Former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala reveals how the Jonathan administration placated lawmakers with N17billion before the 2015 budget could be passed.
Okonjo-Iweala revealed this in her new book titled: ‘Fighting corruption is dangerous, the story behind the headlines’.
Okonjo-Iweala was Jonathan’s finance minister from August 17, 2011 to May 29, 2015.
According to the former minister, federal lawmakers refused to make the necessary sacrifices at a time of dwindling oil prices.
“By the time we presented the budget on December 16, 2014, oil prices had fallen further to $58 per barrel. We were prepared and we knew we had to trigger the additional expenditure and revenue measures in 2015 to make the budget work. This would be tough, given that we had entered an election year”, Okonjo-Iweala wrote.
The National Assembly is due an annual N150billion from the nation’s budget as a single line item.
Okonjo-Iweala says when it was proposed that lawmakers give up some of their benefits, the legislators baulked because elections were fast approaching and money was needed for campaigns.
“Indeed, legislators initially refused to accept any cuts to their regular N150billion budget, despite dwindling revenues. But eventually, they agreed to a 13 percent cut against a backdrop of ministers accepting a voluntary 50 percent cut to their basic salaries.
“In a tough session with the National Assembly’s adhoc committee on the budget (made up of chairs of the Finance Committee and Appropriation Committee of both chambers and other leaders of the National Assembly), an additional N20billion was re-introduced as election expenses for National Assembly members.
“We insisted the amount be dropped because it nullified the 13 percent cut made to their statutory budget, but managed to reduce the N20billion figure by only N3billion to N17billion. This became the price to pay to have the 2015 budget passed”, Okonjo-Iweala wrote.
Nigeria frittered its oil wealth in Okonjo-Iweala’s second coming under Jonathan.
The former minister blames powerful State governors for her country’s inability to save; at a time when the price of oil in the global market hovered above the $100 mark.
Nigeria slipped into a recession a year after Okonjo-Iweala and Jonathan involuntarily left their jobs, thanks in large part to depleted reserves and plunging price of crude oil in the international market.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala first served as Minister of Finance under Obasanjo from July 15, 2003 to June 21, 2006.
She also had a brief spell as Foreign Affairs Minister under Obasanjo from June 21, 2006 to August 30, 2006.
She is credited with achieving debt forgiveness for Nigeria under Obasanjo.