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House Tackles Okonjo-Iweala Again, Fires More Questions

Source: thewillnigeria.com

SAN FRANCISCO, February 03, (THEWILL) -  There appears to be no end to the face-off between the House of Representatives and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the House Committee on Finance has dismissed the Minister's response to the 50 queries sent to her and posed another 54 questions to be answered before February 20.

Chairman of the committee, Hon.
Jibril Abdulmumin, who made this declaration in a letter dated January 31 and addressed to the minister, said the minister parried some of the questions and completely ignored others in her response.

The House had late last year asked the minister 50 questions pertaining to the state of the economy, which the minister replied on January 15.

But in a new letter titled: State of the Economy: 'Observations, Request for Additional Information and Invitation to Investigate Hearing' Abdulmumin said; 'Your response to the 50 questions we raised to ascertain the true state of our economy dated January 15th, 2014 was received and carefully analysed by the Committee.

'Having gone through your responses, the Committee noted that some questions were either not answered, partially answered, outrightly ignored or completely misunderstood.

The Committee further noted glaring missing gaps in the responses, absence of supporting proofs to assertions and lack of relevant documents to back up the presentation as is the practice in any legislative oversight or investigation.

'Many data and statistics provided were inconsistent with subsequent information provided while answering other questions.

Also noted were the wide ranging comparison you made with other advanced and developing countries while responding to some questions but failed to apply the same in some cases that obviously require such approach.

'In some instances, you abruptly referred the Committee to relevant agencies for clarification.

The Committee is surprised at that because of its conviction that if all the questions raised are beyond the competence of the Minister of Finance, it is certainly not beyond the competence of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy to the extent of information you must have in your possession unless you say otherwise'.

The finance committee chairman stated further: 'In view of the above and ahead of the investigative hearing on the State of the economy, the Committee is obliged to forward to you additional observations and requests to be submitted to the Committee not later than 20th February, 2014.

'The observations and requests are made on questions.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27,30, 31, 32, 33, , 35, 36, 37,39, 41, , 43, 44, 45, 47, and 48 while further details on the following questions will be taken at the hearing: Questions 7, 18, 19, 21, 2, 8, 29, 34, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 49 and 50.

'Your responses this time and submission of the supporting document are expected to put issues in clearer perspective to enable the Committee conclude preparation for the hearing.

The Committee has scheduled an investigative hearing to give you the opportunity to explain and defend your submission before the Committee and enable Nigerians to participate and make their contributions to this issue.

'The Hon.
Minister may wish to recall that recently, we went the extra length to defend you in public where we believed you were of no direct fault.

Now that we have turned to places where you have questions to answer, the least we expect from you is maximum cooperation as we enter the critical legislative process of asking questions to know the true state of our economy.

'The Committee will not be frustrated or distracted from doing its work.

We shall remain focused on the issues.
It is a sacred service to our father land.
'While looking forward to meeting you at the hearing, please accept the assurances of the Committee's highest regard.

' Details of the committee's response titled 'An appraisal of the honourable minister of finance's response to the House committee of finance 50 questions on Nigeria's economy' indicated that the committee responded to the areas it had reservations.

For example, on question 1, the committee stated: 'The Honorable Minister's response in support of government's celebrated achievements and growth of the Nigerian economy did not include supporting documentary evidence of requisite facts and figures of government's claims as expected.

This will be required of the Minister, along with other additional information thus.

" Regarding the job creation data of 1.
6 million jobs in 2013, the Honorable Minister was asked to provide and submit the following documentary evidences to the Committee: 'A comprehensive list of the recipients of the inputs, nature of inputs and the quantity, disaggregated by State, LGA and gender, provided to the 'over 250,000 farmers and youths' across the 10 Northern States said to be profitably engaged during the dry season in 2013.

Documentary evidence of the categories of 30,000 jobs and the employing firms in the manufacturing sector where the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone was mentioned and as well as the 120,000 job opportunities in SURE-P Community Services Scheme said to have been created across the country, in 2013.

'Additionally, under the Capital Supplementation of the Appropriation Amendment Act 2013, there was a provision of N15 billion for job creation.

The Minister should similarly submit documentary evidence of how this money was utilised and how many jobs and where these were created, specifically from the application of this fund.

'Concerning government's achievements in the area of water resources, the Minister's response was too generalised.

She is to provide the number of Nigerians, having access to potable water before 2013 and the number provided with access to potable water in 2013, (by State and LGA) as is the norm in other countries.

'In the Oil and Gas sector, transparency in governance was not seen in the Minister's response as is the case in several other oil producing nations.

So the Committee would appreciate the Minister submitting the details of Crude Oil Lifting in 2013, indicating dates of lifting, Volume of lifting, Selling Price and Marketing Cost, and the monetary value in U.

S.
Dollar as well as Naira value.
'In the health sector, the Minister should submit documentary evidences to support the recruitment of '11,300 frontline health workers' and the communities to which they were deployed.

The Honorable Minister is also to provide evidence supporting the 10,000 women and children beneficiaries of the conditional transfer programmes across the eight states listed in her response, indicating how much each woman/child received.

'Concerning the Project Advancing Creativity and Technology (PACT) in Nollywood referred to in the Minister's response, with a grant of N3billion from the FGN in 2013, the Minister is requested to submit documentary evidence of the disbursement of these funds with details of recipient actors/acting firms.

' On question 3, the committee noted that 'With reference to the sources of Nigeria's economic growth and the growth drivers mentioned, the Honorable Minister should provide documentary evidence to support claims on the role of the Manufacturing, and the Real Estate and Housing.

For example, the Minister is to submit a list of new or resuscitated manufacturing companies in 2013, including the number of employments in each of these companies and the quantity of goods produced etc.

The specific activities in the real estate and housing sectors driving the economies should also be submitted as documentary evidence.

'Since your arrival as Minister of fFnance in 2011, you have publicly announced the need to reduce the recurrent expenditure so that more money would be made available to capital spending which is critical to growing and diversifying the country's economy.

How far has government succeeded in making these necessary cuts; and where exactly have these cuts been made in this effort to reduce recurrent expenditure? In other words, based on real amount spent on capital expenditure, how much reduction was made in 2011 against 2010, in 2012 against 2011 and in 2013 against 2012?' Okonjo-Iweala is expected to appear before the public hearing between March 3 and 6 to answer the new questions.

By Saint Mugaga, Abuja