Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The former Coordinating Minister for the Economy/ Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has debunked some media reports purporting her to have indicted the President Goodluck Jonathan administration for lacking the political will to save for the rainy day when oil prices were high.
Citing her speech on “Inequality, Growth and Resilience,” at the George Washington University, United States of America on Thursday, some media reports had quoted the former minister to have indicted the Jonathan administration of not having the political will to save when oil prices were selling at over $100 per barrel.
But reacting to the reports yesterday via a press statement captioned “Low Savings: Okonjo-Iweala Did Not Indict the Jonathan Administration”, her Media Adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu said some recent media reports have distorted the comments
“Contrary to the slant given by these loud headlines, Okonjo-Iweala did not indict the Jonathan administration in which she served. Rather, she was referring to what many Nigerians already know; the strong opposition by some governors to the Jonathan government’s efforts to save in the Excess Crude Account and the Sovereign Wealth Fund sabotaged this important national priority.
“The governors’ criticism of Okonjo-Iweala’s many calls for the country to save for the rainy days are still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. This opposition culminated in the governors taking the Jonathan government to the Supreme Court in furtherance of their position that the Federal government had no right to “compel” them to save,” Nwabuikwu said.
The statement added that several knowledgeable persons including a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi confirmed these facts.
“So the issue of Okonjo-Iweala indicting the Jonathan administration over this very public issue simply does not arise. We urge the media to always consult for clarification whenever the need arises,” Nwabuikwu admonished.
To lend credence to the position that the ex-minister’s comment was not an indictment on Jonathan, she had in an interview with an international magazine, Le Monde, last weekend said: “When I was finance minister, the first time, the volatility of oil prices, and therefore state resources, cost at least three points of growth in the country.
“We then established a stabilisation mechanism and opened an account for the oil surplus, which posted up to $22 billion. In 2008, when prices fell from $148 to $38 a barrel, no one had heard of Nigeria because the country was able to tap into this fund. And that I am very proud of.
“When I returned to the department in 2011, there remained only $4 billion on this account while the price of oil was very high! I tried again to put money aside. The president agreed, but the governors did not accept.
“I suffered a lot of attacks from them and now that the country would really need this account, these same people accuse me of not having saved. If Nigeria had been more careful, we would not be here today. It hurts me. We have the mechanism, we had the experience, but we were prevented to act.”