TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

Govt. Has Stepped Up Efforts Against Boko Haram-Okonjo Iweala

Listen to article

Katie Couric: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is Nigeria's Finance Minister named

recently as one of Time's most influential people. I know that Abuja as we

are talking is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa right now, are

you concerned about how the image of Nigeria is being projected all around

the world at a time when you are trying to encourage Western investors?

Okonjo-Iweala: The WEFA has just ended and it has been a success for the

girls. Over 1,000 participants were in attendance – world leaders as well

as global business leaders as well as African business leaders. And they

came to show that they would stand against terror. That they will not

accept that people can abduct girls and stop their education.

Specific initiatives also came out of the WEFA. There is a Safe Schools

Initiative where Nigerian businesses have come forward in collaboration

with Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of Britain, to set up an

initiative supported by business to set up safe schools for the girls and

they said if the government matches them they put up 10 million dollars

immediately, they will use it to launch this initiative. The president of

Nigeria has announced that he will match that immediately.

That is over and above all the efforts of the government so far to try and

protect the schools better. So a specific initiative, solidarity of the

international community and global business, with the girls and a very

large turnout. This is the second largest World Economic Forum turnout

outside of Davos, according to WEF itself. So it has been a success for

the girls and solidarity for Nigeria.
Katie Couric: Let's talk about the more pressing matter of the nearly

three hundred girls who are still missing. There has been a tidal wave of

criticism about the Nigerian government's response to these kidnappings,

are you confident that President Jonathan's administration has done or is

doing all it can to rescue these girls?
Okonjo-Iweala: The President has openly pledged his commitment to do

everything to rescue these girls, and what I said before on CNN is

accepting that the government did not communicate what it was doing

previously, because there was some element of reticence so as not to cause

harm to the girls. That should not have been the case, it should have been

that there was communication so that the Nigerian public and the parents

of these girls know that action is being taken. Since that time the

government has stepped up action, has appealed to the international

community for help and is accepting help from the US, France, the UK,

China and they are all coming in. The government has stepped up the number

of troops that are working there and is working with countries that have

satellite imagery to do more.
Katie Couric: Are you confident that the girls will be found, where are

they, because it's been rumoured that many of them have been taken across

the border to Chad?
Okonjo-Iweala: Katie, no one can answer that question. There is no one who

can tell you with confidence. What we can tell you is that every single

possible resource will be used to track these girls. You are dealing with

people who are irrational. It is unacceptable that girls should be taken

anywhere in the world, and they do not represent any religion, as you have

heard many muslims have rejected what they have done. You have heard Prime

Minister Cameron said this is not a Nigerian problem, it is a global

problem. You have heard President Obama said we should stand against these

terrorists. This is a global problem, we need to come together and fight

against it and Nigeria is accepting any help it can do with.

Katie Couric: How trustworthy is President Goodluck Jonathan? Why do the

families seem to know where the girls are but the government does not?

(Question from tweets)
Okonjo-Iweala: I'm not sure that characterization is correct, I think we

should view this in a much more complex manner. The President said they

searched in the Sambisa forest, they were not using aerial surveillance,

they were not able to find the girls. This is a large area and it is not

clear whether they are still together in a group or whether they have been

split up, and the whole idea is that nothing should be done to harm the

girls. In the past, the country has used some aerial surveillance but you

can't do that because you don't want to end up harming the girls.

So the characterization that the parents know more than the government, I

don't want to enter into that because I have to tell you I'm not a

security expert. But I can only tell you that much that I know and that is

to share with you the commitment of the government and the country and the

solidarity of the people coming together on this issue of bringing back

the girls.
Katie Couric: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala do you have daughters?

Okonjo-Iweala: I have a daughter, I have four children. That is why I came

out to say it is unacceptable, it is unimaginable that anyone would take

these children. Anyone who has children, sons or daughters, one of the

most unbelievable thing is the agony of not knowing where your loved one

is. My mother was kidnapped in mid December 2012, and for five agonizing

days we did not know where she was. I have actually experienced it; this

is not from theory, it is one of the most terrible nightmares you could

dream about. So, for me, it is deep pain and depression to know that for

their mothers who are waiting, these are our daughters and we have to get

them back.
Katie Couric: As Finance Minister I know that this week your ambition is

to promote vast growth and current economic opportunity that exists in

Nigeria, in fact the nation now leads the entire African continent in

terms of GDP, but an estimated 62% of the population live in extreme

poverty, do you believe this income inequality and lack of resources

particularly in the North is contributing to the rise and recruitment

power of Boko Haram?
Okonjo-Iweala: First of all the problem of inequality is something that

the entire world is struggling with. There is this new book by Thomas

Piketty Capitalism in the 21st Century. That is the whole thesis, that

there is the problem of inequality all over the world. 95% of the recent

growth of the US was captured by 1% of the people. So this is again a

global problem that we all need to learn from each other. Inequality is a

major challenge in the growth story of the whole of Africa and Nigeria.

And that is what we are working at, we do not want to grow with leaving

more people behind, we want to change the quality of that growth. And I

think the crux of that matter is creating jobs, people here do not want

handouts, they want us to create decent jobs. The government is really

working hard at improving agriculture, studies have shown that if you

improve agriculture you are able to tackle poverty three times better and

We are working on that; we are turning around agriculture and we are

launching the housing sector to create jobs. We need 1.8 milllion jobs in

the country, we are still creating 1.6 million; we are still falling short

plus we have the pool of the unemployed. The biggest focus in alleviating

poverty in Nigeria is creating jobs. The second is improving human

development indicators which are not very good. Maternal mortality, infant

mortality rate, children out of school these are things we are focusing on

to get our resources to the level where we use them effectively to deal

with these problems.
Katie Couric: I know you also deeply believe in the importance of girls'

education. Just last year the World Bank released a study on the

importance of women to the growth and vitality of the African continent in

general. Though the majority is small farmers, trade merchants, healthcare

workers, educators. So how are you going to stop these extremists who want

women to stop going to school and getting jobs?
Okonjo-Iweala: Katie we are going to stop the extremists with a

multi-prong approach. It is not a simple thing; there is the military

angle, the insurgency angle, the political angle that has to be pursued

and also there is the development angle where we have to give our young

people hope and make sure that their school is not interfered with, that

they feel more secure. All these things have to be done. But it is not

easy fighting these acts of terrorism, if it was easy you will not find

them cropping up all over the world. You will not see Afghanistan, or

Pakistan or even the recent bombing in the US, the Boston Marathon. You

will not see two or three decades of the Irish Republican army fighting in

the UK; they were not able to defeat them despite the sophistication of

the UK at the time. And it took a long time and political negotiation for

it to end.
This kind of warfare is not standard, it's not the kind you move soldiers

and then go and face the people face to face. It is a war of attrition and

opportunity, it can crop up in any place in the world, and that is why

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have well articulated it by

saying this is a war for all of us. So we have to join hands and join

resources. I think we need the help of modern technology, human insurgency

and intelligence experts to also help us. This is not going to be won by

conventional means.
Katie Couric: Finally, before we go, on the streets of Nigeria as you well

know and all around the world, people are posting #BringBackOurGirls. As a

representative of the Nigerian government and a female global leader what

would you say to the millions of people who are so frustrated and upset by

the situation in your country?
Okonjo-Iweala: I would say we in Nigeria are also frustrated and upset. A

friend of mine tweeted me holding #BringBackOurGirls. We need to move

beyond that into more action, that is what the world is asking for.

I think we should focus on what Nigerians are asking for. We are deeply

frustrated, all of us are. We have to move beyond that to not let the work

of the terrorists paralyse us. What I want to say to the world is don't

let the work of the terrorists create division. Criticize, but do not let

it create division.
This is a time that we need to come together as a world community to stand

with Nigerians and Nigerians to stand together not apart in order to

fight. This is what the terrorists want, they want criticism, they want

names to be called, they want frustration, they want people to be divided

and then they will win. If we stand together as a world community and

focus on the girls and bringing them back and we show the terrorists that

terror will not win and then they will fail.