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Finance minister: You are hurting the economy

By Obafemi Aluko

In December 2016, I wrote about the fi nance minister’s public statements that are inimical to the health of the economy and some few individuals felt I was too hard on the woman. Th en she had without facts named 33 agencies of government based on an audit exercise conducted by one of the parastatals under her ministry, Offi ce of the Accountant General of the Federation of non-remittance or underremittance of their operating surpluses to the tune of N450 billion generated over a period of 2010 and 2015. Among those agencies found culpable were CBN, CAC, NTA, JAMB and others. But few hours after her public press conference, her colleague ministers quickly denied her claim. She was thoroughly embarrassed. Few weeks after this public show of shame, our madam on the eve of one of the MPC meetings of the CBN took to the gallery again, ordering the MPC members to lower the interest rate in order to stimulate the economy, which she had announced to the public was ‘technically in recession’. With the attendant public outcry over her naïve estimation of monetary policy issues, she came out later to say her comment was her own personal opinion as she lacks the capacity to dictate to the Committee members. I thought the madam had learnt her lessons. But few days past, when receiving House of Representatives Tactical Committee members on Recession allegedly blamed the ‘excessive powers of the CBN governor for the disconnection between the monetary and fi scal policies. She therefore pleaded with the National Assembly to consider a legislation to whittle down the powers of the apex bank governor and institute a check and balancing mechanism in the legislation. According to the report, she was puff ed that the CBN had the eff rontery to decide and act on issues of ‘fi nance’ without recourse to her, the constitutionally authorized person saddled with such responsibility. To her, the audacious action of the CBN governor attest to the excessive powers massed by the CBN governor that must at all cost be curtailed. Allegedly grieved, she blamed the National Assembly for yielding to Professor Charles Soludo, a former governor of the bank’s request for more powers in 2007. In her view, to have allowed such approval as enshrined in CBN Act 2007 is what we are experiencing its consequences today and she was on her knees begging them (legislators) to revisit that Act and cut down the CBN governor’s powers, and probably make the bank a parastatal in her ministry. I dare ask Madam Kemi Adeosun to come out openly about her agenda. What is her pedigree in monetary/fi nancial issues until she was propped up in Ogun state as its commissioner for fi nance, and because of political power play and favour showed up at the national turf as a powerful minister in charge of fi nance? Haaba madam! Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Senator Nenadi Usman and Dr. Segun Aganga (all former fi nance ministers) worked harmoniously with the same Act you are grieving over. I do not want to share in the sentiment milling around that you are a member of the fi fth columnist bent on easing the CBN Governor out of the his exalted position. You want CBN submerge under you ministry, and for what? Madam Adeosun, if you need more powers to do your job, you are at liberty to approach the National Assembly, and stop campaigning for what you lack capacity to use. It is a fact that, if what you are campaigning for is granted and politicians like you are allowed to control the CBN, the economy will be in serious trouble. And with your obvious lack of depth in issues of fi scal matters, not to talk of monetary matters, burying CBN in your ministry would not only endanger the apex bank’s independence, but doom for the nation. If I may ask, what can the Finance Minister point to as her achievement to refl ate the economy since it moved into recession? Th e problem is not the autonomy of the CBN, but inability of the elements within the fi scal authorities to forge seamless coordination with monetary authority. What impression are you creating to the investing world about Nigeria, particularly at this troubled period of the economy, or is the minister cowed by the achievements of the CBN under the watch of Godwin Emefi ele? We have not seen the required synergy between her and her National Planning counterpart. Everyone is advocating a harmonious synergy between the fi scal and monetary authorities, but the Minister is threading a more sinister path that will lead the nation nowhere. One is not therefore surprised that there have been clamours for her sack from the ministry. So far, the CBN has helped the government in its economic diversifi cation agenda, even intervened in critical sectors in the economy. It is unfortunate that at this time of dire national economic challenge when all agencies ought to have a common front and device a strategy to enable us come out of the present recession, it is rather worrisome that key elements at the temple of economic management chose to evince centrifugal tendencies just for selfi sh aggrandizement. Th is campaign, once again, the Honourable Minister, is an unnecessary distraction that the economy does not need now.

Aluko wrote from Ago Iwoye, Ogun state

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