Thursday, April 18, 2013

Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala [Accused of "Hidden Igbo Agenda"]

The minister described speculations that she has a hidden Igbo agenda as“scurrilous campaign to tarnish the image of the minister”.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinator for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, furious over the allegation that she masterminded the appointment of Nigeria’s representative on the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, described the allegation as “falsehood”.

Speculations have been rife that the minister single-handedly plotted the selection of Nigeria’s representative on the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, to realize a hidden Igbo agenda.

But the Minister, who is currently in Washington for the 2013 annual Spring Meetings of the IMF, described the allegations as mere falsehood that would not stand, pointing out that it was obvious they were coming from the same persons that accused her of appointing Igbos into top positions in the finance sector, though they were already there before her re-appointment.

The Special Adviser on Media to the Minister, Paul Nwabuikwu, said the attempt to dent the image of the minister through “creative lies” would fail, because “nothing built on falsehood will endure.”

Mr. Nwabuikwu described insinuations concerning Mr. Nnanna’s appointment as the “desperation of its peddlers to do mischief”, a “scurrilous campaign to tarnish the image of the minister”. He said there are very few public officers in the country with the “pan-Nigerian spirit” as Ms. Okonjo-Iweala.

According to Mr. Nwabuikwu, the two Executive Directors representing Nigeria at the World Bank and the African Development Bank, ADB, namely, Mansur Muhtar, who a former Minister of Finance, and Alhaji Shehu, respectively were nominated by Ms. Okonjo-Iweala, during Segun Aganga’s tenure in the ministry.

“Dr. Nnannah, a senior staff of the CBN, who retired as an Adviser, a significantly lower position than an Executive Director, was recommended for the position by the Director, International Economic Relations (IER) in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Haruna Mohammed, after going through a competitive process established by the Governors of the African Constituency at the IMF. So, where is the Igbo agenda?

“The bottom line is that Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s reputation as a hard working patriot working for the best of the country is intact and impregnable and no amount of creative lies can dent it,” Mr. Nwabuikwu said.

On Wednesday, speculations were rife that the secret appointment of Joseph Nnannah as Nigeria’s representative on the Executive Board of the Fund in Washington DC was causing ripples in the country as senior officials at the Federal Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN accused the Minister of ignoring laid down procedures, rules and established practices in the nomination and appointment processes.

The Executive Board, consisting 24 Executive Directors appointed or elected by member countries or by groups of countries, is responsible for conducting the day-to-day business of the IMF.

Nigeria was requested to nominate a candidate for the new Executive Director position created late last year, to be rotated between it and South Africa as the two largest economies in the Sub-Saharan Africa constituency at the organization.

It was gathered that when the request from the nomination of a candidate got to the Ministry, none of the top officials in the Ministry, including the Permanent Secretary, Danladi Kifasi, and Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, was privy to the information.

The Minister was alleged to have rushed Mr. Nnannah’s curriculum vitae to President Goodluck Jonathan for his approval without considering existing procedures and established practices on such appointments, which is usually rotated between senior Ministry officials and the CBN to provide the platform to improve their career knowledge and skills.

“Nobody knew about the discussions with the President. Even the documentation processes were kept completely secret until Dr. Nnannah resumed at the IMF in Washington. Up till now, no official announcement has been made about the appointment, though Dr. Nnannah resumed at the IMF since January,” a source close to the Ministry of Finance headquarters, who doesn’t want to be named, said on Wednesday in Abuja.

The source, who criticized the nomination and appointment processes as lacking in transparency, said other ministries responsible for sending Nigerians to several United Nations and multilateral organizations have always followed due process, with clear succession plan.

He accused the Minister of promoting a hidden ethnic agenda to assist in building a strong CV for Mr. Nnannah to position him as a credible candidate to succeed CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, when his tenure comes to an end.

----------Bassey Udo, Premium Times Nigeria, April 18, 2013
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