Aregbesola, Oshiomhole led govs’ assault against me – Okonjo-Iweala




By Abdulrahman A. Abdulrauf Abuja A former Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has revealed that the duo of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state, and his Edo counterpart, Comrade Adams Oshiohomole, led the governors’ assault against her over her stance on sharing of oil revenues.
She also said both Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Chibuke Amaechi, and his Lagos state counterpart, Babatunde Raji Fashola, were also against the federal government’s plan to move funds in the Excess Crude Account to the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the rainy day.
But the former minister clarified that their Anambra counterpart, Peter Obi, differed from his colleagues’ position.
“My insistence on savings was backed by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo.
The Vice President was chair of the National Economic Council, the monthly forum designed to bring the federal and state governments together to discuss national economic policy.
“The issue of savings, and the rationale for it, modalities for doing so were often debated at the National Economic Council.
The strong support of the President and the Vice President enabled us to engage the governors in 2012 and 2013 and to rebuild the country’s fiscal buffers.
As a result, the country had saved about $9 billion in the Excess Crude Account by the end of 2013,” the former minister explained.
The fresh insight was provided in her new book titled: Fighting Corruption is dangerous – The story behind the headlines.
Recounting her experience in the various encounters she had with the governors at the NEC meetings, Okonjo-Iweala said: “But by the beginning of 2014, the governors began to argue constantly at the National Economic Council that there was no need to save money for ‘these rainy day funds’ –as I had termed them-because it was already raining, the roof was caving in, and money should be spent to take care of the multiple needs of their states.” The former minister also recalled how an ex-deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr.Tunde Lemo, captured the governors’ ‘antics’ at ensuring the resources were depleted.
Quoting Lemo, the former World Bank top staff, wrote: “During some of the National Economic Council sessions, when I was present, the issue of saving funds in the ECA came up, but most of the governors at the time firmly opposed the idea.
They opposed it so that more money could be available to fund many bogus budgets at the state level, often arguing that there was no need to save for the rainy day, since as some of them said , the day was already rainy.
They insisted that the funds be shared among the states.
Unfortunately, it greatly depleted the funds the federal government tried to save.” Continuing, she recalled: “The chief opponent of these arguments to deposit savings in the Sovereign Wealth Fund or the Excess Crude Account was Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers state, chair of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum(NGF).
“He was strongly supported by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state who was very vocal in voicing his disapproval and his suspicions of the federal government’s management of the Excess Crude Account; Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos state, a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who objected on constitutional grounds; and Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state, later chair of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum.
“Others, such as Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state, argued for savings but they were not supported.
Their voices were drowned out, and national Economic Council (NEC) sessions became unpleasant when this topic arose.” She added: “I recalled in one session early in 2014 where I was quizzed, harangued, and bullied by some governors, and then verbally assaulted by Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state.
The Vice President had to intervene to tell Governor Aregbesola that people might carry on aggressively in his state capital, but that such behaviour would not be tolerated in the meeting or in Abuja.
“The Vice President’s firm stance and his support ended the abuse.
Although some of Governor Aregbesola’s fellow governors apologised to me after the meeting, I felt very uncomfortable after the verbal attacks and decided to limit my attendance at National Economic Council meetings as much as possible and to keep my distance from the hostile governors.
“Some of these same governors, particularly Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, spear-headed attacks against me after I left government in 2015 trying to tarnish my name with false accusation of corruption.” “The pressure from the governors to share the accumulated savings was overwhelming.
Over the months, money that should have been safeguarded to secure the country against a fall in oil prices was shared with the states.
By the end of 2014, Excess Crude Account had been spent down to $2.3 billion.
There was pressure to share even that as 2015 elections drew closer.
But we held the line, leaving some resources in the coffers for the new government.
“The pressure to share savings from the Excess Crude Account was compounded by fiscal losses due to the theft of crude oil and vandalism of pipeline,” the book further revealed.

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