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Okonjo- Iweala’s Nightmare

Posted: May 5, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

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By Dele Omojuyigbe

Lagos

Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala, has been in government for some years now. Her name commands respect in economic circles as a strangely imbued woman who could revamp any depressed economy. She was already making waves as a quiet but successful operator in international circles, especially in the World Bank, when President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed her as the Minister of Finance in July 2003. She was believed to have the midas touch that could turn around a bad economy, even if it meant pleading to get a desired result, as was apparently the case during Nigeria’s struggle to have her huge international debt cancelled. But the present fuel scarcity in the country does appear to be a hard nut for her to crack. And Nigerians want a quick answer because the queues in the filling stations are becoming impossibly long.

On Sunday, Okonjo-Iweala attributed the fuel scarcity to the unpatriotic attitude of oil marketers who wanted to operate a thriving business at no cost. Now, the marketers are saying that the Federal Government owes them N200billion subsidy payment while Okonjo-Iweala is insisting that government has paid them N500billion between December 2014 and now, to avert this nasty experience of sleeping in filling stations. She has therefore likened the oil marketers to a small cartel that are into business without risks, based on the agreement reached between government and PPPRA long ago. The agreement considers exchange rate differential and profit margin guarantee, thus leaving the marketers with absolutely no risks. The interpretation of this is that the template which governs their business is designed to cover all their costs plus a profit margin.

Notably, this must be a rough season for the amiable princess from Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State. It is really a season of public explanations for her. Just last week, SIAO Partners filed a suit against her in a Lagos High Court. The company had alleged that she appointed Pricewater House Coopers, PwC, the audit firm which carried out the recent audit of the alleged unaccounted-for $20billion crude oil revenue in the country. But the 61- year-old Minister has said that she only proposed the appointment of a firm to investigate Lamido Sanusi’s allegation of impropriety by the government and NNPC. It was the Auditor-General of the Federation who appointed PwC to do the audit as directed by the President, she had said.

Only few months ago, a rift festered between Okonjo-Iweala and the former CBN governor, Professor Charles Soludo, over the state of the Nigerian economy, which Soludo said was almost depressed under Iweala’s watch. Pleasantly, they have simmered down now and the crossfire has stopped. Meanwhile, all of these may not be a strong challenge to this brave woman who once saw death and conquered it. About 18 years ago, she dined and wined with cancer. But today, she lives to tell the story. She had looked cancer straight in the eye and punched it out of her system. Such a methodical punch is required from her at this critical period to knock out Nigeria’s daring economic problems.