Reps to hold public hearing on Okonjo- Iweala's 50 questions

By The Rainbow

The House of Representatives Committee on Finance said Thursday it will conduct a public hearing on the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s response to the 50 questions on the state of the Nigerian economy.

The committee said that the hearing would take place  at a yet-to-be-fixed date on their resumption from the Christmas/New Year break.

According to the committee,  the attempt by the minister to disparage the lawmakers by dramatising her December 19, 2014 meeting with the committee is in bad taste.

The lawmakers said to have sought for time to respond to the questions after claiming to be ready for immediate response showed the Minister was only playing to the gallery.

Okonjo Iweala in 100-page document submitted to the lawmakers on Wednesday made a rebuttal of some of the allegations imputed in the lawmakers' questions.

She said some of the questions were severally repeated with many in the public domain.

Deputy House Spokesman,  Victor Ogene, while defending the action of the lawmakers on Thursday, said  they were only striving to make government accountable and responsive.

He said: “As a House, we have always insisted that we will not bow down to any kind of grandstanding aimed at derailing us from our set goals.

“The set goal is simply to hold government accountable to the governed and we will not shy away from doing that. But even from her response, you would see who clearly is playing to the gallery.

“If a Committee of the House has requested you to provide information which in most cases ought to be handled with circumspection; this is an interaction between you and the House and your response, the first thing you did, while the House is still on recess is to publicize it.

“Then the Nigerian people should now know that they have a Finance Minister who’s more interested in political drama than in the reality of addressing the Nigerian Economy.

“For instance, she talks about the fact that some of the issues raised by the Committee are already in the public domain and have been extensively debated by the government, Journalists, Civil Society organizations and the Private Sector. And the simple question to ask is: do you run government on the basis of debate on the pages of newspaper in the mass media?

“The answer is clearly No. So, If she wants the House or its committee on Finance to base its decision on discussions held in the public arena as she is clearly insinuating in her response, that again tells you the level to which governance has degenerated in Nigeria.

“She goes ahead to talk about questions being repetitive and I laugh at such a response. It’s like when you appear before a Lawyer, they can ask you leading questions so that you might give an answer to Question A.

“And in question B you can give answer that does not tally or ought to tally. Then, the person who is doing the investigation has to go through this gamut of questions to be able to extract a uniformity in answers.

“And the fact that they gave her the questions as a take home assignment tells you that we mean well as a House for you to reduce it to facts and figures and not broad- micro-economy policies. Nobody is deceived by high sounding economic terms.

“What we are saying is that if you say that the Nigerian Economy, for instance is growing at 9 percent, you should reduce to facts and figures, how many tangible jobs have been created. And you you cannot be counting SURE-P jobs as jobs.

“Those are not jobs tied to any statutory allocation. If SURE-P is dissolved today, that means those jobs are wiped off. And how much are you paying for those jobs-N10,000.

“At best, those are palliatives and cannot be regarded as job creation for the teeming Nigerian Graduates. And she goes on and on to talk about the House Committee trying to ridicule her.

“I have watched the full exchange. Instead of the few minutes that were taken and shown on Television, here was a Minister of the Federal Republic who in her very opening remark said she was ill and cannot attend to the issues and the chairman, said Ok, we have prepared questions for you. Take this questions home, answer them and in two weeks engage with the committee. And you turned around to say, now you are Ok.

“How can you be OK within a space of five minutes?  The danger is were the Chairman to have allowed her to continue, whatever she says there, if there were contradictions, she would claim to have said at the onset that she was not feeling OK. So, she just simply tried to dramatize that appearance. And the drama has entered Part 2, Scene 1.

“But as a House, like I have said, we are used to this kind of Drama. I have not seen any country on the face of planet earth where an appointee of government dictates to a Committee of the Legislature how many times to even appear before the Committee.

“And at any rate, this is a Minister that appeared according to Committee Chairman, Hon. Jubril Abudumumuni, before them just once which was in December 2013 because they have other avenues of engaging. So, for us as a House, we will wait for our Committee to sieve through what she has presented and we take it up from there.'