Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan defended his government’s record on fighting corruption and denied his successor’s assertion that the country’s Treasury was left empty when he handed over power last year.
Jonathan, 58, was succeeded in May 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari, who accused the previous administration of looting billions of dollars and leaving the country’s finances “virtually empty.”
“There’s no way he would have inherited an empty Treasury,” Jonathan said in an interview Monday with Bloomberg Television in London. “It’s not possible.”
Nigeria’s economy is contracting after a decline in the price of Brent by about half since the middle of 2014. Crude exports accounted in 2014 for as much as two-thirds of government revenue, with most state budgets relying on monthly handouts from the federal administration.
Jonathan expressed confidence that the authorities can reach an agreement with militants in the Niger Delta to stop their attacks that have slashed production to 1.4 mbpd.
“Definitely, it will be resolved. Yes, government can always overrun restive movements and so on, but the Niger delta is too delicate. The level of damage will be too much for the government to bear. We used dialogue.”
Following militant attacks, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said last month that a long-delayed 2016 budget may not be fully implemented.
The cash crunch has dampened optimism around the election of Buhari who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, beating Jonathan in the first election victory by an opposition candidate in the nation’s history.
In a bid to plug the gap in the finances of Africa’s biggest economy, Nigerian authorities have gone after corrupt officials, recovering more than $500 million in cash so far.
Investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have brought top officials of Jonathan’s government under scrutiny, such as his national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and then-spokesman of his political party Olisa Metuh.
Asked if he was being investigated for corruption, Jonathan said, “of course, obviously, they investigated and I’ve been investigated.” He declined to say what those investigations might reveal.
Jonathan said his administration did “very well” in the fight against corruption.