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Says governors pushed for the policy

 

The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has denied being the brain behind the fuel subsidy removal policy which led to a nationwide strike and protests.

 

In an interview with BBC, Okonjo-Iweala laid the idea at the foot of governors, who she said had been pushing for the fuel subsidy removal even before she joined the Jonathan-led administration. She also denied claims that the World Bank and IMF influenced the government’s decision, saying they “have nothing to do with this, absolutely nothing!”

 

“This is an internal government decision and President Jonathan has made it very clear. Remember, six months before I came, the governors have all pushed for subsidy removal,” she said.

 

“Subsidy removal has two decades of history, almost every government from Babangida to Obasanjo has tried, so it is not Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.”

 

Sources say that the governors traded the subsidy removal policy with the government’s establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund which was established to mop up the excess crude funds which the governors shared with the federal government, monthly.

 

The director general of the Governors Forum, Ashishana Okauru, said although he does not “know who did what first”, the issue of fuel subsidy removal “has been on the table” at the governors’ forum.

 

He however denied that the governors made the decision in consideration for their support for the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

 

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, on Tuesday in Port Harcourt, said that the removal of fuel subsidy would rescue the country’s economy from collapse.

 

“If you we don't support the President to remove oil subsidy, we will not even be able to buy clothes because the dollar will escalate to N250 per dollar,” he said.

 

“That is what the thing is going to. So, the President is not a wicked man, he is on a rescue mission. I will plead with labour to sympathise with both the governors and the President, even assume that we are bad people, for once trust us.”

 

Source: EMMANUEL OKUBENJI  (Daily Times NG)

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012 20:16

Okonjo-Iweala Speaks on Fuel Subsidy Removal

 

The minister spoke yesterday on a Radio Nigeria current affairs programme  on Jobs, Infrastructure, Health...

 

In her opening remarks, she said the petrol subsidy removal was to safeguard the future of Nigeria and her children. According to her, if Nigeria did not take the measures, the country would be forced to experience such hardship “that would frustrate the future of our children and we will be like some countries like Greece which kept on borrowing until they got to the crisis situation that they have found themselves”.

 

Okonjo-Iweala said that if Nigeria continued to borrow to run government, then crisis was imminent and the best thing was to begin to arrest the situation. The minister asked Nigerians to understand that withdrawal of oil subsidy was just one aspect of deregulation of the industry.

 

Two or three callers centred their questions on the misdeeds of the past and how it will be difficult to believe that there would be genuine changes this time. The minister assured that the Jonathan government would be transparent. She spoke on other aspects of the nation’s

economy.

People protest following the removal of  fuel subsidy by the Government in Lagos ,Nigeria.

ON JOBS

This exercise (fuel subsidy removal) will help in creating about 370,000 jobs and this will help the problem of unemployment.


ON INFRASTRUCTURE

Increase in fuel prices is not the only cause of increase in transportation costs. Bad roads are part of the problem because vehicles get easily damaged on bad roads and the costs are forced down on commuters. This withdrawal will help government source more money

to put our roads in better shape and therefore reduce transport fares.

 

The railways will also benefit and this will further reduce costs. The trains are generally cheaper means of transportation and something will be done in this respect.

 

ON HEALTH

Nigeria is one of the worst cases in maternal health care. Nigerian women record deaths in maternal cases more than many other countries and this sector will benefit from the money that will accrue from this withdrawal.


ON MISTRUST

I understand the pains Nigerians are going through. I personally do and so do other colleagues of mine. We plead for patience. The impact of this will begin to show soon. We intend to start publishing the amount we are saving from this withdrawal of oil subsidy monthly and also where we are directing them. Nigerians will be participants in this process. In few months prices will begin to come down depending on market forces.

 

Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Coordinating Minister on the Economy, added: “It was never to my knowledge that the president gave such a date (April 2012). There is no particular time one could say was best suited for the withdrawal. It is the prerogative of the president. The important thing is that we cannot carry on the way we did in the past. It would be plunging our future into crisis.” With these words, Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, dismissed the claim that the Federal Government reneged on the promise to remove the subsidy on petrol in April 2012 as against January 1 when it did.

 

 

“A baseless fiction totally devoid of even a semblance of truth"   - Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance has categorically denied the allegation reported by Wikkileaks that she conveyed a $50 million contract to her brother as "Baseless and Fictional."

Speaking on her behalf in a statement, the Special Assistant to the minister, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu rejected the alleged Wikileaks cable, that reported that  Okonjo-Iweala 'ferried' a $50 million contract to her brother through Mr. Nasir EL-Rufa, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

The statement issued by Nwabuikwu described the Wikkileaks Report as “a baseless fiction totally devoid of even a semblance of truth. To say the obvious, his reference to Dr Okonjo-Iweala in this story lacks substance and credibility. The story is based on two sentences in the alleged Wikileaks cable allegedly uttered by an unidentified person alleging that Dr Okonjo-Iweala “steered” contracts worth $50m to her brother for “consulting work” in 2004.”

Wikileaks cable- Report stated that Minister Okonjo-Iweala had a brother named  'Jon-Jon' that was allegedly awarded a "consulting" contract. But the issued statement denied of any brother by such a name and maintained that there was no contract given to any relative of the minister.

US Sec. Clinton and Dr. Okonjo-Iweala

Reacting to the allegation, Nasir EL-Rufa, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, who was mentioned in the Wikileaks report as the alleged middle man denied the so-called $50 Million contract as without merit. Nasir EL-Rufa said, "How can I as FCT minister influence award of contracts of 50 mill dollars (N5bn) in the Ministry of Finance to Ngozi’s brothers? That is utter nonsense. The entire capital budget of MoF cannot be near that amount!"

On the misinformation circulating in one online-website that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was let go from her position during former President Obasanjo administration as result of benefiting from the Paris Club settlement; the statement said, “One of the many reasons Dr Okonjo-Iweala enjoys such a high standing internationally is the fact that she has been thoroughly investigated and cleared by the most respected security agencies in the world. With Okonjo-Iweala, what you see is what you get. Anything else is fiction.”

Nasir EL-Rufa

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala played a key and central role in Nigeria's 2006 Paris Club debt exit and utilized her superior expertise to acquire 18% write-off on Nigerian debt.

 

"I strongly believe that we should try as a country as much as possible live within our means."

Dressed in a blue blouse and skirt made of African print with black spots and with her landmark headgear, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala entered the Senate chambers at precisely 12.10 p.m. and was let off at 1.15 p.m. for ministerial screening.

She was quizzed on several issues pertaining to the economy and for the first time was publicly made to disclose reasons for her unceremonious exit from the Olusegun Obasanjo cabinet.

Noting that Nigeria was eating out of what it should be using to develop itself, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said: "I am really worried about the issue of making sure our budget is not eaten up by recurrent expenditure. How can we invest in capital if we’re spending all our money on recurrent expenditures. Can we run a budget that is not negative? Absolutely. We can do it, we have done it. We have been able in the past.

Recurrent expenditure

"I strongly believe that we should try as a country as much as possible live within our means. Right now we need to work very hard because the budget that we have is such that the current expenditure is almost 74 per cent of the budget, therefore, there is not as much left for capital, so we need to work hard to put in place policy that will make it possible to continue to implement fiscal policies that will enable us to tackle the various challenges in the economy while at the same time living within our means."

She noted that the recurrent expenditure was crowding out other necessary investment in infrastructure especially power and as such solicited the help of senators to help the executive branch of government by giving the push to cut down recurrent spending.

Also noting the effect of unemployment on the economy, she said: "I think the main problems in the economy have to do with creating jobs. We have unemployment rate of about 14 to 16 per cent, but very large under-employment and the issue is how to make the economy growing in a way that it will create jobs, so those fiscal policies have to be supportive of sectors that are going to be job creating, because we now have growth, but we need to translate that growth into jobs, so those are the kinds of fiscal policies that we need to encourage. We should privatize sectors that are job creating."

Noting the declining performance of the federal budget, she said: "When I joined the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the budget implementation was 30 percent in 2003, we got up to 90 and 85 percent as at the time I was leaving. And that was a good for any country. As at now the implementation is at 53 percent. I don’t see any reason why the budget will not be fully implemented, if it is reasonable and delivered on time. Budget will be fully implemented if the revenue is coming with less expenditure."

Expressing concern that the country was not maximally exploiting its oil revenues, she said: "We are losing reserves, it shouldn"t be, we should be increasing our reserves, at the same time. I am aware that part of the reserve maybe due to decision to support the naira, I don’t think is something that is untoward, but if we want to revalue the naira this will not be the time to think about it. I think we should wait until things are more stable, we are growing our economy, we are creating jobs, we make sure our young people are working and the sectors we have are really giving what they should before we think in that direction."

Investment in oil sectcor

Answering a question on the Joint Venture Companies, JVC, Okonjo-Iweala said: "On the issue of JVC I think there are number of modalities that many countries use to manage the oil sector, exploration in their countries and investment into the oil sector. I think the problem that we have is that our own portion of the joint venture over time we have difficulties meeting that, but I don’t see anything wrong with them per se, I think in the beginning if you are going to go that route, you really need to have strong presence and advise to make sure that what you negotiate really obeys the law that will be of benefit to the country at the end of the day after the whole process."

Inevitably, she was drawn to why she had to resign from the Obasanjo government after her successful role in erasing most of the country’s debts to the Paris Club of debtor nations.

She said: "I did not run away, I was here. I resigned, I served the country for about three years and when I determined that I could no longer perform and give to the country the way that I would want, I resigned, which is the honourable thing to do, so I did not run away. When the circumstances are appropriate to serve, you serve and if they are not appropriate, you go and do something else. I think three years plus of service is quite substantial, not only in Nigeria, but elsewhere in other countries, it is regarded as a good amount of time to have given the country and I intend to implement and if Iam cleared I will do my job."

On the usefulness or otherwise of sustaining the subsidy on petroleum, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said that subsidy was a good instrument needful in narrowing the economic gap between the rich and the poor but lamented that where it is not effectively utilized it becomes wasted.

She said that she was especially touched by the wide gulf between the rich and the poor in Nigeria saying that narrowing it was one of the incentives for her returning to the federal cabinet.

She noted: "We have coefficient of inequality. It is this inequality that is holding us down. People keep asking why I want to come back to work, but the reason is simple. In a country where the rich keeps getting richer and the poor keeps getting poorer, we need to bridge the gap. We live in a country, where the rich can just wake up and decide to travel abroad, just as their children school abroad and have access to good healthcare. On the part of the poor, the reverse is the case."

In addition, Iweala said: "The children of the poor don’t have good schools to attend to and no good healthcare system in a country of 150 million people. That is the inequality we are talking about. We must change this because I know it is possible to do so. I will ensure that we improve the lot of the common people, in order to prevent our young people from moving abroad."

Vanguard's HENRY UMORU, CHARLES KUMOLU, INALEGWU SHAIBU& OGECHI OHAEGBULAM

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Should Reject Ministerial Position

The government of President Jonathan is in the process of appointing cabinet ministers. Many of the old faces are busy clamouring for one position or another, but Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in particular is being persuaded and wooed to come back based on merit and a history of achievement. The former Minister of Finance and the present Managing Director of World Bank - Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala-needs no introduction for she is the golden appointment that will enhance the presidential cabinet. Her presence in the president's cabinet will bring a comfort level, credibility and dignity that the country needs in the financial world and globalized economy.

When Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is referred as an international financial superstar that is not an overstatement, neither is it pandering to sycophancy. Her fame in Nigeria and beyond is based on concrete achievement and verifiable merit. Her superior educational qualification and training she obtained from prestigious Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is not only what made her an outstanding intellectual and a model citizen of Nigeria; but in addition she has a compelling track record as a technocrat and problem solving over-achiever.

The hard work she put on securing the 18 percent debt write-off and Nigeria's settlement of debts from both Paris and London Clubs of Creditors speaks for itself. Many of us disagreed not with the final exit from the debt but with methodological process and procedure employed by the creditors to arrive at the said debt. For in the final analysis the payment of the big sum of money to these international institutions that used nail crushing interest rates and arrears to arrive at the large debt that Nigeria owned may not be conducive for a country that has overwhelming poverty in her midst.

That notwithstanding, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala did her job by making the best of the moment and saved Nigeria from further higher debt and the mortgaging of the country's financial standing and the financial future of our posterity. She was given a job to do and she did it excellently. And for that Nigerians are grateful to her.

According to the reverberating news on pages of newspaper, her coming back as minister of finance is almost a done deal except that the issues of dollar/naira compensation package and depth of assignment portfolio are receiving finishing touches, therefore holding back the announcement of her appointment.

(R) Dr. Okonjo-Iweala & Afripol's Emeka Chiakwelu at World Affairs conference

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is a woman of intellectual substance and prudence, and she is not likely to solicit an advice from anybody outside her circle of relation and sphere of influence. Okonjo-Iweala should say no to this appointment because her second coming maybe her stumbling block. The manner she departed from the last position she held was not comforting and in way it was not ceremonial. She came to former President Obsanjo's administration as a finance minister. Later she was transferred to foreign ministry and that was the position she held before she resigned in a foreign land as she was conducting diplomatic business for Nigeria.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala because of her straight forwardness and transparency of conducting the affairs of her ministerial positions has acquired friends and foes. The later that are in high places with considerable power in media have not give up in throwing her good in the mud. This time around they will not wait for her to make any mistake before they will find her guilty in the pages of newspapers.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has both fame and fortune. Does she need the headache of cabinet minister?

A good name is a treasure and once it is compromised, it will be difficult to be reclaimed and re-cultivate. The implication is that the global respect she has worked her to earn and garnish will dissipate in the wind. But this is her decision to be made.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala can still serve her fatherland not just only by holding a cabinet minister position but by also becoming an adviser to President Jonathan; as she was to Obasanjo's administration before she was appointed a minister, on the matters of finance and economics. Even in that capacity she can accomplish a lot without having detractors and professional critic to question any policy advise she gives to the president in private.

Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nigeria has a new Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga a managing director at Goldman Sachs branch in Britain. Aganga, a free marketer has a substantial experience in private industry together with his academic brilliance, he can efficiently manage and oversee Nigeria’s financial house. The minister of finance must be ready and keen to make sure that Nigeria will not fall into the trap of large external debt and higher inflation. This is important because Nigeria should not be throw back to the gloomy days of large foreign debt. Nigeria was overwhelm with the incireasing interest rates and arrears accumulated by the servicing of the foreign debt.

Nigeria external debt is currently over $5 billion dollars. Many Nigerians will be surprise to hear that Nigeria is still an indebted nation after she exited from the debt of Paris Club and London Club in 2006. Nigeria finally settled her debt of $36 billion but most Nigerians might think that Nigeria is forever free of external debt. But a thriving nation is likely to be in debt provided that the available credits are invested appropriately for creation of further wealth and improving the well being of the nation. Nigeria should try to establish criteria and benchmark for borrowing, at least to make sure that her debt does not exceed 2-3% of her GDP.

Nigerian Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga

In December of 2009, the former minister of finance, Mansur Muktar highlighted the state of Nigeria’s debt: "Nigeria’s exit from the Paris Club debt in 2005/2006, the external debt stock dropped dramatically and substantially from $35.94 billion to $3.54 as at the end of year 2006 but rose to $3.947 billion at the end of December 2009, including the $3.686 billion obtained from multilateral organizations namely World Bank, African Development Fund (ADF), International Development Association (IDA) and African Development Bank (AfDB) which has 40 year repayment period and 10 year moratorium period." It is essential that this is conveyed to average Nigerian taxpayers so that they become watchdogs to the finance of their country.

Also making the clarion call of country’s debt is Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the managing director of World Bank and the former finance minister of Nigeria. Okonjo-Iweala was among the principal leaders that facilitated and guided the country’s successful exit from both Paris and Club of Creditors in 2006. Recently in a lecture at University of Calabar she said, "In April 2006, Nigeria paid off the last installment due on its debt settlement agreement with the Paris Club, thereby erasing 30 billion dollars in external debt and reducing government external debt to 3.5 billion dollars."

Therefore the new minister of finance, Olusegun Aganga should deliberately and carefully monitor the country’s debt. The minister must closely work with Sanusi‘s Central Bank of Nigeria to tame inflation which can easily frustrate economic growth and further weaken the depreciating naira. Nigeria is issuing bonds to raise money for infrastructures development. Aganga must get involve and make sure that money raised will not be wasted and the burden of the debt passed down to powerless Nigerians.

Afripol Organization. Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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