From IHEANACHO NWOSU, Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday waded into the ongoing war of words between the Federal Government and the former minister of education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili over the latter’s allegation that the administration of the late Umaru Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan squandered $45 billion foreign reserves.
The House mandated its committees on Finance as well as Appropiration to begin investigation into the allegation and counter allegation by the former minister and the Federal Government. Ezekwesili, immediate past vice president of the World Bank where the foreign reserves were kept, had, at the convocation lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, alleged that the Yar’Adua regime and the current administration mismanaged what was left in the foreign reserves by former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
She alleged that the squandering of $45 billion in foreign reserves account and another $22 billion in Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007 had worsened poverty in the country. The Federal Government, through the Minister of Infrmation, Mr. Labaran Maku fired back immediately, challenging Ezekwesili to account for billions of naira that were allocated to her ministry when she was in charge of education.
He denied that the Federal Government tinkered with foreign reserves. Similarly President Jonathan’s aide on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe branded Ezekwesili a liar. Speaking to newsmen Okupe said: “I regret to say that Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili should show dignity and character by letting the Nigerian people, whom she sort out to fool, to know the source of her figures otherwise, she should be honourable enough to retract her statement and apologize to the government and people of Nigeria.”
The House in adopting a motion sponsored by Umar Bature (PDP, Sokoto) said the matter was too weighty to be swept under the carpet. Defending his motion, Bature said the House needed to conduct the investigation because, according to him, Ezekwesili as former special adviser to the president on public procurement and former World Bank vice president was in a position to know the status of the nation’s foreign reserves at the time in question.
He faulted the resort to abuse of the woman by aides of the Federal Government, arguing that the allegation does not call for such reaction. Bature said the nation would gain from the House investigating the matter. He said: “We are representing the people of this country and the issue being discussed has to do with their resources, we cannot afford to allow it to be swept under the carpet.”
Other lawmakers supported Bature saying the issue was too important to be ignored. Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal referred the matter to the committees on Finance and Appropriation for investigation.