements issued by the former Presidential candidate in the last few days show an uncharacteristic poor understanding of issues by an individual who was once a Vice President.

The group said it came to that conclusion after a careful analysis of Atiku’s recent public statements on President Tinubu’s policy deployments.

“In one of the statements, Waziri Abubakar sought an explanation on the conditions precedent to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) securing a $3.3billion loan from the African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim Bank), and had gone ahead to make irreverent and common place imputations and conclusions that we considered as belittling his station.

“The second statement queried why the President directed the NNPCL to commence payment of crude oil receipts to the federation account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). We find this rather perplexing knowing that Waziri Abubakar had once occupied the second highest office in the land and thus, should understand the basic nuances of corporate power structure and decision-making process. We also find it perplexing as Atiku in his rejected “Covenant with Nigerians”, supported “transparency and accountability in the operation of NNPC Limited and associated enterprises”.

“The NNPCL had come to the public space to clarify the fact that in compliance with the Petroleum Industry Act that set it up, decided to collaborate with the CBN as its revenue receiving authority and there are indeed enough provisions of the Act to back its position.

“To our minds, a neophyte business administrator will know that a company’s board of directors has proprietary right over the company and, by extension, its management.

“Such decision can be made at the level of the board of directors without much ceremony especially in consideration of the fact that the CBN is the federal government’s banker. We wonder which bank can better receive NNPCL’s revenue than the CBN? The Waziri is apparently intentional about mudslinging in this circumstance.

“The third in the series of the grudge statements poignantly accused President Tinubu of policy deployments misbehaviour. We find that rather pedantic,” it added.

The policy group also compared the first full year of Atiku’s tenure as Vice President, during which he headed the Obasanjo economic team, with the first eight months of President Tinubu.

“In 1999 when Waziri Abubakar was sworn into office as Vice President and supposed head of the economic team, inflation rate was 6.9 percent but by 2000, that is a year after, it had risen to 17.8 percent. That was about 11 percent increase. We noted that there was no policy on fuel subsidy removal at this time that could have possibly triggered this rapid increase in inflation rate.

“We contrasted this to the 22.41 percent inflation figure in May 2023 when President Tinubu was sworn-in. The latest inflation figure is for December 2023 with the figure stated at 28.92 percent showing about 6 percent increase.

“This is despite the twin policies of subsidy removal, the floating of the Naira and the large population the current administration has had to manage.

“In addition, Waziri Abubakar had the added advantage of higher revenue to spend to ameliorate the economic conditions of Nigerians in that year, with earned revenue from mostly crude oil up to $15.81billion but obviously did not reflect in the inflation figure of that year.

“In contrast, the President Tinubu-led administration has not generated up to $4billion from crude oil sales from June 2023 to January 2024, yet the administration has been managing the fall outs of the removal of fuel subsidy and floating of the Naira against the background of a large population.

“While we do not contend that this is an exhaustive leadership comparative analysis template, it, however, enabled us to have a snapshot, in time, about the managerial and policy making skills of the two personalities at issue here.

“Our conclusion is that Waziri Atiku Abubakar under-performed in office despite the resources available to him to manage. And that he lacks the capacity to manage a resource-shortfall economy.

IPMI argued that for a man who always seek to make himself look good in the public domain, Atiku still has too many questions to answer about his time in government from government.

“Among these is the lingering allegation that Waziri Abubakar provided the $20 million to secure Globacom telecommunication license in August, 2002 and that he has a front representing his shareholding interest in the company.

“This is more galling when considered against the background of the fight between him and Obasanjo, his boss, over who will take control of the national telecommunications company, NITEL. After much rigmaroles, the two leaders left the company commercially asphyxiated without any value left in it.

“It is today a shadow of its old self with implications for national development. We find this conduct inappropriate and a shameful exhibition of conflict of interest for the man who was the chief superintendent of the sale of national assets.

“Under the same privatisation exercise that Waziri Abubakar supervised, the Kaduna refinery was concessioned to a consortium of companies, the Blue Star. The allegation still subsists concerning the consortium’s claim that it paid $250million for the purchase of the refinery through the National Council on Privatisation (NCP). The CBN Governor at that time declared that the money never got into the federation account.

“There was also a report of the Nigerian Senate in 2007 accusing Abubakar of diverting $145 million from the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) to private companies.”

IMPI said it expects the former Vice President to be more decorous and truthful in his approach to national issues even as a member of the opposition.

Niyi Akinsiju

Chairman, Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI)

6th February 2024.

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