17 January 2014

Nigeria: 50 Questions - Reps Accuse Okonjo-Iweala of Grandstanding


The House of Representatives yesterday acknowledged receiving from the minister of finance, Dr NgoziOkonjo-Iweala, answers to the 50 questions on the economy posed to her by the House Committee on Finance, but noted that rather than address the critical issues raised by the committee, she chose to play to the gallery.

Deputy chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Afam Victor Ogene (APGA, Anambra) said a preliminary look at her responses revealed that they did not touch on the key issues raised by the House; rather she tried to divert attention from the real indices that indicate growth of the economy.

Ogene said: "In this season of government by letter-writing,the House of Representatives would not allow itself to be entangled in a gutter brawl; rather it will remain focused on one of its core mandates of exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence, as guaranteed by Section 88 (2) b of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Indeed, whosoever is unable to take the heat in this regard is free to honourably leave the kitchen."

He further explained that no interpretation should be alluded to the questions other than an effort at ensuring accountability in governance.

"As a House, we have always insisted that we will not bow down to any kind of grandstanding aimed at derailing us from our set goals. The set goal is simply to hold government accountable to the governed and we will not shy away from doing that.

"But even from her response, you would see who clearly is playing to the gallery. If a committee of the House has requested you to provide information which, in most cases, ought to be handled with circumspection; the first thing you did, while the House is still on recess, is to publicize it. Then the Nigerian people should now know that they have a finance minister who is more interested in political drama than in the reality of addressing the Nigerian economy," he said.

On the 102-page response of the minister, the lawmaker said: "For instance, she talks about the fact that some of the issues raised by the committee are already in the public domain and have been extensively debated by the government, journalists, civil society organisations and the private sector. And the simple question to ask is: do you run government on the basis of debate on the pages of newspaper in the mass media. The answer is clearly no!"

Meanwhile, the Abdulmumini Jibrin-led House Committee on Finance, yesterday, commended the minister of Finance for responding to the 50 questions on the economy in 'reasonable time' while disclosing that it would soon organise a public hearing on the answers and summon the minister to appear when necessary.

A statement issued by the clerk of the committee, Mr. Farouk Mustapha, disclosed that the lawmakers would commence work immediately on the minister's response.

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