Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ngozi and the solidity of the reform process

There's a big positive spread on Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in today's Independent. When people ask, 'what has she really done?' I would always defend her and say a) the debt relief deal (60%) she got was just about the best she could get with the Paris Club, given Nigeria's international reputation. b) the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative which recently conducted an audit of oil revenues (and revealed alarming disparities between the oil companies figures and CBN accounts) has upped the stakes in terms of access to information. c) One can say the same for the Federation Account figures detailing monthly oil and other Federally-accrued revenues that go to the States (now whereever you live in Nigeria you can find out how much your State Governor receives, and compare this figure with the state of your local infrastructure. d) inflation is down from around 26% three years ago to 11%, thanks to setting the budgetted oil price to a modest level and accruing billions of dollars in foreign reserves. Plus the fact that she now earns US$6000 for her efforts (the standard ministerial salary) is highly commendable.

To have achieved these four key elements in just 3 years on the job is a huge achievement, both materially and symbolically, given the conditions she found on entering office. The question is, if the worst case scenario happens next year and IBB gets in, how intractable are these reforms? This is perhaps the central weakness of the reform process: they have yet to be rigorously institutionalised to any significant degree. What really needs to happen urgently now that the 3rd term wahalla is over and done is several key pieces of legislation need to be made into law: the Fiscal Federalism Bill, the Procurement Bill, the Statistics Bill and the IT Bill to name just four that I'm aware of. Each Act will pave the way for much more deep-seated structural reforms. Let's hope the executive and legislature can now focus on core government business and stop all the self-defeating power plays.


tobs 12:36 pm  

Jeremy, on a personal note - can I ask which doctor you used and how yo ugot to him. I'm stuck in Edinburgh probably seeing a specialis in London end of this week but things are taking too much time. If you've got my friend Joachim's email address, send the info to him and he'll forward to me if you can. Thanks

culturalmiscellany 12:50 pm  

As an accountant I would always say that the thing I was most encouraged to hear was the push for greater transparency in the accounts of both the Central Government and States. Information like this will have to be publicly accessible and a vital instrument for the Nigerian people to use in challenging the practices they all know are happening. However, I hope the backlog in previously unaudited accounts doesn't hinder this!

I just hope, like you, that it all gets implemented in time. When I worked in the UK government I got very frustrated when good ideas were lost when ministers were changed around. Even something we all brush off like a ministerial shuffle can cause chaos with initiatives!

St Antonym 2:33 pm  

I admire her work deeply, always have. No doubt someone will soon pop up somewhere and attempt to smear her with something or the other.

It's wonderful that she's gotten such tangible results. And she's done it in an environment that's hostile to financial rectitude.

And it's also good that she's a woman, because it sends a message to the Nigerian girl: you can do a lot to change this country.

Imagine if we had a dozen people like her in government (Dora Akinyuli is another that comes to mind): things might reach a tipping point, a domino effect, and all those other cliches for self-sustaining rapid change.

ayoke 2:50 pm  

In my opinion, this is your best post ever. I'm glad people are coming to appreciate Okonjo-Iweala based on what she is currently doing and not just on what she was before taking up this job.

Good point on the institutionalisation. Like in other areas, what we need now in Nigeria is a "maintenance culture". 'Hopefully, we'll get it right.

Anonymous,  3:36 pm  

I fully admire Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's work and I believe with more people with her approach in government, Nigeria is set for even more progress.

The dooming trouble ahead is that we dont have any clue of any credible potential candidate to lead the country in the next republic, (that does not mean there is none) and it's less than a year to the next election! Creating legislations to protect some of the good works this administration started does not, shamefully, mean the laws will stand in future governments.

As much as I strongly believe these legislations should be worked upon, and passed on time, I think it is very important the electorates ensure they vote for a credible candidate, that's if any party bring forth a credible one.

j 4:06 pm  

Dear Anonymous & st antonym, if you think Bose is the mesiah, you are mistaken, please look else where.

j 4:07 pm  

As for Jeremy, hope you get beetr soon.

St Antonym 4:22 pm  

I don't get your point.

Who is Bose? Is that a nickname for Okonji-Iweala?

I'll assume it is. I don't remember calling her the messiah of anything. But she's certainly done some good for her country, and that's commendable. Wole Soyinka has also done a lot of good, the Ransome-Kuti's have been exemplary, Gani Fawehinmi has been a hero. It doesn't mean any of these people are perfect, but I think their achievements should be lauded, so that it's not as if one always focuses on the negatives of the Nigerian situation. We have wonderful nation builders- but we also have a society that persecutes them and frustrates their efforts.

Would you like to clarify your point, J.?

j 4:44 pm  

Ogbeni Obokun thank you!

Imnakoya 7:36 pm  

There is no doubt that Madam Okonjo-Iweala has done well...It seems that she is being over celebrated though. Many of her policies appear prescribed by international financial agencies-the World Bank and IMF. Nigeria has gone far too pro-mega corporations and privatization while the commoners have nothing that resembles a public safety net. This is not right.

Dr Dora Akinyuli, on the other hand, has also done extremely well, and even shot at repeatedly by hired assasins. Her job is more risky but less glamorous. I will be surprised if she earns anything close to what Ngozi gets. If there is someone more deserving of accolades flying all over the place, Dora Akinyuli is that person.

Is the $6000 stated in your post the regular salary for ministers, Jeremy? Dr Okonjo-Iweala and a couple of the top brass earn special salaries and fatter salaries than their peers, this was a major news item a while back, remember.

Kingsley,  8:26 pm  

Don't know if you guys had geard, but the third term bill has been thrown out by the senate. Haven't been this happy in ages.

Anonymous,  8:26 pm  

J, I dont in any way have the impression that your so-called Bose is the mesiah. All I was trying to say was that less than 12 months to the election, all those that are showing their faces to run for the top office are not necessarily credible enough. Or maybe I'm mistaken, perhaps you can point to a credibe candidate among them.

I personally dont think Bose has been bred for the office or has she? I however think she's done some good work in the duty given to by the present administration. You recommended we should look elsewhere but we aint even looking anywhere yet ...

I will soon get rid of my Anonymous identity and have my own blog spot probably in time to meet up with Naijablog gathering

j 8:49 pm  

Anonymous my good friend, your point on Bose is very positive and has been noted however, it does not merit any further comment.

the real grace,  8:54 pm  

Kinglsey thats good news

St Antonym 8:57 pm  


"There is no doubt that Madam Okonjo-Iweala has done well...It seems that she is being over celebrated though."

"Dr Dora Akinyuli, on the other hand, has also done extremely well, and even shot at repeatedly by hired assasins."

I don't see why they have to be considered in opposition to each other. Their roles are different, their visibility is different, I don't see why their incomes should be identical. All they have in common is that they are Nigerian women, they are fighting corruption, and they've both been subject to death-threats.

How's Iweala overpraised? She and Akinyuli were both finalists for last year's "Man of the Year Award" (stupid misogyny, the organizers refused to change the name), and Akinyuli won.

If you have disagreements with Iweala on a policy level, that's fair enough. But the reality is that our country is in a total shambles, and no one can "solve" the main problems. A lot of governance at this point is about choosing lesser evils so that we can drag ourselves out of the mire. I don't claim to be an economist, but debt reduction and an attempt at financial transparency both seem to me to be positive steps.

Let's give credit to whom credit is due. The simple fact of the matter is that most of us (myself definitely included) would rather opt for a private role than deal with a high-profile position, and the risk of assassins and the certainty of libelists.

Monef 11:57 pm  

@imnakoya, Ngozi was recruited as part of a repatriation scheme to bring Nigeria's best brains home. That meant that the UN continued to pay her World bank salary in exchange for moving back to Nigria and taking the job. However, last year she gave that salary up and is now earning $6000 like the other ministers.

She is to be commended for making that sacrifice to boost her credibility and remove the only ammunition that the naysayers had left

Anonymous,  4:24 pm  

"Let's hope the executive and legislature can now focus on core government business and stop all the self-defeating power plays."

Jez - its called politics and is as inevitable as night and day. It is this process of "collision, collusion and accommodation" (Beall, '97?), which produces the dialogue that interacts with public action to create a healthy polity.

Is what goes on in Nija fundementally different from Brown vs Blair? (The pre-election deal, the No. 1 man who changes his mind about handing over to the No 2, the endangerment to party and polity whilst the two fight it out etc.).

Ngozi is a non-political appointee, given the job by OBJ. For the reform programme to continue all we need is a President with enough sense to do likewise.

BTW, excellent blog-site! I shall return often.


Anonymous,  3:08 pm  

accept it of not,Nigerian women are doing well i think given more oppurtunity,they would cause the change in Nigeria.
Africa has already started it with Liberia,whatever your grieviance.it has always been the men,now let us watch the women

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