Earlier this year, it was announced that Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is the richest with sustained growth in its GDP. But many argue that, poverty is still on the rise and the “richness” is not for the everyday Nigerian.
On a new edition of BBC’s Business Daily, Ed Butler asks a few Nigerians about the current state of the nation, as well as speaks to the Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on corruption, President Jonathan, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and charges dropped against Abacha’s son.
The audio interview is available on the website, but the BN team has transcribed the interview with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Read it below.
Ed Butler: How much insecurity in the country is damaging Nigeria’s economy
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “Well there is some impact in the economy particulary because of the fall of agriculture production in the north eastern states, the emergency states I should say of Borno,Yobe, and too a little bit of extent Adamawa.
So there is some of that. And we have taken account of that by discounting GDP growth by half a percentage point, just as we did last year. We think that would be the impact.
But we are still expecting the economy to grow at about 6.75% this year.
EB: A very handsome growth rate.
NOI: Yes others are forecasting a little bit higher. The IMF is forecasting around 7.2%
EB: The concern of corruption. The former Central Bank Governor was of course, sacked earlier this year around allegations that corruption remains, particulary in the oil sector .To what extent have his allegations been followed up and investigated?
NOI: “First of all the former Central Bank Governor was not sacked. He was suspended and remained in office till his terms was up. To make sure that Nigerians really know what is happening, our concern is Nigerians, as well as people outside.
The President has authorized an independent audit of all the allegations and of what is going on behind that.
EB: Conducted by who?
NOI: Prize Water House. So there is complete follow-up, complete independence
EB: But the allegations was that money had gone into party purpose to help re-election of the President.
NOI: “Absolutely not. The former Central Bank Governor, I think if you were here, never made those allegations. He never said it went into party coffers.”
EB: Well I saw them in print.
NOI: “I don’t know where they came in print. I never heard him say that and he was my former colleague. And he used the word unaccounted for. He didn’t use the word stole or missing, he said unaccounted for and I think if, you can talk to him, he is the Emir of Kano and ask him exactly what he said.
I think from what he said, people have made stories, you know, and stretched the point. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that the Nigerian government is a responsible one, and is following up and we have ordered an independent audit.
The President has ordered it. So let us give them a chance to tell us what it is that is really happening, and I’m Minister of Finance, my job is to get as much money into the coffers. So whatever amount it is, it is not acceptable and that money should come back to treasury.”
EB: There has been allegations separately, about corruption, the son of the former President Abacha not being investigated for corruption, this is more recently, is this President (Jonathan) serious about the general prosecution of those..
NOI: “I think also that some of the stories around Nigeria are wrong. Plain wrong.
And this is not acceptable. The son Mohammed Sani-Abacha, I know I am intimately involved in that business of trying to get our monies from countries like Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, where these monies lie. And what happened was, we’ve been trying to get these monies back for 16 years.
And what happened, was that just as we were on the verge of getting back this $227million from Liechtenstein, the Abacha companies sued at the European Court of Human Rights and said that their rights had been violated and that will drag this on for another 3 or 4 years.”
EB: Is that why you dropped charges against him..
NOI: No, hold on. The Attorney General sued them in Nigeria, took them to court, because this was a ploy to delay returning this money. And when he sued them in Nigeria, they agreed to drop their charges at the European court, in return for dropping these, and I think that that was an appropriate thing.
Now the money is coming back, they’ve returned the money to us on 25th of June, and we can use it for future generation, we will save part of it in the future generations fund, and the rest to execute projects and the World Bank will help us monitor the use.
Execute projects useful to Nigerians. So this idea that, you know, that is not being active on corruption and you’re trying to drop charges, No.
You have to understand the real politic of doing these things. And that’s exactly what happened. And I think that most Nigerians would support that we get our money back. We don’t want Liechtenstein to keep this money another 5, 6, 7 years, when it could be doing good in Nigeria.”
BBC revealed that they tried to reach Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi on his views about this, but he was not available for comments.