‘Oshiomhole’s allegation against Okonjo-Iweala baseless, illogical’
THE allegation of “gross mismanagement of the economy,” made on Wednesday against the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State “is full of gaping holes, both in facts and logic,” the ministry has said.
Noting that the “attack” only followed the ministry’s publication of the details of disbursements to the federal and state governments from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) over the past four years, the Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Paul Nwabuikwu, said that governors who cannot pay salaries have no excuse.
According to him, “the release of the ECA details has also demonstrated very clearly that there is no substance in the wild allegations that any money is missing from the account or that finances of the country under Okonjo-Iweala’s watch have not been well managed.”
In a statement yesterday in response to the governor’ allegations, Nwabuikwu said: “Like previous baseless allegations by some governors, the motive behind Oshiomhole’s attack is clear: to deflect public attention from the manner in which they have run the finances of their states and make Okonjo-Iweala the scapegoat.”
He wondered how Oshiomhole could claim that governors were not properly briefed on the status of ECA when their commissioners for finance attend all the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings, “where decisions are taken and communicated to the nation.”
He recalled that the practice of publishing details of allocations from the Federation Account to all the three tiers of government started under Okonjo-Iweala’s tenure in the ministry, which regularly furnishes Nigerians with information on the country’s finances.
Oshiomhole’s insistence that Okonjo-Iweala “must disclose to the nation the full details of subsidy payments to oil marketers in the last four years” is therefore astonishing given that every payment to the marketers has been published in the media and widely disseminated through all news channels,” the statement added.
Describing as ridiculous and unmeritorious Oshiomhole’s “allegation that Okonjo-Iweala has not been transparent, Nwabuikwu reminded him that “apart from the monthly publication of allocations to federal, state and local councils, the ministry also publishes SURE-P receipts and distribution to different tiers, details of payments to oil marketers and other information.”
Wondering if the governor has demonstrated the same level of openness in his management of Edo State, he challenged him to also go public with all the information on what he has received from various sources and their uses.
The ministry condemned Oshiomhole’s claim that the minister has “just woken up from her slumber to realise that oil marketers have been all along falsifying subsidy claims and defrauding the nation of billions of naira,” saying that the statement underscored the extent he would “go in his desperation to tar Okonjo-Iweala.
“When she returned as Finance Minister in 2011, the outstanding fuel subsidy bill was about N1.3 trillion.
It was the work done on subsidy fraud by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee, which the minister set up, and later elevated into a presidential panel, that determined that over N300 billion of the amount was fraudulent.
“This eventually led to the prosecution of some persons for subsidy fraud and reduction of the annual subsidy budget to N791 billion, saving the country over N1 trillion in the process.
Such baseless posturing only diminishes the credibility of Oshiomhole in the minds of objective Nigerians.
“For the record, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has no apologies for insisting that a claim of N159 billion for forex differentials by the marketers out of a total bill of N200 billion should go through an additional verification process.
“When 80 per cent of a subsidy claim is made up of forex differentials and not the value of the amount of fuel supplied, the right and proper thing to do is to take extra steps to ensure that the country is not being cheated.”
“Oshiomhole’s allegation that the minister is involved in ‘an unholy alliance’ with government agencies and the marketers is therefore manifestly untrue and totally irresponsible.
How can a minister against whom the oil marketers have conducted a very public campaign of calumny be in league with them? “The most laughable part of Oshiomhole’s article is the claim that Okonjo-Iweala has been speaking out lately because of the ‘fear of Buhari.’
Nigerians know this is ridiculous. If there is any minister whose voice has been strong on the right issues over the past four years, it is Okonjo-Iweala.”