Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan at the book launch in Abuja
By Ndubuisi Francis, Muhammad Bello and James Emejo
President Goodluck Jonathan has reiterated his administration’s determination to wipe out corruption in all its ramifications from the country.
Jonathan stated this Tuesday at the launch of a book written by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, titled “Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria.”
He said the Federal Government was worried about the spate of economic crimes and corrupt practices and would devote its energy to overcoming them.
Represented by the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, Jonathan said: “We are going after those who commit various economic crimes and corrupt practices with impunity. As you may be aware, government is taking every legal measure to ensure that those who defrauded the government in the petroleum subsidy scheme are made to pay back the stolen funds, and also are severely punished.”
The President, in a statement by the spokesperson to the vice-president, Alhaji Sani Umar, described Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s shining light whose book sends forth the message of hope that Nigeria can reform and reach the highest pedestal of nations.
According to him, the book also documents some of the important reforms, which have occurred in the country “since our return to democratic rule in 1999.”
“Indeed the Okonjo-Iweala argues convincingly, in this book, that Nigeria is gradually reforming. She shares her own personal experience in playing a pivotal role in some of the recent economic reforms,” adding that “On a personal note, I see this publication as an attestation of patriotism on the part of the author,” the president added.
Earlier Okonjo-Iweala stated that the essence of the book which took her four years to write, was to engender hope in Nigerians, and also for Nigeria to learn from her past experiences to shape her future. She stressed that the book was not her biography.
The chairman of the occasion and the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, used the occasion to advocate for a return to a true federal structure, and a drastic reduction in the recurrent expenditure if the country must realise its development goals.
He blamed the military for fragmenting the country into the present 36 states structure with the attendant huge financial implication, which has thrown up other negative socio-political and economic problems.
Anyoku, who spoke in Abuja Tuesday at a book launch, said the nation should embark on a major restructuring of its governance architecture to bring down recurrent expenditure drastically.
According to him, when compared with other countries of the world, Nigeria’s recurrent spend is far higher, and would be a major drag on its development strides, if not revised.
The former Commonwealth scribe said the huge recurrent expenditure has left the country with a little to spend on the capital side, arguing that no country makes meaningful progress with this.
He lamented that the current 36 states structure is unwieldy for the nation, adding that as long as the situation remains, “we are not likely to get a reduction in recurrent expenditure” to make the country achieve the kind of desirable development it deserves.
Anyoku pointed out that it was the structure of the country that ignites the “destructive competition for the control of power at the centre.”
His words: The existing structure of 36 states and federal capital territory with all the paraphernalia and institutions of administration, as long as we continue with that, we are not likely to achieve the level of reduction of cost of administration that will enable us to develop as we ought to.
“Secondly, I do not believe that the present structure we have will arrest the destructive competition for the control of power at the centre, while we sustain the largely non-viable states. We shall become accustomed to the notion and practice of sharing the national cake from the centre.
Anyaoku eulogised the minister as the most cherished advert of Nigeria to the global community.
He described the book as an important compendium of Nigeria’s reform programme. He also used the occasion to call for the entrenchment of true federalism in the governance structure of the country.
Professor Paul Collier of the Oxford University, the South African Minister of Finance, Mr. Pravin Gordhan and Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, who reviewed the eight-chapter and 198-paged book, described sound rules and effective institutions as the important pillars for societal development.
Present at the occasion were the Governor of Adamawa State, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd), Federal Executive Council members, top notch of the finance industry, captains of industry and several other top government officials.