Opinion: The Many Lies and Twisted Arguments Of Sanusi Abubakar

Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-Iweala

By John T Kyaave

Columnists like Sanusi Abubakar, who should ordinarily pass for ‘intellectuals’ appear to have completely lost it – they can no longer tell the difference between what is clearly white and what is so very clearly black. He belongs to a pitiable clique of social analysts who have succeeded in poisoning the media space. To this group, facts are only good when they are bent and twisted in a way and manner that best suits their prejudice. Obviously, Sanusi Abubakar does not have what it takes to be ranked among respected and credible commentators, who have remained strong on principles and are passionately committed to the promotion of truth.

In his latest piece, sensationally but unintelligently titled ‘Ngozi’s economic model destroyed PDP; GMB needs a different one’ which appeared in the Backpage of Daily Trust on Tuesday, 5th May 2015, Sanusi Abubakar deliberately ignored publicly known facts, twisted logic and forcefully tried to bring the name of Dr. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to disrepute by tying her to controversial issues.

I do not expect Sanusi Abubakar to accept that Okonjo-Iweala has done a good job of managing the Nigerian economy. He and his likes have long shut their ears and closed their eyes to anything good that has the tag Okonjo-Iweala on it. But facts are facts and they cannot be hidden. Under her watch, we now know that we have the largest economy in Africa that despite the steep fall in oil prices is still projected to grow at an enviable 4.8% and is amongst the top seven most promising economies in the world; under her watch the Nigerian economy has attained its highest level of economic diversification with the non-oil sectors like Agriculture, Manufacturing, Services driving growth; under her effective coordination, the Nigerian economy has not caved in, food prices are relatively stable, inflation is still single digit, salaries are being paid promptly after six months of suffering a 50% cash crunch from the fall of oil prices.

This economic model which Sanusi Abubakar questions has also seen the birth of strong government backed but private sector led institutions like the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) which is set to ignite the strong growth of small businesses with strong financial backing from the World Bank, Development Bank of Germany and France and the African Development Bank. This same model has also seen the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company which is already reforming the mortgage market and providing more houses to ordinary Nigerians.

These are just very few of the several economic legacies of Okonjo-Iweala. The world and objective Nigerians have all hailed these as representing good strategies for fixing unemployment and poverty in Nigeria. Even though Sanusi Abubakar supposedly anchored his piece on the alleged “economic model” of Okonjo-Iweala (whatever that means), his prejudice was quite evident in his narrative. Not long into the write up, he went completely off his titled tangent and dedicated over 90% of it to his main objective: – to malign Okonjo-Iweala by forcefully linking her to controversial issues even when it is very evident that she had absolutely nothing to do with such issues. By this he showed himself as a poisonous writer with no regard for facts who is on a mission to destroy with falsehood.

Unlike Sanusi Abubakar who jumps off without a care about his name and runs purely on malicious prejudice, Okonjo-Iweala is a thoroughbred professional who understands the importance of reputation. She has nothing to gain by being part of sleaze and has conducted herself in very stormy political waters with a lot of decency and decorum. It is for this singular reason, that with all the attacks consistently mounted against her, none of her sworn enemies have been able to hold onto to any substantial evidence to indict her. And they cannot find any. No money is more important to her than her name which she has struggled very hard to build. She understands the power of a good name, something that is clearly alien to our Sanusi.

The issues concerning the abuse of the fuel subsidy and import duty waivers predate Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as Minister. When she resumed as the Finance Minister in 2011, she was confronted with the shocking fact that over 1 trillion had already been paid for fuel subsidy with over a trillion still outstanding. As a professional economist, she studiously went to work and initiated moves that eventually led to the setting up of a presidential committee to investigate fraud in the subsidy regime. Today as a result of her efforts, the high level of manipulation and fraud that existed in the management of fuel subsidy has been substantially dealt with. It is thanks to her scrupulous vigilance that we have seen the steep reduction of the budgetary provision for fuel subsidy from 2.3trn to 971bn. Today, the fuel subsidy system is largely cleaned up and only verified and legitimate claims are honored by the Ministry of Finance. This is a fact that Sanusi is not ready to admit.

For somebody whose 73 year-old mother was kidnapped on account of her courageous attempts to cleanse the rot that pervaded the fuel subsidy scheme, it is simply sheer wickedness for Sanusi to make the odious imputation that she was part of the scam and benefitted from it. What he has succeeded in doing is to show himself as an extremely prejudiced, mischievous and deceitful commentator who is only out to tar her reputation. If she wanted to make money, she could have easily connived and the sum will still be in the region of 2 trillion. She blew it open and all she gets is insults from narrow-minded people like Sanusi and his ilk.

I have taken this much time to comment about Sanusi Abubakar because I am seriously upset by how he has transformed from an objective writer to one so subjective and so full of disdain for knowledge and facts. The Sanusi I used to know would know that the abuse of the import waivers had been raging before Okonjo-Iweala came on the scene. He will also not be ignorant of the fact that Okonjo-Iweala has within her time as Finance Minister undertaken a successful restructuring of the import duty waivers and substantially reduced the blatant abuses that characterized the scheme before her coming. He will also know that Okonjo-Iweala stopped the award of waivers to individuals who constituted the greatest points of abuse and has been using the waivers as an economic tool to spur growth of agriculture, power, manufacturing and other sectors. Incentives and concessions given to the Cement industry have contributed to the phenomenal increase in national cement production from less than 2 MN tons in 2002 to over 20 MN tons in 2013. As a result, from being a net importer, Nigeria has become a net exporter of cement. This was achieved in less than a decade thanks to the enabling environment fostered by government policies. The strategic deployment of waivers and concessions has also been critical in boosting gas to power projects and agro-allied industries. As a result, businesses opportunities have increased and jobs have been created. And all Sanusi can see is fraud? This columnist is really pathetic in his poorly concealed hatred for Okonjo-Iweala.

The House of Representatives has a right to conduct inquiries into any areas they deem fit. I am certain that the latest one on waivers will show that Okonjo-Iweala has done nothing other than use the import duty waivers to encourage the further growth of other key sectors of the economy as is the practice worldwide.

I am also not surprised that Sanusi tried to make heavy weather out of the falsehood that Okonjo-Iweala has ‘disowned’ PwC, the consultants that handled the audit of the NNPC accounts. This is utter nonsense. It is public knowledge that she recommended the audit of the NNPC Accounts in the wake of former CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s allegations over the unaccounted for $20 billion. But it was the Auditor-General who eventually appointed the consultants, PwC to carry out the exercise. Even though, she is the Minister of Finance, it is not her direct line of responsibility to appoint the consultants. This does not in any way suggest that she is disowning them. The repetition of this obvious lie, in spite of the clarification by the Minister’s office confirms that Sanusi has no interest in truth or fair comment.

By forcefully and wrongly linking Okonjo-Iweala’s name to problems that she spent her time courageously fighting at great risk to herself and family, Sanusi Abubakar ended up showing himself as a mischievous man desperate to tar her image in the course of executing a hatchet job for vested interests. It will not succeed, because Nigerians know better. Okonjo-Iweala has done well and history will be kind to her.

Kyaave is a policy analyst

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