With TSA, Nigeria can’t get out of recession— Doherty

Former acting national vice-chairman, South-West, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Adedeji Doherty, who was also a governorship aspirant in Lagos State in the last election, speaks with BOLA BADMUS on the recently concluded Edo governorship election, among other national issues.


WHAT is your take on the recently conducted governorship election in Edo State?

I am not comfortable with the outcome of the election and my reason is predicated on the excuses given by the returning officers that came from different local governments for cancellations of votes. For instance, an average of cancelled votes in each local government was about 2,000 votes and all of them had reports of violence and ballot snatching. One even said he had an accident and the results were damaged. The report we had on television and the statements made by the returning officers showed that there was a symbiotic relationship between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and those officers [security operatives]. But definitely something was faulty and not transparent and I call on the tribunal to do something about it.

Also, considering the level of preparedness by the police with a deployment of 25,000 officers and other security operatives, coupled with the postponement of the election by two weeks, there shouldn’t have been any hitch because the excuses for cancellation of votes and reports of ballot snatching made a mess of all the efforts put in place by the security operatives and INEC. And we should not forget that these reported situations also negated the reports we got from observers and voters, who, in their opinion, revealed a peaceful exercise. To me, the cancellation only undermines the preparedness and gallant effort of our police for letting all these happen and not being able to prevent them.

 

Much emphasis has been placed on anti-corruption war of the current government.  What do you make of the crusade?

In every society, there are a lot of corrupt people and I believe in Nigeria today, we can applaud the president on his efforts. However, I believe there should be a different direction in the manner the anti-corruption war is being fought. I believe it is appearing gradually. The problem of corruption bothers everyone, but the net of the anti-corruption crusaders should be cast wider.

Having said this, I must say that the issue of corruption has always been fought by past administrations, maybe in a different way. But the way they have fought it has yielded results and we have seen what the money recovered were used for. During the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Umaru Yar’adua and GoodluckJonathan, we had a list of people that were accused for corruption. We had the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Joshua Dariye, James Ibori, amongs others, who were accused of corruption and were tried in the past administrations. And most of the convictions that are happening now are cases mentioned in the Jonathan administration. I haven’t seen any new case of conviction in the last one and a half years of the present administration. The thing that stands out is they were mainly from the ruling party then, and there was nobody from the opposition. Remember that it was the ruling party then that created these anti-corruption agencies-the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC). So, the instrument of attacking corruption and the processes were all created by the PDP. It is unjust to tag PDP as a party of corrupt people. The notion of PDP is ‘we clean our house first before we clean others.’

But in this present administration, the reverse is the case. You are trying to clean the opposition figures, which has not yielded anything to the benefits of the people. You might say you have recovered three trillion naira from looters in previous administration, but what has been done to the money? How has it impacted the lives of the people? We have been fighting corruption on the pages of newspapers, on the podium, on the international scene; the resultant effect is bringing our economy down and that is the major problem today. Nobody wants to come here and do business because of uncertainty; because of the way the president has painted us before the international community. The foreign exchange crisis can also be linked to this ugly development. Let us weigh all the options. Are we better off today than in the last administration? Nigerians can decide. We have crisis in virtually all the facets of our society: religion, ethnic, political, finance and others.

 

But many have accused past administrations of reckless spending of the country’s foreign reserves leading to current economic crisis in the country.

In every situation where you have recession, there will be some things which the past administrations did not do right or failed to do. So, every subsequent administration will always have a part to play. If this administration leaves, the next administration will fault it for not doing the needful. So, there is no one that can exonerate himself from whatever could be happening. Whether PDP provoked the problem by 50 per cent or 20 per cent, as far as the new government is sitting at the helm of affairs, it has to take responsibilities of some sort.

 

You said in one of your submissions that multiple defects should be contained. Could you hint further on this?

Yes, I see a situation whereby President Muhammadu Buhari is fighting corruption and most of the APC gladiators are from the PDP and till tomorrow we hear the likes of Dariye saying he’s crossing to APC. Dariye is under investigation for a long time. Why is he going to APC? When another party wins at the national level, these politicians would move again. I think there should be some kind of sanity, allegiance, patriotism and moral support that should be upheld. I am not saying politicians should not cross carpet, but the constitution should stipulate a control system to this revolving door.

 

As an industrialist, considering the high exchange rate of the naira to other major currencies, what is your take on the Nigeria’s monetary policy and the Central Bank of Nigeria?

My take is simple. But before that, let me hint on this. One, we have the fiscal policy and the monetary policy. For the monetary policy, I expected the CBN to withdraw the higher denominations, namely the N1000 and N500 notes, change the design so that all those who have stolen the money won’t have access to them any longer, instead of using them to run after the dollar that is not there. Those stolen money should be rendered useless.

 

But that will gulp a lot of money in designing and printing the newly designed notes.

But is it not better than to have our money going for an exchange rate of 500 naira to a dollar? If that money has been changed, the pressure on the dollar will be minimal because the looters will not be able to take it to banks because the EFCC will be waiting for them. And that is the way to cleanse the system. When that is done, it will reduce the pressure on the naira.

Secondly, there is the fiscal policy. In this regard, I believe the government should have stepped in. Instead of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), we should have a Treasury Ministry. I pressed for this during the Jonathan government. Without a treasury ministry, we can’t move economically. The Treasury Ministry is an audit-cum-statistical ministry that will be able to determine the income of the country at any time. It monitors, collects and predicts what the income should be. This gives the president a clear picture of what the income and expenditure are.

The TSA, as an account in CBN, sucks out all public funds from the commercial banks, giving rise to inadequate circulation of money in the system, whereas government cannot do business with itself. As it stands today, the government is doing business with itself. The creation of Treasury Ministry gives rise to audit, transparency and accountability. When treasury speaks, it affects the economy of the country. Hence, we need a Treasury Ministry and not the TSA.

Jonathan created it but could not implement it because of its implications on the economy as it was noted that it would strangulate the commercial banks and that is what this present government has done, strangulating the commercial banks and in return cannot move the economy because the private sector is are the major stakeholders in moving the economy forward. I am afraid Nigeria will not come out of this recession until we jettison TSA, and if we continue to maintain it, we will go into the hyper-inflation to depression and finally to a collapsed economy.

 

Can we get your view on the crisis rocking the PDP?

The party’s crisis is not outside the ordinary. If that didn’t occur, then it is not democracy and politics. However, what is important is the diplomacy to come out of the crisis. Other parties are having theirs, so it is not only limited to PDP.