The former of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has discredited certain media reports which alleged she accused former President Goodluck Jonathan for current economic woes of the country. Following a speech she made at the George Washington University in United States of America on Thursday, some media accounts 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.
In a swift reaction, a press statement was released by her Media Adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu, debunking the claims. According to Paul, “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.
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“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.
“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.
The statement further relates to another interview Dr. Ngozi granted penultimate week. In that statement, she 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 stabilization 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.”