Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Monday accused the former administration of Goodluck Jonathan of virtually emptying the treasury and leaving the country in debt.
However, former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the Jonathan administration left a much lower debt and most of that was incurred by states, not the federal government.
Buhari spokesman Garba Shehu said the new government will not engage in a witch hunt against officials of the previous administration. But, Shehu, senior special assistant on media and publicity, said government officials who stole public funds must return the money before they are questioned by the government.
Shehu said Buhari is preparing Nigerians who are expecting their new leader to do something about the many challenges confronting the country, including corruption.
“He (Buhari) said, ‘Look, the challenges I face are enormous’ against the background of the fact that this country is heavily indebted, billions of US dollars and the treasury is virtually empty. States are going without salaries. He said, in fact, even some employees of the federal government have been going without salaries,” he said.
Shehu said Nigeria, an oil-producing country, is heavily indebted because former officials at the end of their administration went on a rampage to steal from the treasury.
“They ran amok. They were just emptied the treasury, whether lawfully or unlawfully. That’s what we found. And so, questions are being asked and definitely something will have to give, and the president isn’t going to allow this to continue. People have to give back to the treasury where they are found to have taken money unlawfully,” Shehu said.
Shehu dismissed those who criticize the Buhari government and say now is the time to govern and stop blaming former Jonathan officials for all the country’s problems. He said Buhari has been governing the country from the day he was inaugurated, as evidenced by the things he has been doing.
“Look at all of the things he’s been doing. He has assumed the issue of national security with a single mindedness that I have never seen before. Within two [or] three weeks of his administration, he has been able to build a coalition of navy around Lake Chad to confront Boko Haram. He has achieved the endorsement of the G7, who has given an unconditional support in its fight against insurgency. The African Union, only week ago, has endorsed what he’s doing. So, General Buhari is governing,” Shehu said.