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Reforming the unreformable: The unfinished business




FEW years ago, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wrote a book by this same title. I had the good fortune of reading this book few days ago. What resulted from my reading this book was a light bulb moment which I will now attempt to document with the hope that people like me, who want nothing more than to see this nation set on the right path, will get some clarity on certain matters currently filling our consciousness as a result of the news hitting our airwaves and digital space.

Contrary to what we have been told and the accusations that have been hurled at the finance minister in the last year or so, I have found that from as far back as 2003, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has been calling for reforms of parastatals, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other government-owned entities.

One of the things she quickly observed when she became finance minister under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration was that entities like Customs, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and a few others were structured by the military to be opaque and to enable deliberate siphoning of funds.

And these nefarious activities had gone on for so long that she knew fighting that level of corruption would be an uphill task, but she did not relent nor has she given up even till now.

It is amazing – and even offensive – that it took a major scandal such as the allegedly missing of $20 billion from the coffers of NNPC as well as the Pwc audit report to open the eyes of many to the same issue that Madam Iweala has been singing about for years.

Of course, NNPC is in dire need of reforms, but let us not be so distracted by all the hype and buzz this news is creating and lead ourselves in the erroneous belief that it is NNPC alone that must be dealt the firm hand of reformation.

These same people who now clamour for its reform should also speak on the reform of Customs, since it is a huge money generator for government. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala herself mentions Customs reforms in her book, calling it an outright failure.

Like many other government-owned entities, when the reform was broached, it was immediately met with a lot of resistance and opposition because the powerful political elite controlling that and other organisations fought hard to crush her efforts.

The honourable minister admits that the structural reforms carried out at that time required time; and with the administration winding down its activities, it left behind some unfinished businesses, while some other reforms suffered major setbacks.

One major cause of setbacks, apart from lack of continuity, was the ability of the political elite to influence decision-making, to frustrate all efforts made and to block any hope of achieving success.

It is clear that these people, who did not want their lucrative means of enrichment blocked, would stop at nothing to ensure the reforms met with little or no success at all. Powerful Northern interests would besiege the Presidency to halt any reforms that would affect their pockets and bank accounts.

This happened during Obasanjo’s government and happened under Goodluck Jonathan also. In our bid to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of our national resources through necessary reforms, let us not stop with NNPC and Customs alone.

There is a call for a complete overhaul of every sector, every ministry, and every parastatal. This is the time for a wholesome reformation of the nation.

Call Dr. Okonjo-Iweala a prophet, and her book a prophecy of sorts. She has foretold too accurately that reformation is not only important; it is the foundation upon which we must build a new Nigeria.

The president-elect would do well to know that if there is any hope of fulfilling his promises to the Nigerian people, then he must use Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s book as a roadmap.

But should we stop at parastatals, MDAs, ministries and other government-controlled organisations? I do not think so.

The minds of the people too need a major overhaul; the scales in our mental eyes need to fall off so that we can truly see the issues pervading this nation as they really are. •Johnson writes from Garki, Abuja

  • Larry

    I have not read this book, but I will agree with you summary of the key areas of reforms as mentioned by the Honorable minister. Yes the minister has made mention of this worrisome issues. But the fact that she has not done more than just mentioning in her book I think fall short of what is expected of someone of her person. I do know that it may be very difficult to say or take certain action(s), but I think it is in doing so that you know a true leader. Questions. If the Honorable Minister knows this much, by virtue of her office and the power she holds. I think coming out to expose some of these people publicly would have help more. Secondly, I think remaining in the system and not sounding alarm, even if she then loss her job would have served Nigeria better.
    And again the Honorable Minister has always maintain that all is okay with the economy. But it doesn’t look as if all is well with the state of the economic; where public employees salaries are not paid at the right time, the oil crisis that is almost grounding the entire system, and the unemployment rate among the youth–not to mention the erratic power supply that is sending many businesses packing, and worker loosing their job. What are we doing here? Rather than move up, Nigeria economic is on a down slope. How big and strong are these few individuals that they cannot be touched or challenged. Let Nigerians know them and their names, and then watch what happen.

  • Proud Yoruba

    Yeah, yeah, minister wrote a book! Why did she not use it as a roadmap during her tenure? Why advise Buhari to use it? Please, this woman is a theoretical economist, let her go and teach at Nsukka university!

  • Rufai

    Please we don’t need any economic theories from failed professionals like okonjo-iweala

  • emmanuel kalu

    the whole of nigeria needs to be reformed from head to toe. the out going president had the chance to leave a lasting impact on nigeria with a little reform. he could have used the suffering of the people to completely break the back of the fuel marketers that are looting the country. it was a fair easy thing to do and it would have being necessary. at a time nigerian’t were paying 140-200 naira pert liter for fuel and waiting in huge long lines. they wouldnt have minded if price went up and there was fuel. the presidetn could have used an economical state of emergency to import a enough fuel for 3 month thru the federal govt, use the army to distribute the fuel and then use NNPC retailer to sell the fuel to the people at cost. once this was done, it would break the hostage taking by the markerter , who the people have to pay for their interest rate, forex difference and allow for some kind of profit. then the incoming president would use the time bought by importing 3 months of fuel to start the process of upgrading our refineries and installing new ones.

    • tit

      go and read nursery rhymns.

      • emmanuel kalu

        I don’t waste time with people to afraid and ignorant to put there name next to their words.