Missing N30trn: Okonjo-Iweala Takes Legal Action

Okonjo-IwealaThe former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says that she was never served any court processes in relation to the allegation by former CBN Governor, Professor Charles Soludo that 30 trillion Naira was missing during the past administration.

The suit was instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.

A statement signed by the former minister’s Media Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, says that she has instructed her lawyers to take steps to set aside the judgment as it affects her.

The statement adds that the decision of SERAP to anchor its case on an allegedly baseless and unsubstantiated allegation by former CBN Governor, Professor Charles Soludo that 30 trillion Naira is missing confirms SERAP’s alleged dubious motives and its role as a tool for politically motivated actors.

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had ordered Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government to provide information on the spending of the alleged missing N30 trillion.

The fund, according to the court, represents some accruable income to the Federal Government during the last four years of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The judgment was delivered by Justice Ibrahim Buba following a Freedom of Information suit brought by SERAP.

SERAP’s suit followed revelations by the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, that at least N30 trillion “has either been stolen or unaccounted for, or grossly mismanaged over the last few years under the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s watch.”

Okonjo-Iweala Dismisses Falana’s Call For Her Prosecution

Okonjo-IwealaFormer Minister of Finance in Nigeria, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has reacted to the call by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana for her arrest and prosecution.

Mr Falana had approached the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanding the trial of the former minister for alleged involvement in the $2.1 billion arms deal.

Now, the former minister through her Media Adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu, has reacted to the position held by Mr Falana.

Here are details of her response:

Okonjo-IwealaOkonjo-IwealaOkonjo-Iweala Okonjo-Iweala

 

Subsidy Saga: FG Confirms Appropriation In 2015 Budget

Okonjo-Iweala on 2015 BudgetThe Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has cleared the air on whether or not provision was made for fuel subsidy in Nigeria’s 2015 Budget.

She told reporters on Tuesday in Abuja, the nation’s capital that 100 billion Naira had been set aside in the 2015 Budget for the maintenance of the subsidy while 45.2 billion Naira was appropriated for Kerosene.

“The reports that fuel subsidy was removed from the 2015 budget are untrue,” the Minister said while addressing reporters after a meeting with the economic team held to give update on the 2015 budget passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday, April 28.

This is contrary to the position of the Senate that had passed the Budget 2015 without appropriating any money for subsidy.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, however, said the provisions made in the budget would not sufficiently cover the outstanding expenses, making it imperative for adjustments to be made especially in line with the adjustment of the benchmark price of 53 dollars per barrel and the cash flow crunch.

Cash Flow Crunch

She said “presidential assent to the budget is expected over the next few days”, considering the adjustments made by the National Assembly to the proposed appropriation bill which she said were near insignificant.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala said “the Budget, which shows a 67.43 billion Naira increase in the expenditure outlay, moving it up to 4.493 trillion Naira, is a slight difference from that proposed by the President”.

She said the benchmark of oil price was raised a dollar from the proposed 52 dollars per barrel by the lawmakers, generating an extra revenue of 54.25 billion Naira for the Federal Government, to cushion the increments made.

The Minister, however, warned that the country is still facing a cash flow crunch which “must be appropriately and consistently managed until the tide is over”.

She said the borrowing plan was increased by over 300 billion Naira in this year’s budget.

Significant increments made in the 2015 budget awaiting presidential assent are Federal Government revenue raised by 39.294 billion Naira while aggregate expenditure was raised by 67.43 billion Naira.

The aggregate capital expenditure increased by 58.57 billion Naira while the National Assembly allocation increased by five billion Naira.

Nigeria Is Not Broke, Says Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-IwealaThe Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says Nigeria is not broke.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who was responding to questions from journalists in Abuja, said that despite the pockets of economic challenges confronting the nation, it has achieved macro economic stability.

Top government officials and heads of parastatals of the Ministry of Finance were at the news conference on the ministry’s performance in 2014.

The Minister of Finance listed key achievements of the government in terms of job creation, foreign and local debt sustainability, as well as budget implementation.

All of these, she said, have contributed to the nation’s macro economic stability than its perceived state of being broke.

Another issue which the Minister of Finance highlighted is the efforts by the government to finance the real sectors to improve the lives of the ordinary Nigerians.

She announced that 2.4trillion naira has been allocated for the development of the real sector.

Building social safety nets, creating more job creation and addressing issues of infrastructural challenge are some of the areas the Federal Government hopes to prioritise in the days ahead, and this Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said would be beneficial to the ordinary Nigerian.

Safe School Initiative: Finance Minister Meets State Governments

Okonjo-Iweala on Safe SchoolThe Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says the Federal Government’s Safe School Initiative is targeted at restoring confidence in the nation’s education system in the North Eastern part of the country.

This is owing to the insecurity in the region where over 200 schoolgirls were abducted in April and several other children have been out of school.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke at a meeting of the committee of the Safe School Initiative in Abuja, said that the initiative would also carter for the rehabilitation and equipping of schools affected by the activities of insurgents.

“I think it’s worth noting that the idea for this initiative predated the incident in Chibok and that former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has been discussing this with the President for some months before now but the incident we had crystalized the need to move quickly.

“The reason is that our Chibok girls, whom we will not relent until they come back, must also come back and find a new environment that is different from the ones they left, where boys and girls are not intimidated and where the environment is more conducive to learning”, the Minister said.

The meeting had in attendance the Governor of Borno State, a representative from Adamawa State, the Minister of State for Education and representatives of the National Emergency Management Commission.

Jonathan Inaugurates Safe Schools Initiatives Committee

jonathan-goodluck-Nigeria-PresidentPresident Goodluck Jonathan has inaugurated the steering committee for Safe Schools Initiative, pledging the resolve of his administration to tackle insurgency headlong.

In his speech at the inauguration, the president said that Nigeria was passing through stress orchestrated by the violence being perpetrated by members of the Boko Haram sect and that security operatives were doing everything possible to get rid of it while the Federal Government will approach the solution holistically.

The idea of a safe school came up during the World Economic Forum on Africa held in May.

The international community had pledged to assist the Federal Government to go beyond just the rescue of the abducted Chibok Girls to security of schools mostly in the north.

The committee, which is co-chaired by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, also has Aliko Dangote, Nduka Obaigbena and governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States among others as members.

President Jonathan pointed out that the excesses of the Boko Haram sect were of serious concern to him.

He said the Safe Schools Initiative was one of the areas where his government was intervening.

He decried the high rate of school dropout which he said had risen to 70 per cent in some states, insisting that the figure was not acceptable to his administration even as children in Borno State were no longer willing to attend school because of the fear of terrorists attacks.

“From statistics, the dropout of students at the basic level of education is quite high. The basic level is the primary and secondary. The dropout at that level is too high.

“Some states are fairly okay with one or two per cent. But some states are as high as 70 per cent. If the dropout rate of students at the basic level is as high as 70 per cent, that means that only 30 per cent goes to school. That is terrible.

“In Borno State today for example, children, especially girls are not going to school because of the risk they face from terrorism and violence. This is not acceptable,” he said.

On June 17, the Safe School Initiative programme kicked-off, with the Nigerian government and the private sector providing a start-off fund of 3.2 billion Naira. Half of the amount was provided by the private sector.

Explaining the initiative and the fund to journalists, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said Mr Gordon Brown, who was also an envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on children, was expected to also assist in raising some funds in addition to the benchmark set for the programme.

She said that a total of 100 million dollars was the targeted amount needed as take-off grant for the Safe School Initiative Programme by the Federal Government and the international community for Nigerian schools.

The initiative was agreed on at the World Economic Forum on Africa, after over 200 girls were abducted from their dormitory in Chibok, Borno State by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group on April 14.

Counter-terrorism military troops are making efforts to rescue the girls.

The fund for the safe school initiative will be inaugurated  on July 16.

Nigerian Senate Passes 4.6 Trillion Naira 2014 Budget

SenateThe Nigerian Senate on Wednesday considered and passed a budget of 4.695 trillion Naira (about 29.3 billion dollars) for the 2014 fiscal year.

The amount represents an increase of 53 billion Naira of the initial 4.642 trillion Naira presented to the National Assembly on December 19, 2013 by the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan.

Of the amount, 408.7 Naira was approved for statutory transfers, as against the 399.7 proposed by the executive.

The sum of 712 billion was approved for debt service as proposed.

The Senate also approved the sum of 2.5 trillion Naira for recurrent non-debt expenditure while the sum of 1.1 trillion Naira was approved for capital expenditure for the 2014 fiscal year.

In the proposal presented by the executive, the recurrent expenditure was 2.4 trillion Naira and the capital expenditure was 1.1 trillion Naira.

The approval was based on an oil price benchmark of $77.5 per barrel, Crude oil production of 2.3883 million barrels per day, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 6.75 per cent, Inflation rate of 9.5 per cent and Exchange Rate of 160 Naira to $1.00.

A third reading passage is expected by the House of Representatives before a harmonisation of the bill and further presentation to the president for assent.

While presenting the budget Okonjo-Iweala said: “This budget is the budget for job creation and inclusive growth; meaning that it is a budget which will continue the president’s transformation agenda for several sectors of the economy.

“The budget is going to support the push in agriculture. It will kick-start the housing sector where we can create more jobs.  It is designed to promote our policies that would support manufacturing because jobs would be created there.

“Industries will also be created in solid minerals. All these support will continued to be unleashed.  Job creation is the key to really solving the problems of the Nigerian economy.”

 

Solution To Crude Oil Theft Proffered At The 11th Aret Adams Lecture

Participants at this year’s annual Aret Adams Lecture Series have come to a conclusion that there is no single bullet solution to curb crude oil theft in Nigeria.

Political will, technology deployment, increased funding for security operatives and international collaboration are some of the solutions proffered as a part of the holistic approach to tackling the challenge.

Industry experts estimate that over a hundred thousand barrel of crude is stolen daily from Nigeria, a trend many say have become altogether worrisome.

Kerosene Subsidy: Petroleum Minister Calls For Caution

The Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke has called for caution while the controversy around kerosine subsidy is sorted.

Mrs Alison-Madueke told journalists that it was essential the issues around kerosine subsidy were settled once and for all.

Meanwhile, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC believes it’s the prerogative of the executive to address the issues because the agency has done it parts by making the necessary submissions.

The Minster of Petroleum and the GMD of the NNPC were speaking to journalists after the Senate public hearing on the controversial missing funds from the NNPC.

2014 Budget: Nigerians Should Also Cut Spending On Rent, Feeding – Ogunsanwo

A Data and Information Analyst, Babajide Ogunsanwo, has called on Nigerian workers to cut down on their recurrent expenditure, which includes expenses on feeding and rent as the most recent data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reveal that “on average, the Nigerian man and woman spend 76 percent of their salaries on recurrent spending.”

Ogunsanwo said this while speaking on Channels Television’s flagship programme, Sunrise Daily, adding that the call for government to reduce the recurrent expenditure of the nation should first be put into practice at domestic levels.

“What we need to realize in the budget of 2014 is to understand that we all have roles to play,” he said, adding that “even though we expect the government to reduce the recurrent expenditure, we also have our roles to play by lowering our own recurrent expenditure as citizens, and prioritise our spending.”

He added that the Goodluck Jonathan led administration should not be blamed for the high and increasing recurrent expenditure in the national budget as the issue existed as far back as 1971 “when recurrent expenditure was over 83 percent of the national budget.”

He advocated that Nigerian parents should spend more on education as “on an average, the Nigerian parent spends less than one percent of their income on the education of their children.”

Ogunsawo, who lauded the Finance Minister’s presentation of the 2014 budget, spoke on the impact it would have on the youth.

While speaking on the impact the budget could have on job creation, the analyst said that there was evidence that the government is making dramatic changes in that area, as only 800,000 jobs were created in 2006 – 2011 while 1.3 million jobs were created in 2013.

The created jobs were in the informal sector and manufacturing sector.

He noted that the “reason why the youths don’t feel the impact of the jobs that are being created is because only 31 percent of these jobs are full-time jobs… so we are creating so many jobs but the jobs aren’t really targeted towards full-time private sector jobs.”

On manufacturing:

Ogunsanwo said that the manufacturing sector was improving, adding that “In 1982, for every one naira of goods we exported, we imported 52 naira. In 1999, for every one naira of good exported, we imported 23 naira. As it is today, for every one naira of goods we export, we only import 12.”

He expressed hope that the slope would change significantly as “1968 was the only year we exported more goods than we imported.”