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Okonjo-Iweala has overstayed her welcome but now it’s too late to resign from corruption-plagued Nigerian government – Tola Adenle

While a recent essay by Sonala Olumhense in Sahara Reporters  – see below – details why he’s been against the minister’s work in government for a while:  being the “arrowhead of the Transformation Agenda” that has gone nowhere, including the president’s refusal to declare his assets and Iweala’s antecedent as an important part of former President Obasanjo’s  National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) that also went nowhere, my opposition to her, as well-known on this blog and a little earlier stemmed from her indefensible role in Nigerian government.

My opposition to her coming a second time and then being retained was based at first on her role after retired General Obasanjo’s (rGO) presidency when her passionate words about Nigeria’s liquidation of her indebtedness were changed into equally-passionate plea for more loans.  It would later spill into the areas that Mr. Olumhense wrote about, and in case some of those passionate words she said about a liquidation that she oversaw, including Nigeria reportedly paying $100,000/daily or thereabout to a consultant, here are excerpts that worried many, including this blogger when she turned around soon after leaving rGO’s government and called for more loans for Nigeria:

“ … it [debt relief] will be like a second independence … giving us the freedom to focus …something our children will appreciate …” Ngozi Iweala.

The call for fresh loans was in South Africa as I first wrote in an essay for my rested Sunday essays for a Nigerian newspaper in November 2010 when I questioned her [then] company’s “opinion poll” in “The Politics of ‘opinion polls’ in Nigeria’s elections”; that essay was published on this blog on the second day it came into being on March 31, 2011.
I had believed the findings of her eponymous NOI (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Polls, NOI which had reportedly collaborated with America’s Gallup Poll so cookie-cutter strange that I wrote: Dr. Okonjo-Iweala left NOI-Polls to become Managing Director at the World Bank in 2007 although she remains the “founder”, according to www.noi-polls.netNOI-NGO may “collaborate” with America’s Gallup Poll but is that enough to make its findings on Nigeria unassailable – or even credible?  I say, not really …While not doubting NOI-D’s patriotism, her earlier call for new loans after showing us the way out of loan bondage, AND the implied assent to continued foreign loans – see below – are not in Nigeria’s interest.   Gallup may be American biggie but steering the public is not unheard of.  Obama’s blowout of McCain never registered in the big polls in 2008; ditto his earlier trouncing of Hillary.  I suspect NOI-NGO; Nigerians should, too.

As for Dieziani Madueke, here is my reason in that essay for her unsuitability to return as Petroleum Minister:

Mrs. D. Allison-Madueke: If President Jonathan wants to be taken seriously about his determination to conduct Nigeria’s business NOT as usual and fight corruption or, pardon me, if Nigeria was another country, Mrs. Madueke would not be on his ministerial list for the simple reason that too many allegations are flying around about the woman. In the “other” country, Mrs. Madueke would not only have been forced to resign after the oil block story broke before Jonathan’s swearing in when she took off for a foreign trip purportedly for a medical condition but her name would not go near any ministerial list. Her name has also appeared on the Railways financial mess list.

There are several essays on this blog, including ones in which I suggested she and Dieziani Madueke NOT be returned as ministers when the ministerial list was released, she for not being qualified by way of  what I stated as divided loyalty: first to donor countries and their commissioned Agent, The World Bank and, perhaps to a lesser degree of commitment, to Nigeria; Madueke, of course for all the accusations against her which, at the very least, needed to be investigated before she was returned.  That essay, titled “Nigeria’s new ministerial list portends a future that is Nigeria’s immediate past” opined that:

Now, when the CBN Governor, Alhaji Sanusi’s suspension was announced, Iweala’s reported statement has confirmed that she’s reduced herself – may be she was always one, anyway to one of those presidential spokespersons who would say anything to remain relevant with their principal. She reportedly announced that she “endorses” the removal of Sanusi and that it would not affect the economic indices.   May be she and the president’s inner circle would say a quick assurance was needed to assuage the feelings of the international markets or whatever but here are words about Mrs. Alade, perhaps the shortest acting governor the Central Bank has ever had; they were reportedly uttered by Iweala.  And being a woman, one would think Iweala, who actually spoke these words, would have been able to help the president score a big political point not only with women as an Administration that would put the first woman up as CBN governor – I’m not thinking of the illegality of bypassing the Senate – but also that would earn the confidence of the international financial markets, a competent and qualified woman with experience.  But no, Madam Iweala is as politically-minded as any Nigerian non-“technocrat” politician:


“The Minister expressed confidence in the competence of the new Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Sarah Alade to manage the institution and ensure the continuation of the monetary policy focus that prevailed under Mr Sanusi Lamido,” the statement said.

“She recalled that Dr Alade who was Deputy Governor in charge of Policy has been a key player in the formulation and execution of the policies of the CBN under Sanusi and is therefore in a good position to continue with the policies.”

But Iweala is too wrapped up in politics and too unmindful of her unprecedented powerful position to think of her place in history.  By 2012, I had written that she really should resign if she’s holding a position where she could not make a difference if the president was not going to listen to her suggestions if that was why the economy was not improving.

Dr. Iweala’s problems have since ballooned.  Here is from a January Punch editorial after she wrongly and deliberately misrepresented what The Punch said at a forum in far-away London on the subject of import waivers, a matter that has shown the minister as either not knowing what was going on in agencies that she supervises OR she’s hiding material facts:

The minister’s propensity to defend scandals and question even credible findings is distressing. How do waivers for aircraft to accommodate the luxurious lifestyles of state governors boost the economy or create jobs? How many jobs were created by the N450.7 million waivers to massage the First Lady’s ego to host the African Women Peace Mission, an NGO? How about the waivers given to the National Sports Commission for “motor spare parts”? Or the N141.2 million to the Delta State Government in 2013 for furniture? Nigerians need explanations also for the waiver of the N5.9 million to the Maiduguri Central Mosque in 2012 and N14 million for the “Watchtower Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses” to import “building materials and cabinet parts for kitchen door drawers.”

http://saharareporters.com/report/waivers-fraud-punch-newspaper-rips-okonjo-iweala%E2%80%99s-tedxeuston-london-speech

And, of course, the essay by Olumhense earlier referred to confirms Dr. Iweala as being part of the reasons why the economic problems in the country remains and why she’s one of those that should have long left the current administration without being asked to go.  Below is the link to Olumhense’s essay.

http://saharareporters.com/column/dear-mrs-okonjo-iweala-sonala-olumhense

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014.

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4 Comments on “Okonjo-Iweala has overstayed her welcome but now it’s too late to resign from corruption-plagued Nigerian government – Tola Adenle”

  1. Moises Says:

    Very good article. I definitely love this site. Thanks!

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  2. Chuks Says:

    Re: Dear Mrs Okonjo-Iweala – A Rejoinder To Sonala Olumhense

    Home » Commentary » Articles
    Commentary
    Re: Dear Mrs Okonjo-Iweala – A Rejoinder To Sonala Olumhense
    Posted: Feb, 26 2014, 5:02PM

    Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
    By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
    The problem I have with Mr. Sonala Olumhense’s articles on the Coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the general absence of verified facts and the basing of opinions on gross inaccuracies.

    For instance, Mr Olumhense writes that $2.5 billion of Abacha money was recovered during Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s time as Finance Minister under President Obasanjo and that the money disappeared implying some involvement in the disappearance by the Minister. This is absolutely false. First, the amount recovered was $500 million, not $2.5 billion. The recovered amount was channeled into rural projects and programmes as per the agreement with the Swiss government which repatriated the funds. A combined team of Nigerian and Swiss NGOs with the World Bank later verified the use of this money on the ground in the projects cited and they certified the money had been accurately utilized.

    The World Bank had written about this in a 2007-2008 Handbook on stolen Asset Recovery where the case was cited as a best practice example of how to deploy returned proceeds of looted assets. Readers of Mr Olumhense would benefit more if his passionate writings on Dr Okono-Iweala are supported by a bit more research as opposed to sweeping, unverified statements.

    A second inaccuracy in Mr Olumhense’s article is the claim that NEEDS was to be the last reform agenda of Nigeria. Who on earth made such a claim? The idea that a country needs one magical reform startegy to take care of all current and future challenges is strange. It simply doesn’t make sense. Every country continues to reform as circumstances change – the name may change but the process of reform is and should be continuous. President Obama is currently reforming the health and immigration systems in America. The United States, like many other countries, has never stopped reforming. Why should Nigeria?

    I suppose I should thank Mr Olumhense for finding something positive in anything Dr Okonjo-Iweala has said, as he did on her comments on corruption in her TedxEuston talk. But if he listened to the talk carefully, he would have noted that most of the examples of political corruption were from Nigeria.

    But unlike some of those that talk about corruption, Okonjo-Iweala has not stopped at talking. The clean-up of the fraud in the subsidy payments regime to oil marketers for which she paid a heavy personal price in the form of the abduction of her mother by paid kidnappers in November 2012 is one clear example. The sole demand of the kidnappers for the first three days of the abduction was that the minister should resign and leave the country for spearheading the clean-up. Her 83-year old mother was held for five days and it was only the intervention of the Almighty God in answer to the prayers of well-meaning Nigerians that brought her back, alive. Where was Mr Olumhense at this time? How can he claim that this woman is not at the forefront of the fight against corruption? Thank God her mother is stil alive to tell her traumatic tale and nobody should make light of that sacrifice.

    Another example is the clean-up of the pension fraud with the establishment now of a new institution under the Federal Ministry of Finance – the Pension Transition Administration Department to ensure that pensioners under the old defined benefits scheme are not defrauded anymore. The department is a practical response to an issue that many of us feel very strongly about – the terrible experience that many senior citizens have to go through just to collect their pensions – and serious work is going on to ensure that fix this long-standing problem in a sustainable way.

    On the NNPC oil accounts issue, Mr Olumhense seems to have forgotten that Dr Okonjo-Iweala has called for an independent forensic audit to establish the facts of any unaccounted for money and ensure that all every Naira that is owed the treasury is returned to the Federation Account. This is the best way to proceed given the conflicting claims by Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the NNPC. After all the speeches and comments like that of Mr Olumhense, the fundamental problem of determining the facts as a basis for action must still be tackled. Is there room for more action on corruption? Of course the answer can only be yes. But action is needed to achieve change. Talk is cheap, action is crucial.

    Mr Olumhense is entitled to his opinion of the status of the Transformation Agenda but his failure to say anything about visible achievements in roads, rail, power privatization, agriculture and job creation programmes like YOUWIN speaks volumes about the bias and lack of balance in his comments. Of course the foundation of a mortgage housing programe for the country, a project with profound positive implications for the overall economic development of the country is beneath Mr Olumhense’s gaze as a professional critic. Like many Okonjo-Iweala critics, he is too apoplectic with contrived rage to see anything good in whatever she does. Their minds – and eyes – are shut to any possibility of any positive contribution. As the minister has always maintained, we face serious challenges at so many levels as a country. But that is precisely why progress should be recognized so that it will act as a beacon for more work to achieve more progress. A climate of total and complete hopelessness, like the one which commentators like Mr Olumhense are working so hard to achieve, is not in the interest of any Nigerian.

    Finally, on the issue of the recurrent budget, the Minister has publicly explained the origin of the present imbalance between recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure. The huge salary increase of 53% and attendant pension increases awarded to public servants in 2010 is the major factor. Unfortunately for Mr Olumhense, Dr Okonjo-Iweala was not in office then. Was Mr Olumhense a columnist then? I believe so. Since he is so passionate about the high recurrent expenditure, he should avail us of what his critical analysis of what transpired at that time. If he said nothing then, then he has no moral authority now to lay blame where it does not belong.
    http://saharareporters.com/article/re-dear-mrs-okonjo-iweala-rejoinder-sonala-olumhense

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    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear “Chuks”,

      1. Are you Ms. Okonjo-Iweala’s PRO because you are not only “passionate” – a word you’ve slapped on Olumhense with seeming authority – about your “facts”?
      2. I’ve long stopped being in the business of answering the zillions of Okonjo-Iweala foot soldiers planted all over the web to fight back any and all who dare write anything critical of the minister. Yours won’t be a difference; write Sonala Olumhense who is more credible than MOST in the administration of Dr. E.G. Jonathan.

      Regards,
      TOLA.

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