Culled from a piece entitled “Aunty Ngozi and the Savings that won’t benefit us” by C. C. Ekeke, Abuja, December 18, 2011

“One of the things the Finance Minister told them when she was coming to serve is that she must implement the IMF policy which is the removal of the oil subsidy. That is what the government is doing. She said if you are not going to do it, I am not going to serve in your government and the Federal Government foolishly and sheepishly acceded.” – Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Fred Agbaje
“Jonathan’s all motion, no movement…I regret voting for him –Agbaje”
From sunnewsonline.com, November 13, 2011

From “The Presidency and Okonjo-Iweala”
By James Obande, published online at saharareporters.com, August 15, 2011

The worst fears about [the return of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to cabinet with broader powers] seem to have been confirmed by recent developments. Mr. President, the recent appointment of Prof. Sylvester Monye as Special Adviser on Performance and Monitoring, and one Dr. Nwanze Okidegbe as Adviser on Economic Affairs, shows that you are starting off on the wrong foot.

According to popular opinion, appointments to these two positions were conceded to Minister Okonjo-Iweala as part of the terms of her joining your cabinet, and she is going to make more appointments. One problem with the appointees is that they are both from Delta state, the same state as the Minister of Finance. Already, the Director-General in the Budget Office at the Federal Ministry of Finance, is from the same state. So we can visualize a scenario where the Ministry of Finance approves a project, the Performance and Monitoring Office confirms that the project is ready for payment, the Budget Office makes the payment. Of course the Special Adviser on Economic Affairs would have given glowing recommendations initially.

Let me state that while Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is not known to be a corrupt person, people around her are likely to a take advantage of such an arrangement. But corruption aside, one wonders how someone who has risen so high in career can make such flawed appointments, if indeed she made them.

Mr. President, you should realize that government functions best when there are checks and balances. Even the most transparent and well-meaning leader sometimes has excesses, and it is only through adherence to checks and balances that our excesses as human beings are moderated. Even if the appointees are not from the same state, the appointment would still have been problematic, to the extent that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala could have undue influence over agencies and officials that would have otherwise served as checks to her own work. Her own appointees would also oversee the work of fellow Ministers, increasing Cabinet rivalry which could be dysfunctional. Mr. President, under the current arrangement, you cannot get honest economic advice, as your Adviser’s loyalty is elsewhere; and Project and Performance Monitoring cannot be undertaken dispassionately.

One problem is that this would likely go down in history as the first and probably the only time in the whole world that a President’s Adviser is being appointed by a Minister. Mr. President, you may not know this given your inexperience, but your Adviser is your most trusted staff, who would review your Ministers’ positions on issues and make recommendations to you. If there is one appointment that you should not bow to pressure on, it is that of an Adviser. By allowing a Minister to appoint her home boy as your adviser, you have stood logic on its head.

The general belief is that you gave away much more than is necessary to attract Dr. Okonjo-Iweala. This is due to the fact that you are not only inexperienced, you have surrounded yourself with like people, who are too overwhelmed to give a critical look at issues. If you had good negotiators on your side as you put together the deal, you might have gotten Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for next to nothing for two reasons. First, because she has only about a year left in her term as one of three Managing Directors at World Bank, she would take anything, rather than risk being unemployed after 2012.


My heart is heavy as I type these words. I will be telling the truth about the woman I once had much faith in. I have no reason to be happy after this essay. By the time I’ll be through with this piece, I can’t sit back in excitement with the feeling that I have dressed down someone in the mould of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. For me, this truth is as bitter as it should be to her.

Recall that between 2005 and 2006, Nigeria paid the Paris Club a whopping $12.4billion in a debt relief arrangement that saw $18billion cancelled out of the $30billion we owed. Some analysts wondered why the Nigerian government agreed to give away such amount of money that would have been used to develop critical infrastructure. The government argued that the debt cancellation was necessary to free up money that was spent annually servicing loans. They assured us that the over $2billion spent annually for the debt servicing would be “saved”, and then invested in education, health, roads etc. Six years later, I join those who think that arrangement wasn’t done in good faith. That huge amount would have created massive wealth for Nigeria if it was invested in the economy as loans to small and medium scale enterprises, low interest loans to unemployed youths, and even loans to bigger business organizations. Whatever the excitement that caused us to take such decision. And guess who pioneered that? Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She was the Finance Minister and the head of that government’s powerful economic team. She had many powers and her words meant so much to us all. Yet that policy ultimately served the interest of the World Bank and Paris Club, rather than Nigeria’s.

Today, the question is: where is the infrastructure that was built from the savings made as a result of that debt we paid? There is nothing to show as a proof that we cleared our debts in the past and freed money from debt servicing for investment into infrastructure. Nigerians as a people benefitted nothing from that arrangement. Yet I wouldn’t have been bothered as much as I am now if our only challenge is that government can’t point to anything concrete as a justification for such outlay of investment money. What should worry every Nigerian is that in just six years, our current debt profile has even risen above what it used to be before we cleared it.

In an editorial of Monday, November 11, 2011, The Sun Newspaper raised a major concern on the rising debt profile of Nigeria, a nation which had exited the bondage of debt earlier. A citation from the editorial reads, “The recent disclosure by the Senate that Nigeria’s public debt has risen to “unsettling” proportions should be a matter of great concern. The figure sourced from Debt Management Office (DMO), the nation’s custodian of public debts, shows that Nigeria’s current debt stock stands at a record high of N6.02 trillion (equivalent of $39.72bn)”.

This clearly highlights our government admiration for profligacy. To service this debt, N559b was proposed by the president in the 2012 appropriation bill. And the legislature is already raising eyebrows.

Six years later, the same Okonjo-Iweala is back on the saddle with even more powers as the Finance Minister. Her boss, a man with innumerable inadequacies, had mandated the woman’s colleagues, from the onset, to take orders from her or quit the cabinet. In President Jonathan’s God-piloted airplane, Ngozi occupies a strategic place as the co-pilot. The President is merely a passenger who has reposed his unflinching confidence in the pilots. I have had to ask myself what the Finance Minister thinks about this new debt profile of Nigeria. Why hasn’t she raised alarm on this? Was it what she envisaged when she was negotiating debt exit for us? For me as a person, I’m put on enquiry concerning her intentions. Those who accuse her of being the agent of the Brettonwoods organizations may really have a genuine reason to do so. And I also have begun to question her sincerity.

Recall also, after President Jonathan’s inauguration, that she was widely anticipated to become the Finance Minister. I read she said people called and threatened her, warning her to not dare step her feet into Nigeria for the purpose of taking up the ministerial appointment. On one of the occasions, I read she said, “But I can’t give up on Nigeria”. Being an incurable believer in the Nigeria project, I went to the market in categorical praise of Aunty Ngozi. I said the criminals are scared of her. I prayed and prayed that she came back early to curtail their activities. Well, here she is.

Her hammer is instead falling on those she should protect: the Nigerian poor. The budget is the first place I expected her presence to show a remarkable improvement. Having been amongst those who criticised Jonathan’s 2011 budget for voting over 70% of our revenue into recurrent expenditure, I had expected Aunty Ngozi to push that awkward fraction down to, at most, 60% so we can free up some money for development. There, she failed miserably.

She has come up with another cycle of “savings”. This time she doesn’t want total debt payment. She wants subsidy removal. She wants the money paid on subsidy by the federal government to be freed up for savings that will be used to develop “critical infrastructure”. Ask her why she thinks it is wrong for the government to subsidize fuel for Nigerians and she tells you there’s so much corruption in the subsidy scheme. According to her co-traveller on the subsidy removal lane, Diezani Allison-Madueke, a cabal or cartel or whatever hijacked the programme, thereby preventing the people from benefitting from it. And Aunty Ngozi bought this story wholesale. The government doesn’t have the duty of fishing out the criminals and punishing them. The poor citizens have the duty of paying for the dumbness and mischief of government with their blood. This is just okay with Aunty Ngozi. She is mum on the high cost of governance.

She hasn’t kicked on the six billion naira given to governors every year as needless “security votes”. She is mum on the number of ministers her boss has. This was the same president who inaugurated the T.Y. Danjuma Presidential Advisory Council to advise him on how to deliver good governance. That Council did a great job of advising the president on the urgency of reducing the high cost of governance. They specifically told him to reduce the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Mr Jonathan damned them with an unnecessary appointment of Bianca Ojukwu and others, just a week later, as his advisers.

Already, a closer look of next year’s budget, as proposed by the president, will give you a cause to question the difference Okonjo-Iweala’s presence is making in Nigeria. Of the N4.7trillion, only a paltry N1.3trillion – mere 28% of the budget – is proposed for capital expenditure, while an embarrassingly high N2.471trillion is going into recurrent expenditure. Here, the damage done to our treasury by the Nigerian rulers and their hordes of unneeded political appointees comes to the fore. In the United States where Aunty Ngozi was ferried from, is this how governance is practiced?

The former World Bank chief’s silence on where she can make reasonable savings from is as worrisome as it is suspicious. What exactly did she come here to do? How much does the United States government pay to their farmers, per year, as subsidy for agricultural produce? Is Aunty Ngozi intent on feigning ignorance on this issue? Why is she out to destroy the Nigerian masses? Where lies her loyalty? Whose life is she intent on bettering?

Yesterday, I saw a glossy bulletin inserted in the centre page of some national dailies listing the projects they want to execute with the savings from their proposed subsidy removal. They have already baptized the savings with a name, “SURE”. That could only be reminiscent of “NEEDS”, Aunty Ngozi’s coinage of the economic policy of her first coming. We are used to naming ceremonies in government. Nobody is impressed with this new acronym. The concern is that the same money we do not have is massively deployed into needless publicity campaign, and even propaganda, just for Nigerians to give their consent to the grand plot by the government to further impoverish them. Economic policy isn’t about the frequent coinage of pronounceable acronyms; it is about putting food on the table of the governed.

The savings will only increase the amounts of money that will be available for stealing by the same criminals who Aunty Ngozi and her boss are unwilling to confront. She doesn’t want to lose those who will donate to her campaign in 2015 when her true reason for coming back home gets finally unveiled.

I have often said she seems not to have any novel idea to bring to the Finance Ministry other than “savings” from the wrong sources. It will certainly be in her best interest to resign and run back to her World Bank. She is pushing this president to a point where he might live to ever regret.

Let Aunty Ngozi be told in clear terms that continuing on this subsidy removal journey will destroy the image she had ab initio which, in any case, may have been wrongly believed by Nigerians anyway.

Contact: nedunaija@gmail.com

From ekekeee.com, link: shar.es/WnE2I


Posted January 7, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Economy


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  1. No doubt, this was a painful decision on the part of Dr. Iweala. She is not out to punish the poor. Her interest is to see to the emancipation of the Nigeria masses. This she has said on different occasion.

    • Seyi, my brother, I appreciate your perspective but if you base your convictions only on what senior government figures SAY no matter how much trustworthiness they command, I promise that you’ll be disappointed time and again. If you really read this piece closely, you’ll realise that you can’t wave aside such hard facts with a thinking that relies on what Okonjo-Iweala said or says. Mind you, the Western establishment is near perfect at using such persons who they know only too well to manipulate their way into securing their selfish interests the world over.

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