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I won't resign, Okonjo-Iweala tells Amaechi's NGF

By The Rainbow
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The coordinating minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Wednesday made light calls for her resignation by members of the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi-led Nigeria Governors' Forum.

The minister, while addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday on recent developments in the economy, said she was focused on ensuring prudent management of the country's economy and that she would not be distracted by political gambits.

She said that her job was with the President and that she should not be drawn into political issues.

Members of the Amaechi faction of the NGF had in a communiqué after their meeting on Tuesday called on the minister to resign her appointment if she knew she would not be able to adhere strictly with the Appropriation Act 2013.

They had said the non-compliance with the revenue projections of the 2013 Budget was also a direct breach of the provisions of the Appropriation Act, 2013.

The call for the minister's resignation was part of the resolutions of the NGF faction, which met in Abuja.

But according Okonjo Iweala, as a minister working under President Goodluck Jonathan, she prefers to ensure that the economy is prudently managed rather than discussing political issues.

She said, 'I am not here to address those kinds of issues; you know I am Minister of Finance for the country. I am working with President Goodluck Jonathan and I will just do my job.

'This (press briefing) is not to address any issue, all of you know that from time to time I have this kind of press conference and I share with you what is happening in the economy and that is what am doing.

'I am not answering to that (call for her resignation) and as you see me here, do I look any close to resignation? I dey kampe. I don't want to talk about political issues here.'

The minister was accompanied to the media briefing by the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Bright Okogu; DG, Debt Management Office, Mr. Abraham Nwankwo; and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla.

She said that in spite of the revenue challenges facing the country, all macro-economic indicators showed that the economy was performing 'reasonably well.'

The minister pointed to the agricultural sector, where she said a total of 2.5 million seasonal and full time jobs had been created in nine commodities value chains.

She listed the commodities as cassava, sorghum, oil palm, cotton, cocoa, dry season rice, raining season rice and maize.

She noted that while production output was increasing, a lot of investments had been made by both local and foreign investors that would also create more jobs.

She said, 'The economy is doing reasonably well. It's not perfect but it's doing reasonably well. I say this because actual realities on ground are baring this out.

'In agriculture where we are seeing results, we have seen that 2.5 million seasonal and full time jobs have been created.

'The economy should be managed for the good of Nigerians and that's what we are here. We are not going to get involved in any political things.

'Let's face fact of the economy. I have given you fact about roads, rail construction, jobs created in agricultural sector, increase in production and what we are doing that you can go and check for yourselves. So let's focus on facts.'

When asked about the expectations for the 2014 budget, the minister said the country would see a 'lean budget' as opposed to the amount contained in the 2013 budget.

Meanwhile, Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, who leads the other faction of the NGF, had condemned the call for the resignation of the minister by the Amaechi-led governors.

In a statement released in Abuja by the media office of the faction, Jang questioned the competence of the Amaechi-led NGF to ask Okonjo-Iweala to resign when only 16 governors were present at a the meeting where the resolution was made.

He said that majority of the governors were not present at the meeting where the decision was taken.

He wondered whether Amaechi and those in his group were living in the same country where he said both local and international experts had all heaped praises on the minister 'for the job she is doing with the ever growing Nigerian economy.'

Similarly, Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan on Wednesday faulted the Amaechi's NGF call for Okonjo-Iweala's resignation.

Uduaghan at a press briefing in Lagos said the governors lacked adequate knowledge about the economy and revenue generation.

He explained that he had led a committee with four other governors on revenue generation and allocation, where he gathered that agencies generating the funds were mainly responsible for the shortage.

Uduaghan said, 'There was call by some of my colleagues for the resignation of the Minister of Finance which I don't think is a way forward and not in order.

'Oil production is at the quantity we budgeted, so where is the money? But Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is still telling us that they don't have enough money.

'So, who is responsible? Let the NNPC tell Nigerians what is going wrong with the production.'