Written by Paul C Nwabuikwu
OKONJO-IWEALA AND WAIVERS: ANOTHER LIE FROM A LYING NEWS MEDIUM – SAHARAREPORTERS
The latest story on waivers published by Saharareporters mixes lies with ignorance of the federal government’s fiscal policy.
It also demonstrates, once again, that the notorious news medium is allied with people who are working against the best interests of Nigeria.
In another unwarranted attack on the Coordinating Minister, Saharareporters alleged, based on information it claimed that it obtained from an unidentified source in the Nigerian Customs Service that the country has lost $9 billion to “fraudulent import waivers granted between 2011 and 2013” by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Minister of Finance.
As we have made clear in previous communication and in No 15 of the Minister’s answers to the 50 Questions posed by the House Finance Committee, the waivers and exemptions policy is a direct government intervention whose objective is to provide incentives to improve industrial competiveness and support job creation in the economy.
This policy, also implemented by other emerging economies such as South Korea and Malaysia, was misapplied in the past through implementation in a manner that created an unlevel playing field and gave unfair advantage to some individuals.
The policy was revised and strengthened starting 2012 and is now largely applied on a sectoral basis.
Saharareporters arrived at the conclusion that the country has lost $9 billion because it considers every waiver granted by government to critical sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, power, gas etc as fraudulent and as a loss to the nation.
This implies that Saharareporters doesn’t understand government policy and the importance of giving incentives to industries. We do not share that view and there is no question of loss to the country when it is government policy. The policy choice is between customs revenue and incentive revenues for industries. The government chose the latter because we believe the country stands to gain more from the incentives.
With regard to the waivers themselves, we provided full details of every waiver on the website of the Budget Office of the Federation http://www.budgetoffice.gov.ng/ since they are too voluminous to attach to the 50 Questions.
We have already repeatedly refuted allegations made on the Aviation waivers and made clear that the waiver given to Lagos State for the National Sports Festival in 2012 did not include bullet proof cars as Lagos State has confirmed.
It is noteworthy that an independent analysis of reports and articles by Saharareporters on Dr Okonjo-Iweala shows that over 90% of them are negative and hostile. This underscores that the motives of the medium are not professional. In fact, even before the Minister arrived to resume duties as Minister of Finance in August 2011, Saharareporters embarked on a sponsored campaign of negative stories with the sole purpose of discouraging her from joining the Jonathan administration. Having failed to achieve that objective, Saharareporters has followed up with more negative stories laced with half-truths and outright lies.
Which is why fair-minded Nigerians must keep asking Saharareporters why it has thrown decency and professionalism out of the window in its bid to tarnish the reputation of the the Minister of Finance. But we are confident that it will fail because Nigerians can see through their evil intentions.
Paul C Nwabuikwu
Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance
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