by Isi Esene
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said the government is determined to go after corrupt public officials. He said no corrupt governor or fuel subsidy thief will be spared in the onslaught against corruption assuring that those found wanting will be prosecuted.
Jonathan said this in Abuja yesterday at the launch of a book titled: ‘Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria,‘ written by the minister of Finance and coordinating minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The president was represented by the vice-president, Namadi Sambo.
“We are going after governors who commit various economic crimes and corrupt practices with impunity. As you may be aware, government is taking every legal measure to ensure that those who defrauded the government in the petroleum subsidy scheme are made to pay back the stolen funds. They will also be severely punished.”
He said he is aware of the menace of corruption and unemployment in the country assuring the public that his government is doing all it can to arrest the problem.
The President said, “Reforms perform better in an atmosphere of democracy and freedom and we are continuing to work to ensure that sound democratic principles are held in the country.
“The challenges of creating jobs and fighting corruption need urgent attention and I am glad to reiterate that these concerns are already being tackled in the current transformation agenda of this administration.”
While speaking about the author of the book, Iweala, the president said, “Okonjo-Iweala is indeed one of our shining lights and I will like to congratulate her for finding the time, in spite of her busy schedule, to document her experience in this book.
“The central message of this book is the hope that Nigeria can be reformed and grow to become one of the most dynamic economies of the world.
“In the past, there was a lot of perception about Nigeria as many people claimed that the political and economic future of this country can never be reformed and I commend this book for documenting some of the important reforms which have been carried in Nigeria since our recent democratic transition.”
Emeka Anyaoku, the former secretary-general of the Commonwealth, who was the chairman of the occasion, pointed out the need for the restructuring of the architecture of government.
According to the diplomat: “The country’s chances of realising its rightfully desired development objectives would be greatly enhanced if the country adopts a major restructuring of its present governance architecture.
“I do not believe for example that we can succeed in reducing significantly the level of expenditure on recurrent expenditure, which at the moment is averaging 74 per cent, which I gather that the budget for the next year hopes to reduce to something like 68 per cent.
“When you look around the world, and, particularly, around developing countries that started the same stage as we did, you will find that their expenditure on recurrent heads have been far less than what we have been spending.
“Because what we have been spending on recurrent budget has left us and continues to leave us with too little for capital development which we need.’’
Okonjo-Iweala said that the book was not a biography but that of hope for the Nigeria, especially the youth.
The finance minister reportedly said, “This is a book of hope and to tell the young people that they do not need to listen to all the bad things being said about Nigeria. There is hope that Nigeria can be reformed and there is no need to have a sense of hopelessness in our country.’’
Paul Collier who reviewed the book said the book will serve to help the country learn from the mistakes of the past so as to initiate corrective measures to tackle it now and in the future.
According to the professor of economics at the Oxford University in London, “A combination of sound rules and critical understanding is what is needed to transform the economy and Nigeria needs to learn from its failures to rebuild its future.
“Oil revenue which Nigeria depends on is very volatile thus making government revenue to fluctuate. What Nigeria needs is to begin to smoothen its oil revenue in a consistent manner.”
The reviewer concluded by advising the government to carry out what he called ethical, pragmatic and practical reforms in various sectors of the economy.