The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, yesterday called the bluffs of the Governor Rotimi Amaechi-led Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, saying she is not accountable to state governors, but to President Goodluck Jonathan.
It will be recalled that the Amaechi-led NGF on Tuesday called for Okonjo-Iweala’s resignation for what the Forum termed her alleged breach of the provisions of the Appropriation Act, 2013 and non-compliance with the revenue projections in the federal budget.
The governors also called for the immediate disbandment of the National Economic Management Team, NEMT.
But, the minister, who responded briefly to media enquiries on whether or not she was preparing to heed the call of the governors, during a briefing on the performance of the economy in Abuja, said there was no basis for her to leave office given the impressive fundamentals of the economy.
Although, she was reluctant to comment on the call for her resignation, since the basis of the briefing was to update the public on the state of the economy based on micro and macroeconomic assessment parameters, the minister was however quick to categorically state that she was accountable to the President, who appointed her and the Nigerian public on the economy and not the aggrieved governors.
She said: “I will not involve myself in political issues with the state governors. We are here to manage the economy for the good of the nation and what we are doing here is based on facts on the ground. I am minister for the economy; I am working for President Goodluck Jonathan and I am answerable to him.
“Do I look like someone who is preparing to resign? I am not resigning, I dey kampe! I have a very committed and dedicated team and so I am not going to respond to such issues.”
Specifically, the minister explained that despite some misgivings on the economy in some quarters, the performance indices, in terms of macroeconomic stability, increasing build up of critical infrastructure, Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, inflows, job creation opportunities, foreign reserves profile and growing investors’ confidence, suggested clearly that Nigeria is on the path of sustainable growth.
She spoke elaborately on the various achievements of the current economic reform agenda, particularly in terms of job creation, infrastructure development in rail, road, air and waterways, foreign reserves level, successful privatisation of PHCN successor companies, increasing private investment inflows, inflation rate and capacity of the country to meet payment obligations when due and other areas.
According to her, in addition to ensuring that the economy is prudently managed through a combination of fiscal and monetary measures, indications showed that more and more investors were investing in the country, even as the state governments are also exploring the bond market to raise funds for their longterm infrastructure needs.
“It is very clear that there is a growing investor confidence in the economy and this happens only in prudently managed economy. You only float bonds in a stable, prudently managed economy. Many of the states are doing this.
“Already, we have nine of them that have done this and many more are coming. As we speak now, two new applications are also coming in. So, the environment is supportive of investment and I can say that more and more investors are doing business here,” the minister added.
On the performance of the 2013 capital budget, Okonjo-Iweala said in addition to paying salaries and government’s bills when due, a total of N850bn had been released this year on capital budget, of which substantial portion had been cash-backed.
Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, who is also factional chairman of NGF yesterday, condemned the call on the minister to resign.
In a statement released in Abuja, Governor Jang questioned the authority under which the call was made as, according to him, only 13 governors were present at the meeting.
The governor disassociated himself and his other colleagues from the call.
“Show me any of them that has a perfect state. Instead of facing the reason they were elected as governors, they have now become a mouthpiece for opposition politics in search of statements that will make front page news even if it is foolish. Thankfully, Nigerians are smarter and see through this mischief,” Jang stated.
In a related development, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has cautioned his colleagues on the demand for Okonjo- Iweala’s sack.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos yesterday, the governor said the minister should not be held responsible for the bad shape of the economy.
He insisted that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, should be held responsible over its failure to make available the generated revenue.
“There was a call by some of my colleagues yesterday (Tuesday) on the Minister of Finance to resign if she cannot manage the economy. Why I know that this month’s FAAC meeting has been suspended indefinitely as there is not enough money available to share, calling on the Minister to resign is not the way to go.
“We know that this year’s budget is predicated on the sale of 2.3 million barrels of crude oil at the benchmark of $79, but we have been consistently selling the product above $100. While we complain of theft of about 400,000 barrel of crude oil, I know that we have been able to reduce the theft to about 80,000 barrels.
“The question that we should ask ourselves as a nation and direct at the NNPC is where has all the money gone to the extent that we cannot hold FAAC meeting this month,” Uduaghan said.
He said that the implication of the financial position of the economy is that some states may not be in a position to pay workers salary at the end of the month.