Abigail Anaba profiles Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Why NOI deserves our praise (Y!/YNaija.com Person of the Year 2013 Nominee)

by Abigail Anaba

ngozi-okonjo-iweala

Even NOI’s ‘enemies’ will acknowledge that she is an uncommonly brilliant and intelligent woman whose economic weight cannot be taken for granted. She definitely understands the world’s economic terrain, having at a point in her career contested to be president of the world bank; she has brought her deep understanding to play in the Nigerian economic atmosphere. In 2013, Forbes listed her as the 83rd most powerful woman in the world.

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala definitely needs no introduction. First time I heard about her was when she became part of the Obasanjo Government. She played a vital role in the cancellation of 60% of Nigeria’s external debt owed to the Paris club. It was worth $18billion.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was celebrated in that regime, but not for long. She resigned from that government after her portfolio was changed from finance to foreign affairs in a cabinet reshuffle. But she would be back in 2011 as Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance.

Most people will agree that Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is one of the bright spots in the Jonathan administration – although as she goes about her economic reforms she is bound to step on some very big toes.

In fact, she started off by stepping on some mass toes. I remember her arguing in favour of fuel subsidy removal. Of course, given the ‘wetin dey for us’ mentality of most Nigerians, this was a very unpopular move. The resultant mass protests should be part of our history lessons. People called for her resignation but she remained steadfast in her belief that this is what Nigeria needs. Though she partly lost that war, the revelations of fuel subsidy.scam has proved that one of the best ways to kill a snake is to cut off its head. Today, many are saying that fuel subsidy has to go in it’s entirety.

NOI, as she is popularly called, made history again on May 26, 2011 as the president signed into law a bill that created the sovereign wealth fund with a seed capital of $1billion. The objective of the SWF is basic: make it legal to save for the future. Nigeria’s economic future cannot be left to ‘good intentions’ of our leaders. Those good intentions has not been visible in all of Nigeria’s existence including the 70s oil boom. None of Nigeria’s managers saw the need to save for the future. NOI’s stewardship brought an end to that and in September 2013, the first investment of $200million dollars was made into US bonds.

Statistics show, that under NOI, Nigeria now holds 18% of foreign investments into Africa and 60% into the West African sub region. There have been deliberate policies to attract foreign investment and this has led to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Investments naming Nigeria as the number one investment destination in Africa for two years running and the country that gets the 4th highest return on investments in the world. Nigeria has also recorded a steady economic growth rate of 7% under NOI’s stewardship.

Even NOI’s ‘enemies’ will acknowledge that she is an uncommonly brilliant and intelligent woman whose economic weight cannot be taken for granted. She definitely understands the world’s economic terrain, having at a point in her career contested to be president of the world bank; she has brought her deep understanding to play in the Nigerian economic atmosphere. In 2013, Forbes listed her as the 83rd most powerful woman in the world.

Although, the Jonathan administration has been accused of corruption, none has been attributed to this great woman who remains unrelenting in her resolve to steer the Nigerian economic ship to calmer waters. How many times has pressure been put on her to resign? But, she has continued to search for corruption at the source instead of carrying out cosmetic reforms.

Surely, we can only thank NOI for putting things like the Nigerian budget out there for public perusal, appraisal and critiquing. If this is not transparency, I wonder what is. With this move, we the citizens can actually, through our representatives, call to question government spending and suggests cuts.

Yet, like Oliver Twist, we ask more of this woman. We ask that the economic growth we keep hearing of translates into food on the table of the man on the street. We ask that the economic growth we keep hearing of creates more jobs for the youths that make up over 70% of Nigeria’s population. We ask that NOI works at reducing our recurrent expenditure which has sadly grown to 76% in the 2014 budget. We ask that NOI remains untainted by corruption and continue to be an example of the fact that you may be in government but you really don’t have to be like the people around you.

We know it may be spreading NOI thin, but we ask that as the Coordinating Minister of Economy, she goes through policies of her fellow ministers that may have a negative impact on the overall good of the country especially policies that have to do with bans, waivers and import duty.

We ask that she acts in wisdom.

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Abigail Anaba is a wife, mother, writer, teacher. She studied Mass Communications at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism. She blogs at www.anabagail.wordpress.com and tweets @anabagail

One comment

  1. Hw I wish she never brought her so called deep understanding. Cause that understanding is taking us is a perfection mission self destruction

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