State Of Economy: House Tackles Okonjo-Iweala On Response


Says minister was dramatising BEVERLY HILLS, CA, January 16, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives on Thursday reacted to the response of the Coordinating Minister for  the Economy and Minister of Finance to the 50 questions it gave her on the state of the economy, saying she was only playing to the gallery.

The minister had in her response to the questions stated that Nigeria's economy is healthy, adding that the government has been able to create jobs and provided infrastructure.

But dismissing the minister's submission, deputy chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon.

Victor Ogene, insisted that the House would not succumb  to any form of blackmail but wait for the committee to peruse  what the minister  has presented before taking  a decision.

He accused the minister of grandstanding' in order to avoid addressing the questions.

'As a House, we have always insisted that we will not bow down to any kind of grandstanding aimed at distracting  us from our set goals of holding  government accountable to the governed and we will not shy away from doing that.

"But even from her response, you would see that she is  clearly  playing to the gallery," he said.

According to the lawmaker, ' she (the Minister)  simply tried to dramatise 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 the planet earth where an appointee of government dictates to a committee of the legislature on how many times she will  appear before the committee.

And at any rate, this is a minister that appeared according to committee chairman, Hon.

Jubril Abdulmumin, before them just once which was in December 2013 because they have other avenues of engagement.

'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 publicise 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'.

Ogene argued further:  '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 organisations 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.

' Defending the finance committee for putting the minister to test, the House spokesman  explained that '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," adding "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 it to facts and figures, how many tangible jobs have been created.

" He maintained that SURE-P jobs should not be seen as jobs, saying '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'.

On the minister's claim that she was ridiculed by the committee, Ogene countered the claim.

  '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 okay.
How can you be okay within a space of five minutes?,' he said.

By Saint Mugaga, Abuja