The House of Representatives has said that the minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is deliberately avoiding providing answers to the 50 questions posed to her by its Committee on Finance to keep Nigerians in the dark about the true state of the economy.
In a press statement signed by the clerk of the Finance committee, Farouk Dawaki, which was made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, the lawmakers urged Nigerians to take keen interest in the attitude of the minister concerning the nation's economy if they do not want to wake up one day to a crashed economy like that of Greece which was shrouded in secrecy and deceit till the end.
The statement said that the statement credited to Okonjo-Iweala that the questions represented an examination "is an attempt to divert attention from the economy. Nigerians need to beware of an attempt to divert attention from the state of the economy presentation and 50 questions we demanded from the honourable minister.
"We call on well-meaning Nigerians to support this effort by the Committee on Finance so that we can know the true state of our economy in order for us not to end up like Greece whose genesis of economic problem was the concealment of the true state of her economy.
"The committee seizes this opportunity to remind Nigerians that it remains focused and committed to its legislative responsibilities as it awaits the response of the minister to the 50 questions".
The legislators said her statement that she would need time to respond to some of the questions raised in their enquiry rightly proves their point during the controversial meeting when they asked her to go and return at a later date with answers to the questions because she was not prepared for the answers they would need.
"Isn't it curious then that when she was not feeling well the minister was prepared to address 50 questions in a session that was to last just about two hours, and now that she is hale and hearty, she is saying she would need more time? Nigerians would have expected her, in her present re-invigorated state of health, to tell them she would tackle the questions in 30 minutes!
"For a minister who sneakily avoided the committee for 11 months, who relishes dropping the President's name at every opportunity, 50 questions are even to us rather moderate, if not lenient. In a committee of 31 members, each member would have asked no less than four questions, and that would have been over 100 questions, if she had been allowed to address the committee as she had insisted when she appeared.
"It is a good thing that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala sees the task before her as an examination. The minister is nonetheless reminded that exams have duration, and they are meant to be passed or flunked. However, we would not neglect to also remind her that there are consequences either way. There is reward for passing and reward for failure. One way or the other, we would decide how she performs".
Going further, the committee added that it is regrettable that while talking to reporters after the presentation of the report of the 15-year strategic partnership on debt management between UK and Nigeria, the minister accused critics of the huge domestic debt profile under her stewardship of lacking information. "Interestingly, that is why the committee invited her to share such information with Nigerians. It would also be an opportunity to let her know some of the things we know.
"The DFID whose collaboration with Nigeria she is so enthusiastic about has published a report on the 2014 Medium Term Expenditure Framework. We strongly recommend that the Honourable Minister enrich her knowledge with that report. We also call on the DFID to present the report to the general public for the good of this country. "Additionally, rather than all the speeches, why has the minister failed to heed our call for her to present an exit plan (timetable) for domestic borrowing three years after taking over as Minister of Finance?
"It is high time the minister realised that we do not need any other country to tell us that our economy is doing well, the least of which is Great Britain with its deep economic problems and huge domestic debt profile. Nigerians will positively feel the impact if their economy is really doing well as the minister claims", the statement noted.