Thursday, May 28, 2015

Oshiomhole attacks Okonjo-Iweala, says Minister destroyed Nigerian economy

The Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has lambasted outgoing finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, over her claims that states received N2.92 trillion excess crude money between 2011 and 2014 with little to show, the latest in a series of tit-for-tat between governors and the minister over allegations of mismanagement of oil revenues.

Mr. Oshiomhole accused the minister of gross mismanagement of the Nigerian economy, saying she was merely feeding Nigerians with half-truths in the last four years.

Mr. Oshiomhole said the minister has herself to blame as she ran the Excess Crude Account as a “one-man show”.

The governor said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s recent outcry against oil marketers over falsification of fuel subsidy claims may have been out of in fear about the incoming President, Muhammadu Buhari.

“It is quite intriguing that with barely few days left in office, she has suddenly woken up from her slumber to realize that oil marketers have all along been falsifying subsidy claims and defrauding the nation of billions of naira and dollars,” the governor said.

He said the person best placed to explain the state of the country’s economy at the moment was Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala.

As a member of the National Economic Council, Mr. Oshiomhole said he had spoken out publicly at different times about the way the economy was managed by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala.

He said the minister’s silence over the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) audit on the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation is “deafening”.

The audit revealed “massive abuse of public trust and stealing of our common patrimony in high places under her watch and the government she serves”, Mr. Oshiomhole said.

Criticising what he called “latter day policy activism” by the minister, Mr. Oshiomhole said apart from the subsidy regime, the minister must also come clean on some other critical issues that demand accountability from her.

“The question to ask is: how come that it is now, for the first time, that we are hearing from the Minister of Finance about fraudulent claims by the oil marketers amounting to billions of Naira? At what point did the Minister of Finance and CME realize that these fraudulent and similar claims are going on? When did it start? Is it just recently or it has been going on all along? These questions are pertinent because we know that if the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) were doing its work diligently, all claims by oil marketers would be vetted on a daily basis before their payments are processed by the Ministry of Finance. Hence, there should be no dispute about the amount due to oil marketers at any point in time.

“What the foregoing, therefore, suggests is that all along, PPPRA, the Ministry of Finance and the oil marketers have been involved in an unholy alliance, in the mismanagement of the fuel subsidy regime and in the process defrauding the nation of its revenues,” the governor said.

Mr. Oshiomhole said the Minister cannot stop at simply shedding “crocodile tears” about fraudulent claims by oil marketers, saying she should ensure full disclosure by giving the full details of subsidy payments to oil marketers in the last four years, including the parameters used to calculate the subsidies.

“The recent nationwide fuel and energy crisis, adjudged the worst in the economic history of Nigeria, is merely a reflection of the gross mismanagement of the economy which characterized Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s tenure since 2011,” he said.

Mr. Oshiomhole said state governments, who are joint owners of the Excess Crude Account, were not properly briefed on the status of the account, and challenged the minister to shed more light on the spending from the account.

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