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Rejoinder To Sam Nda-Isiah: Okonjo-Iweala Will Not Share Money To Make People Happy

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Sam Nda-Isaiah is someone that all of us would like to respect

particularly since the publisher of Leadership newspaper has declared his

intention to run for President under the banner of the All Progessives

Congress (APC). But reading the article of May 26, 2014 in which he

launched an unwarranted attack on the Coordinating Minister of the Economy

and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in continuation of the

campaign of certain people to pitch the military against the minister

makes one very sad. It is sad because the article shows a fundamental lack

of understanding of how the country's economy works.

The campaign to knock the heads of the military and the ministry together

will fail because the Federal Ministry of Finance is working

collaboratively with the military authorities to ensure adequate funding

for security in the fight against insurgency.
The Minister's explanation of the status of the defence budget is already

in the public domain. Security is a key priority of the Jonathan

administration and this is reflected in the fact that almost 20% of the

federal budget is dedicated to it. Between January and April this year, a

total of N130 billion, including salaries, was released to the defence

In his article, Mr Nda-Isiah wonders if Dr Okonjo-Iweala wants Nigerians

to clap for her for giving information on how much the military received

in the first four months of the year. No she doesn't. Providing timely and

relevant information on public expenditure is a priority of the Finance

Ministry under her leadership and she does not need any cheers for doing

her job.
Someone who wants to run for president like Mr Nda-Isiah should not reduce

the debate about the management of the country's resources and finances to

the pedestrian level of “Okonjo-Iweala does not want to release money”. Mr

Nda-Isiah should know that Okonjo-Iweala is not popular in certain circles

in Abuja because she does not dish out money for people to share. She has

never done so and she never will. Being an effective Finance Minister

anywhere is not a popularity contest because doing the right things is

bound to make some people unhappy. And the Minister does not mind doing so

as long as the interest of the majority of honest, hardworking Nigerians

is served and protected.
For the sake of clarity, the Federal Ministry of Finance manages only

those resources that come to it as revenue from major sources:

1. Petroleum resources through NNPC
2. Oil and non-oil taxes through the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)

3. Customs duties through the Nigeria Customs Service

4. IGR from certain MDAs
5. Whatever NASS appropriates as domestic borrowing

It is with these revenues that FMF can attend to the budget as

appropriated. It is the job of the Minister to manage these resources in a

prudent, strategic and sustainable manner to ensure that national

priorities are achieved. She cannot manufacture any money outside these

sources to make the unnamed friends of Mr Nda-Isiah who are complaining

that “things are dry” happy. How does the Finance Minister personally

benefit from not releasing money?
Mr Nda-Isiah needs to appreciate the fact that the interest of the narrow

band of elites whose interest he seems to be championing is not

necessarily the interest of the entire country. The budget is helping to

finance an improving network of federal roads; revived railways; the

foundation of a mortgage industry; new power and aviation infrastructure

and many other important programmes and projects for the country. These

are the real priorities of the vast majority of Nigerians which the

Jonathan administration is working hard to meet, in spite of challenges.

Paul C Nwabuikwu
Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister and Minister of Fin/