•President laments fraud in petroleum subsidy scheme
From ISAAC ANUMIHE, Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday hinted that his administration was ready to go after corrupt governors who commit various economic crimes with impunity. The President gave this indication in Abuja during the launch of a book: “Reforming the unreformable,” written by the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Jonathan, who spoke through Vice President Namadi Sambo, noted that his administration is taking legal measures against those who defrauded the government in the petroleum subsidy scheme, saying that they must be made to pay back the stolen money and also ensure that they are severely punished. “On the governors’ fronts, we are going after those who commit various economic crimes and corrupt practices with impunity.
As you may be aware, government is taking every legal measure to ensure that those who defraud the government in the petroleum subsidy scheme are made to pay back the stolen fund and also are severely punished.” He reiterated the administration’s commitment to diversifying the economy with emphasis in agro-business and value addition in the exploitation of other resources, all aimed at generating employment and creating wealth.
The President did not lose sight of the fact that a book as comprehensive as that will not be without controversy and is likely to affect some interests. “A book as comprehensive as this, will not be without controversy and will definitely touch some low nerves” he said.. According to him, the book gave insights on the challenges of creating jobs, fighting corruption and completing various structural reforms which, he said, are important things needing urgent attention.
“I am glad to reiterate that these concerns are already being tackled in the current Transformation Agenda of this administration. Let me assure you that my administration is not only committed to reform, we are indeed building on some of the reform measures initiated by my predecessors. Specifically, we are consolidating the micro-economic reforms introduced in recent years.
We are going further to focus on various sectoral reforms which will create jobs in our economy,” he assured. In her remarks, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala told Nigerians to depoliticize the $75 oil price benchmark in the 2013 budget, saying that her book is likely to throw up some controversial issues.
The minister said though she expects some controversy arising from the book, she was equal to the task “I am aware that the book will generate some controversies because of some chapters. Anywhere, I will not want to shy away from controversies otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. May be, there might be 500 or 600 people in this hall, some people will want to rewrite this book.
There are opinion-makers who will talk about the book, saying something it did not say. We have 600 witnesses here. When you twist the words of the book, there are 600 people who will send you e-mails through social media to stop you. “And you know that when you talk about corruption and you fight corruption as Nuhu Ribadu would say….. when you fight corruption, corruption fights back.
So, don’t expect to go away from here and not see all kinds of opinion pieces. They have already started. Some people trying to rewrite history because corruption is fighting back. But you know what, corruption will not win,” she insisted. Okonjo-Iweala noted that the objective of the book is anchored on two lessons which are to discourage Nigerians from the spirit of pessimism and to make them avoid the mistakes of the past.
“This is a country that is so able to change. It is able to transform. We have said it can be done. In this administration, we are still doing it. Don’t let people infuse a sense of hopelessness into you. Don’t let them feel you have to work away. I have a job to do here and it is doable. So, that is the message I want to share for our young people because I find so many people with the spirit of pessimism who think that Nigeria will not change and cannot go anywhere. It is not true.
Nigeria can, will, and needs changes. “The second reason is lesson. I feel that in Nigeria, we do not learn lessons of the past. We repeat the same mistakes over and over again and we expect to get a different answer. “So, it is important to capture the lessons of what we have done so, we can learn them and see where we were successful and where we were not.
What do we need to improve upon so that we can move forward in this country. “You find that in certain issues, we still need a social consensus. People talk about technical issues leading to the oil benchmark price. We are still arguing about it today,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
Other speakers include former Secretary-General, Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Anambra State Governor Peter Obi and Ide Ahaba of Asaba, Chief Sonny Iwedike Odogwu.