Former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has revealed that her mother was abducted – simply because she urged former President, Goodluck Jonathan, to remove fuel subsidy.
Okonjo-Iweala, while speaking in an interview with Le Monde, said the abductors demanded that she resigns on national television – as one of the conditions for releasing her 83-year-old mother.
She said although her father asked her to resign, former President Jonathan advised her against stepping down during the period which she described as the ‘worst moment of my life’.
“On my first experience as minister, I wrote a book, Reforming the unreformable (ed. The MIT Press, 2012). For the second, it was really difficult. Nigeria subsidizes fuel. About $ 6.7 billion that it costs, we found that 1.5 billion was fraudulent.”
“One importer claimed that his boat was waging its oil while at the other end of the world, according to maritime classification society Lloyd’s Register Marine.”
“I told the president that we would stop paying. What happened? They kidnapped my mother, 83 years. During the first three days, their only demand was my resignation. I was supposed to go on television and announce my resignation.”
“This was one of the worst moments of my life. Can you imagine what happens in your head if you have to be responsible for the death of your mother?
“I will not go into details, but you must understand that in a country like this… in the fight against corruption, we must be prepared to pay a personal price. My father asked me not to resign. The president asked me not to resign. At the end, everyone began looking for her, and the kidnappers released [her].”
Furthermore, Okonjo-Iweala chastised state governors, whom she said didn’t allow Jonathan to ‘put money aside’.
“Some economists are very concerned for Nigeria, which could greatly suffer from the fall in oil prices. Others say the contrary, that its economy is strong enough to turn the corner.”
“Both are right. But one thing saddens me. When I was finance minister the first time, the volatility of oil prices, and therefore state resources, cost at least three points of growth in the country.”
“We then established a stabilization mechanism and opened an account for the oil surplus, which posted up to $22 billion. In 2008, when prices fell from 148 to $ 38 a barrel, no one has heard of Nigeria because the country was able to tap into this fund. And that, I am very proud [of].”
“When I returned to the department in 2011, there remained only $4 billion on this account while the price of oil was very high! I tried again to put money aside. The president agreed, but the governors did not accept.”
“I suffered a lot of attacks from them and now that the country would really need this account, these same people accuse me of not having saved! If Nigeria had been more careful, we would not be here today. It hurts me. We have the mechanism, we had the experience, but we were prevented to act.”