‘Our best yielded an era of unprecedented economic growth for Nigeria’
Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has replied his administration’s critics, saying former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki could not have stolen the $2.2 billion cash voted for arms purchase.
He also said his administration may not be perfect but he did his best.
Besides, he advised Nigeria and other African countries on how to break even – they should invest in education and youth entrepreneurship.
It was all at a lecture on Youth Entrepreneurship at the famous Oxford Union in the United Kingdom.
The text of the lecture and some parts of the transcript of the question session were released to the media yesterday by PRNigeria, a military propaganda outfit against Boko Haram during the Jonathan administration.
The ex-President said: “They said the National Security Adviser (Sambo Dasuki) stole $2.2billion. I don’t believe somebody can just steal $2.2 billion.
“We bought warships, we bought aircraft, we bought lots of weapons for the army and so on and so forth and you are still saying 2.2 billion; so where did we get the money to buy all those things?
”Yes, there were some issues. Yes, there are still corruption issues but some of it were overblown. I’d say exaggerated and they give a very bad impression about our nation. You cannot say the national security adviser stole $2.2billion. It is not just possible.”
But Jonathan said he would not want to speak futher to avoid engaging in any act of subjudice to the ongoing court process.
He added: “One thing about the issue of corruption is that these matters are in court; let’s allow some of these processes to end. Lately, some judges’ (homes) were also invaded. There are so many things involved and we have to follow up these matters to conclusion before we know the fact.
“I don’t want to be seen as a former president challenging what the sitting government is doing so I have decided to keep quiet for the court to look into them.”
He said allegations of corruption were not unique to his administration, adding:
“You will see that it has become a major topic whenever there is a change of government … I am not saying there is no corruption in Nigeria; there is corruption. If you look at corruption, there is almost no country that is free; the degree varies, the perception varies.
“Transparency International talks about the way corruption is being perceived in different economies; why do we talk about the way corruption is being perceived?
It depends on the issue raised in the media every day.”
Earlier in his lecture, Jonathan said his administration might not have been perfect but it offered Nigeria the best.
He said: “We may not have been perfect, but we did our best, and our best yielded an era of unprecedented economic growth for Nigeria. A growth that proved the truism that a nation’s wealth is not underneath the ground but between the ears of her people.
“Under my watch, Nigeria was projected by CNN Money to be the third fastest growing economy in the world for the year 2015 and rated as the largest economy in Africa and the 23rd in the world by the World Bank and the IMF, with a GDP above half a trillion US dollars. “
He expressed confidence that Nigerian youth and African youths could lift up the continent to a glorious economic era.
Jonathan said: “Nigeria has a crop of talented youth but the nation has not properly keyed into the global sports industry. The Fund would have been a catalyst to promoting the Nigerian sports industry by promoting training, welfare of athletes and manufacturing of sporting equipment, among other things.
“Distinguished audience, let me conclude my speech by urging contemporary African leaders to see youth entrepreneurship as a collective project transcending national boundaries. I believe in the Nigerian youth and indeed African youths. My conviction is not only an emotional one, but one grounded in my experience with youths from all over the continent.
“You will agree that foremost in the minds of many youth is a desire to develop their dreams and potentials.
“Placing them closer to the driving wheel, does a lot for their confidence. Despite incredible challenges, Nigerian youths are achieving great things and placing Nigeria positively in the world map.
“Nigerian youths are an inspiration to their leaders. I once said that I was not elected President of Nigeria to spread poverty, I was elected to generate and spread wealth.
“My belief in this regard is that getting a job or being a worker cannot completely cure the disease of poverty. It is only your own business that can provide such security and give you the financial freedom you need to prosper.
“That was why my administration introduced these initiatives and policies to enable Nigeria’s youths take their own destinies in their hands.
“You can appreciate that there was a lot of emphasis on education during my time at the helm of both my State and my Nation. This is because the richest people today are those who develop ideas and commercialise them.
“Viable ideas can only come from educated minds, and money pursues ideas. My three flagship programmes, i.e. the gifted and talented children schools in Bayelsa State, the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development and the ICT Incubation Centers (Co-Creation Hub) were geared towards developing that calibre of youth.”
Jonathan reeled out how his administration initiated many programmes to encourage youths to develop their talents.
He said: “My administration came up with various programmes to encourage young entrepreneurs. The most popular is the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria “YouWIN.”
“It was a unique intervention launched in 2012, which targeted youth with unique business proposals in start-ups and expansion of existing enterprises. YouWin is structured as a competitive cyclic initiative which invites and reviews business plans submitted by youth. Young people who wanted to be entrepreneurs were asked to submit their business proposals. The best business plans were chosen based on relevance, profitability, demand and practicability.
“The winners were trained and given grants. YouWIN was multi-sector- cutting across light manufacturing, food processing, and the service sector. The motivation for this program is for young people to go into SMEs, create jobs for other young people with the expectation that some would grow to large scale businesses.
“In addition to YouWin, under our broad based Agricultural Transformation Agenda, we developed the Youth Employment in Agriculture Program [YEAP] – and like many of our other youth programs, we incorporated the youth themselves in its design. This took a complete value chain approach from farming to processing and marketing.
“Just like in the YouWIN initiative, my administration gave young farmers grants and training. The young people who were involved were called “Nagropreneurs”.
“We also launched The Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS). The objective of this program was to provide temporary work experience for fresh graduates, to enhance their capacity to attract permanent jobs. Eligible graduates are posted to corporations and companies in the private and public sectors. They received practical training and mentorship for a one-year period, within which remuneration is paid by the government.
“This enabled the young graduates to acquire relevant experience. We also increased the allowances due to Youth Corp members by more than 100% in 2011. This was in line with our policy of youth empowerment and development.
“To ensure that the Nigerian youth benefit massively in the ICT revolution, we created a special Ministry of Communication Technology. We wanted the Nigerian Youth to be self-employed and exploit the advantages of ICT.
“The ministry, among other things, improved broadband penetration, set up ICT incubation centres in Lagos and Calabar. The efforts of the Young software engineers at the Lagos Co-Creation Hub (CC Hub) became so successful that it did not only give birth to many thriving start-ups, but their activities also attracted the attention of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg who chose it as his first stop during his first ever visit to Africa. One sector we deliberately encouraged to stimulate job growth for Nigerian Youth was the Nigerian entertainment industry.
“We identified Nollywood as a sector that can employ many young people. We provided a grant of $200 million and for the first time, Nollywood became a major contributor to our GDP. In 2014, Nollywood contributed 1.4% to our GDP. The sporting industry was also not left out. We encouraged our young people in that sector. I was to launch a Fund to encourage sporting activities in the country but I had to bow out by 29th of May 2015.”
The high point of the session was Jonathan’s reaction to the ongoing trial of his former NSA for alleged mismanagement of about $2.1m arms cash.
Dasuki had on December 13, 2015 said he disbursed the cash on Jonathan’s instructions.
The ex-NSA said: “I wish to state as follows: That I have been publicly indicted and any statement may jeopardize my defence. Having been briefed by the EFCC investigators on why I was invited, I will answer the charges in court. As such, I do not wish to make any further statement on the matter.
“That I am aware in November (I cannot remember the exact date), my office requested the CBN to exchange N10billion from the account of the Office of National Security Adviser domiciled in CBN. The money was exchanged at $47m and some Euros which I cannot remember. The exact amount was delivered at my residence.
“The money was for delegates that attended the nomination convention for the PDP. Presidential nomination. The money was paid and sent to Hon. (Waripamowei) Dudafa (SSAP Household) and ADC(C-IC) for distribution on the instruction of the President.
“Based on the statement of Director of Finance and administration (Salisu), Ibrahim Wambai, and Yazidu Ibrahim, all the cash (both foreign and local) are usually given to them for official use.
“I also noted the statement of Sagir Bafarawa whose company is Dalhatu Investment which he stated that he received the sum of N4,633,000,000 from the account of the Office of the NSA. I authorized the payment . The money was for vehicles, motorcycles for youth empowerment and women sent to Saudi Arabia. I got the proposal from the President. I do not have the proposal; it should be at the office in the Villa.”