Opinion: Dear Governors, Where Is Our Money?

By Owolabi Adekunle

With May 29, 2015 around the corner, many critics and self-appointed analysts of the Goodluck Jonathan administration have become more vociferous than ever. Ordinarily, this should not come as a surprise. But when criticisms begin to take on elements of personal vendetta, then someone has to stand up for the truth and set the record straight. One major theme that runs through the various anti-Jonathan arguments has to do with the management of the economy. And expectedly, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been the prime target of mudslingers.

As the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Okonjo-Iweala has always been in the spotlight. The personal integrity and professional acumen with which she has managed the Nigerian economy in these trying times is nothing short of commendable. Although most Nigerians have known this for a long time, her ingenuity was again applauded at the recently concluded World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meeting in the United States.
Commending Nigeria’s strategic response to the decline in oil revenue, the IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, passed a vote of confidence on the efficient management of the oil price crisis by the outgoing administration. One major step in this regard was the implementation of measures like surcharges on luxury items, reduction in overseas trainings by government officials, voluntary cut in National Assembly budget, salaries of President Goodluck Jonathan and other top government functionaries as well as State House budget.

Furthermore, the Minister of Finance has relentlessly pointed out the need for the country to save more. Picking up from where she left off in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala continued to stress the importance of saving for the rainy day. But today, Nigeria cannot boast the kind of savings it had in 2008 when $22billion in the Excess Crude Account shielded the country from the global economic recession.

Against the commonsense position of Dr Okonjo-Iweala, the state governors favoured a culture of sharing over the discipline of saving. Ironically, these same governors are the first to shift the blame on the Minister of Finance when their revenue could no longer sustain their extravagant practices or even fulfil basic responsibilities such as paying salaries. The governors should be honourable enough to admit the short-sightedness with which they arm-twisted the Federal government to drain the reserves and the carelessness with which they blew the proceeds on electioneering.

The attempt by some sections of the political class to hoodwink the public into believing that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala drained our reserves is an ill-contrived plan that cannot see the light of day. By now, the detractors should know that no amount of attacks against this woman of impeccable character can tarnish her image. The governors would do well to stop hiding behind a finger. They must take responsibility for their rapacious proclivities which they have continually catered to at the expense of the people they are voted to serve.

Owolabi Adekunle is a financial analyst.

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