The controversy over the exact amount of Nigeria’s foreign reserves reared its head again Tuesday July 17th, when a senior official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said the real amount was USD8.8 billion, not the widely bandied figure of USD43.6 billion.
Appearing before the Senate’s ministerial screening committee, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Shamsudeen Usman, said while the country might have USD43.6 billion in its foreign reserves, in actual terms it is USD8.8 billion that is available for spending.
“In fact, as at yesterday (Monday), it was USD43.6 billion in reserves and people think that the same amount is (available) to be spent. Now, if you break down this USD43.6 billion, about USD31 billion or 71 per cent of this amount belongs to the Central Bank. So, we are like a Bureau de Change. The money was earned by the Federation; they brought the dollar to the Central Bank, we took the dollar and gave them naira and they have spent the money. So, all the three tiers of government have shared this USD31 billion and spent it,” he explained
He likened the confusion on the reserves to a customer who goes to a Bureau de Change; exchanges his dollars for naira, returns the next day to ask for the dollars back after spending the naira.
Usman said with another USD2.3 billion out of the total foreign reserves belonging to the to the Federal Government, the only amount available in the Federation Account for distribution, which is the so-called Excess Crude, is about USD9.9 billion.
“There are some transactions that are in the pipeline of about USD1 billion. So, net amount, you are talking about USD8billion. So, if there is any amount to be spent, that is the amount to be distributed,” he added.
Usman is among the ministerial nominees whose names have been forwarded to the Senate for screening.