Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has come under fresh fire for claiming on Sunday night that President Jonathan’s administration left solid economic legacies despite various challenges confronting the country.
“Despite the economic challenges the country is facing, the Jonathan administration is leaving some solid economic legacies for the in-coming Buhari government. So, the allegations that the economy is in ruins are absolutely untrue,” the embattled minister declared in a statement issued by her Special Adviser on Communications, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu.
“We cannot take away the fact that the Jonathan administration, in spite of the challenges caused by 50 per cent decline in the price of oil, has made a clear and measurable difference in many important areas and anyone who says nothing has been done and nothing is being left behind is being very unfair to facts and to history. We are not perfect but no one can take away the fact that we are leaving some good legacies behind,” the minister added.
Expectedly, as many critics and public commentators have reacted to the statement credited to the super minister, describing it as a face-saving measure rather than a statement of facts.
Honourable Peter Akpatason, lawmaker representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency at the National Assembly is one of the strong political figures that berated the outgoing minister for her claims. “Madam Finance Minister is insincere in her claims, just as she had deceived ignorant Nigerians over the years with voodoo economic statistics that does not represent the realities on ground. Her claim can only convince those who believe ignorantly that the best economists are only those who worked with the World Bank and as such whatever they say emanates from authority,” he said.
The APC lawmaker who secured a second term at the hallowed green chamber listed inflation, high rates of unemployment, fall in foreign reserves as well as unexplained free fall in value of local currency as tell-tale signs that Jonathan government left the economy on a sick bed. “For those who can distinguish between sound and weak economy, it is obvious that Jonathan is bequeathing a nose-diving economy that has ran recklessly on auto-pilot for a while; presently deficient in all criteria of a healthy economy. Borrowing by federal, states and local governments to pay salaries, underpaying states and local governments quarterly allocations, contraction in the real sector and scandals in vast majority of MDAs are definitely not evidence of good health,” the former NUPENG President argued.
Alesta Wilcox, an economic and public affairs analyst faulted her claims, describing it as a further confirmation Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s reign as Finance minister as the worst Nigeria since 1999.
He said: “Which of the sectors is performing well at the moment that she can lay claim of being the brain behind it? If you look at federal government budget size, she inherited about less than four trillion naira, but ended up taking it up to almost five trillion. It is only the 2015 budget which was affected by the oil price that budget size came down to about three trillion. The budget size under her tenure did not meet any aspiration of the government.
“If you talk about job creation, there is no evidence of such job. Maybe the minister should present to Nigerians details of how she gets to that figures of government job creation achievements so that Nigerians can easily verify them. As far as am concerned, they are not real.”
Another disenchanted social commentator, Engineer Emmanuel Onuorah described the claims as a big disappointment from someone of Okonjo-Iweala’s status. “People like Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala and Diezani Alison-Madueke have ended up as complete disappointment to Nigerian women because of their failure to utilize their positions well. Her reign is a colossal failure, as she said so many things and changed her stands at critical time and because of that she can’t be trusted anymore,” he said.
For Michael Fatunase, claims like these are enough reasons to bar Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala from holding public office for life. “I never imagined she could degenerate to the extent of deluding herself about any legacy of the Jonathan administration. She supervised one of the most corrupt governments in modern history and history will be very unkind to her. Nobody should buy any stupid book she may write in the future with an attempt to read write history,” he declared.
But there are a handful of people who believe the minister’s claim was not bogus as many people claimed. Barrister Chinedu Akpa, a Lagos based lawyer argued that the government of Goodluck Jonathan which Okonjo-Iweala served as coordinating minister made considerable achievements. “If you take a very close look at different sectors of the economy and what Jonathan administration did thus far, you will discover that some meaningful efforts have been made to deliver on some of his promises. Even though, he didn’t deliver on his key electoral promises, but we have seen progress made,” he said.
Ayo Adedeji, a political analyst agrees: “Much as the economy has become vulnerable in the last five months due to the slump of oil price in the international market and weakening value of the Naira, the outgoing government performed creditably in some sectors like the agriculture,” he claimed.
By Olisemeka Obeche