Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
By Ejiofor Alike and Obinna Chima
Federal Government would in the first week of next month announce the management team for the proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed this yesterday in Lagos at a policy dialogue organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).
This came as she explained that the account operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with JP Morgan was necessitated by the commercial operations embarked upon by the corporation.
Okonjo-Iweala said that the board for the SWF had been constituted.
She explained that the delay in announcing the management team was as a result of the recruitment process.
“We are slowly, but steadily making progress to actually launch the SWF. We have been busy recruiting the principal officers competitively. We have had the interviews, 730 people applied for all the positions and we are now down to the point where we have made some choices and the whole board has been constituted – both the three executive members and the six non executives.
“We are doing due diligence on them and that is supposed to end by the end of this week. So, with some luck, because we still have to negotiate salaries, maybe by first week of August, we can actually announce.”
She emphasised the need to allow the take-off of the fund, saying that with a lot of uncertainties in the global economy, there is need to make sure that the is sufficient buffers to protect the economy.
“With the volatility in oil prices and the uncertain growth in the rest of the world, we need to. As it stands now, Nigeria does not have sufficient buffers. When I came last year, excess crude had been spent to $4.22 billion and now we said we need to build it to $10 billion and you must support because it is not easy as the governors have said we don’t need to save, let’s spend it.
“And we are saying no, if we keep spending, what if something happens in the world? I am very proud, as at July 23, we had $6.98 billion and if keep going that way, maybe by the end of the year, we will have the $10 billion. We also want the foreign reserves to rise to $50 billion,” Okonjo-Iweala added.
Commenting on the need to create long-term funding to support critical sectors of the economy, she revealed that both the President and Vice-President have mandated her look into the various development finance institutions in the country, with a view to raising their capital base.
KPMG, one of world’s leading management consultancy firms, was appointed by the government to hunt for the key officers that will manage the fund, which will be under the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The minister stated that NNPC opened the account because it was directed to embark on commercial operations.
The minister, who spoke on “Implementing Nigeria’s Transformation Agenda – An Update on Progress,” said it was appropriate for the NNPC to open the to cater for its commercial ventures.
She stated that Nigerians should only concern themselves on whether or not the NNPC remit money in that account into the Federal Government account as required by law.
“In fairness to the NNPC, it has been asked to undertake commercial transactions on behalf of government by bringing refined products and selling crude oil. When you are doing commercial transaction, you need an account. The issue is not that they have an account with JP Morgan; the issue is do they remit resources that accrued into the account to the government.
That is what they need to do. So, stop focusing on the issue of that they have an account because they can’t do commercial transaction without it. People cannot be paying money straight into the Central Bank of Nigeria,” she said.