Finance Ministers Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in The Eye of The Storm

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is undoubtedly one of the most criticized ministers in Nigeria, and this is for a reason. In a country which is richly endowed with vast mineral and natural resources that ranks it among the richest countries of the world, it remains an unexplainable conundrum that Nigerian citizens are among the poorest people in the world going by the United Nations (UN) estimation that over 70 per cent of the citizenry live below the poverty line, which is measured on $1 daily.

Worse still, the economic growth which the country has recorded on paper in the past few years have also not impacted on the lives of the people. 

As Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, this situation which economists describe as a ‘resources curse’, a situation whereby countries with vast natural resources have not been able to translate it into improved and sustainable standard of living for its citizens, has been heaped on the table of the Minister of Finance.

Some analysts have in fact made bold to accuse the Coordinating Minister of the Economy of churning out policies that are not in the best interest of the country. For instance, President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Nasir Fagge, had recently at the 3rd Congress of the Joint Action Front (JAF) where he was guest of honour said the Minister’s economic policies were tailored towards satisfying the economic interests of the Breton Wood institutions, (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF) rather than those of Nigeria. 

He had stressed that the World Bank’s policy in Africa is solely in the interest of the West, even as he argued that they were designed to nip the development of the African continent and other developing countries in the bud.

Okonjo-Iweala is in the eye of the storm again regarding her management of the country’s economy. Senators elected on both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) platforms united Wednesday blaming the Minister of Finance for the country’s economic woes. The Lawmakers are incidentally levelling the same allegations the ASUU President had earlier made. The lawmakers who aired their views at the ongoing 2014 Appropriation Bill debate at the National Assembly specifically accused her of imposing the economic policies of the IMF and the World Bank on Nigeria.

The legislators frown at the Minister’s policies from the viewpoint of the economic regression that has hit the western economies, unlike the home-grown economies of India and China, which were waxing stronger by the day. Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, (PDP, Bauchi Central) therefore cautioned against Nigeria depending on the policies of the Breton Wood, arguing that the country should evolve indigenous economic policies that would address its peculiarity and impact positively on the people.

Besides Ningi, some other Senators also berated the economic policies being pursued by Okonjo-Iweala, insisting they would not work in Nigeria. For example, Smart Adeyemi (PDP, Kogi West) had equally argued that: “the policy must be reviewed. The IMF and World Bank policies cannot work 100 per cent in Nigeria. We don’t need IMF commendations. What we need is what will impact on the lives of Nigerians. We need to concentrate on key areas such as power and other sectors as well as work on budget management.”

In like manner, Professor Sola Adeyeye (APC, Osun Central) also accused the Finance Minister of confusing Nigerians with foreign economic jargons (Okonjonomics), which he said would not impact positively on the domestic economy and lives of Nigerians. For him, stakeholders in the Nigerian Project need to unite irrespective of party affiliation to terminate any rascal in government. He insists that the Senate need to find a way of terminating waivers to companies that have no direct impact on the country. 

Senator Ganiyu Solomon (APC, Lagos) on his part advised the executive to change policies that had not been yielding results. He argued, “We should increase the ratio of capital expenditure to recurrent.” 

 In all, the Senators agreed the 76 per cent recurrent expenditure and the 24 per cent capital components of the budget were rather lopsided, and far from meeting the needs and aspirations of the people.

By Chukwudi Nweje


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