Charles Soludo Former CBN Governor replies Okonjo-Iweala

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Okonjo-Iweala had accused Soludo of committing
“intellectual hara-kiri” after he criticized President
Goodluck Jonathan’s management of the economy.
Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Charles
Soludo has written a response to the Minister of
Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala after she criticized him
over an article » he wrote regarding the state of the
Nigerian economy.
Okonjo-Iweala had accused Soludo of committing
“intellectual hara-kiri” » after he criticized President
Goodluck Jonathan ’s management of the economy.
Soludo addressed the minister’s reply in an article
published on Sahara Reporters » and titled “Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala And The Missing Trillions (1)”.
Read his response below:
I read some of the responses to my article, “Buhari vs
Jonathan: Beyond the Election”, and I want to thank
everyone who has contributed to the debate. I am glad
that the debate has finally taken off. I have decided, for
the record, to re-enter the debate if only to set some
records straight and hopefully elevate the debate
further.
Whom do I respond to? First, let me thank Gov Kayode
Fayemi for his very mature and professional response
on behalf of the APC. It forms a great basis for
deepening the conversation. Pat Utomi, Oby Ezekwesili,
Iyabo Obasanjo, and thousands of other patriotic
Nigerians have raised the content of the debate. Femi
Fani-Kayode made me laugh, as usual. The Gov. Jang
faction of the Governors’ Forum played the usual
politics, although I know what most of them think
privately.
Who else? Oh, Peter Obi. Well, since he can’t write and
designated Valentine as usual to write for him (who
never disputed the NBS statistics that Obi broke world
record in the pauperization of Anambra people but
instead focused on lies and abuses) I won’t dignify him
with a response here. His third class performance in
Anambra will be the subject of a comprehensive article
later.
Here, I will focus on Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s response
(as Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of
the Economy—CME and hence on behalf of the Federal
Government). Since I have known her, out of deep
respect, I have never called her by her name: I call her
Madam. I must state that I have great pains seeing
myself on the opposite side of the table with Madam, in
this way. I respect you, Madam, and will always do.
If you read my article of September 2010 (before you
became Minister), the tone and elucidation were as
strong as the current one. It is my honest effort to
ensure that our choice of leaders is based on rigorous
scrutiny of what is on offer. Part of my frustration is
that five years after, everything I warned about has
come to happen and we are conducting our campaigns
as if we are not in crisis. As a concerned Nigerian, I
have a duty to speak out again. Regrettably, you have
taken it very personal.
I am not bothered about the personal abuses: I actually
expected worse. What name has the government not
called President Obasanjo or any person who has dared
to disagree with it of late? Anyone who disagrees with
the government must either be ‘insane’ or have a
‘character’ deficiency or must be ‘looking for a job’ or
‘without honour’, or a ‘charlatan’. Yesterday, Sanusi
alleged that $20 billion was missing and he was
accused of gross financial mismanagement,
recklessness and poor governance to the point of being
the first governor of central bank to be suspended from
office.
Today, he is the good one; and for daring to award an
“F” grade for our economic performance, Soludo has
become the ‘worst’ and ‘without character’ or perhaps
‘looking for position’ (Lol!). Some days ago, a former
president was called ‘a motor park tout’ and ‘un-
statesmanly’ just for disagreeing. This “how dare you
criticise us” mind-set of the government is dangerous
for our democracy.
In this Part One of my planned three part series, I will
restrict it to the main issues you raised. I will not
bother about the malicious attacks on my person. For
me, it is nothing personal. In early 2011, I had a similar
heated exchange with then Finance Minister Segun
Aganga.
But when the Nigerian economy was at stake and he
invited me to a stakeholders meeting in his office (as
Minister of Trade and Investment) to discuss Nigeria’s
response to the ruinous EU- Economic Partnership for
Africa (EPA), I flew into Nigeria for that (at my
expense)— the first and only time I have been to any
government office to discuss policy since I left office. It
is about Nigeria. I will, as expected, remind people like
you of the salient aspects of my record of public
service in response to your charge; challenge your claim
to debt relief, and your reason for not saving; highlight
your forgery of economic statistics and the lies in your
response; but most importantly re-focus our attention
to the historic mismanagement of our economy which
you carefully avoided. I will show that while you are
introducing austerity measures and soon to immiserate
the citizens, our public finance is haemorrhaging to the
point that estimated over N30 trillion is missing or
stolen or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged—
under your watch!
We can’t go on like this, and I am convinced that an
alternative future is possible. Can we have a public
debate on this alternative future? The issues at stake
are too grave to be trivialized through name calling. As
I write, the naira exchange rate to the dollar is at N215
(from N158 a few months ago) and unless oil price
recovers, this is just the beginning. For the sake of
Nigeria, I won’t keep quiet anymore!
Let me start with Madam’s rather comical, wild
judgment on my tenure of office which I believe to be
totally false and baseless. I apologise upfront that in
the process of making a ‘personal defence’, it is
difficult to avoid a rather uncomfortable emphasis on
“I”. I did not want that but since Madam has dragged
us this low, I have little choice but to do so in the next
few paragraphs—just to keep the record straight!
In my view, there are three criteria for evaluating a
public officer’s stewardship: the evaluation by his
employer; the satisfaction of the public he served; and
the hard facts of performance. As I will show on these
three counts, I am convinced that I left a world record
of public service, and a thousand Okonjo-Iwealas
cannot re-write that history. I served Nigeria under two
presidents (Obasanjo and Yar’Adua) and as my
immediate bosses, below are their written testimonials
of my record.
Said President Obasanjo (December 2004):
“Charles Soludo is a true Nigerian. He is the sort of
Nigerian that we all know we can rely on. Among his
numerous virtues is COURAGE. I have found in him a
man who can take tough and realistic decisions, stand
his ground, educate others on the salience of his
decision, and work very hard to ensure that the decision
is efficiently and effectively implemented. His
dedication to duty is first rate.
His leadership qualities are admirable and his
willingness to listen and learn is simply infectious.
Professor Soludo has within a short time emerged as
one of the leading lights of our nation. Not because he
has a godfather but by sheer hard work, loyalty,
dedication to duty, commitment to the nation,
creativity, and undiluted association with the reform
agenda….”
President Yar’Adua (May 2009) had the following to say
about the Central Bank of Nigeria under my leadership:
“… the CBN has performed creditably well in delivering
on its core mandates. This is especially even more so
in the last five years. Most people would agree that
without the successful banking consolidation and
effective management of our foreign reserves, the
current global crisis would have shaken the financial
system and our national economy to their foundations
with calamitous consequences”.
In the President’s special letter of commendation after
the completion of my tenure of office, President
Yar’Adua (June 2009) had the following to say to me:
“As your tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of
Nigeria comes to a glorious end, I write on behalf of
the Government and people of Nigeria to place on
record our debt of gratitude to you for your dedicated
service and uncommon sense of duty over the past five
years. I am confident that your worthy antecedents in
the CBN and in prior appointments in the service of our
nation remain sources of inspiration to an entire
generation. As I wish you even more astounding
successes in the years ahead, it is my fervent hope that
you will readily avail us of your distinguished service
when the need arises in the future”.
To the best of my knowledge, President Obasanjo has
not changed those views even after ten years. The
views of my two bosses, not the emotional outburst of
an angry person desperate to get even, are what count.
How did Nigerians evaluate my public service?
Unfortunately, we do not have scientific opinion polls
on job approval ratings for individual public officers.
But if the public opinions of individuals and organized
groups (labour, employers, depositors, borrowers,
stakeholders of the financial institutions, newspaper
editorials, investors, etc) as expressed in thousands of
newspaper/magazine clips during and after my tenure
are anything to go by, then 82% of the public largely
agree with the sentiments expressed by my two bosses.
Your views belong to the other 18% which is okay, after
all, no one is perfect. Five Nigerian newspapers and
magazines simultaneously named us “man of the year”
in one year— unprecedented in Nigeria’s history.
I do not talk about hundreds of awards and
recognitions by various segments of our society (during
and even after service) for “excellent public service”. I
was particularly touched by the historic award by the
staff union of the Central Bank and the tears in the
eyes of many as thousands of the staff gave me a
standing ovation as I walked the aisle after my brief
farewell speech.
Certainly, the international community (investors,
bankers, scholars, donors, media, etc) took serious
notice of the revolution in Nigeria’s monetary and
financial system. I am recipient of five international
awards as global and African central bank governor of
the year, not to mention dozens of other recognitions
(even after leaving office).
The London Financial Times described us as “a great
reformer”. Even as the global economic and financial
crisis raged in 2008, the United Nations General
Assembly appointed me to serve on the Commission of
Experts to reform the international monetary and
financial system. You don’t appoint someone who has
‘mismanaged’ his national financial system to reform
the global system. For 8 years until 2012, I served on
the chief economist advisory council (CEAC) of the
World Bank, and together with two Nobel Prize winners
in economics and other experts we met periodically and
advised two presidents and two chief economists of the
World Bank, and in 2011, I served on the External
Advisory Group of the IMF. Again, these are not
positions for ‘mis-managers’.
Since I left office, I have been advising countries and
central banks; and there is hardly any two months I
don’t consult/advise on banking/financial and monetary
policy. I have given these illustrations to make the
point that for every one Okonjo-Iweala’s attempt to
rewrite history, there are thousands who disagree.
Now, to some skeletal facts of our stewardship! I will
be brief as I have a whole book to tell my story. As
chief economic adviser, I had advised that our banking
system could not support the private sector-led
economy envisioned under NEEDS. When I assumed
office at CBN, I inherited 89 rickety, mostly family
banks (all of which put together were not up to the
size of number four bank in South Africa). Many were
insolvent, with depositors’ money trapped, and 20 more
about to collapse.
To get a credit of $300 million probably required all the
banks to syndicate it. For me, there was a national
emergency. I drafted a 13-point reform agenda,
discussed and agreed all the specifics with the
President, and his VP; as well as my management team
at the CBN, and we swung into action. President
Obasanjo promised 100% support and actually delivered
1000%— which was decisive. I apologize to you Madam
because I did not brief or inform you about it. We just
wanted to keep it confidential given the sensitivity of
the announcement. It is on record that you never
supported it.
It was both a revolution and a war and most people
thought it was “impossible”, but thank God we
succeeded. For the first time in Nigeria’s history a
policy of that magnitude was announced and deadline
kept with precision. We were courageous to revoke the
licenses of 14 banks, including those of my friends, in
one day. The FT-Banker concluded that the scale,
precision, and cost of the transformation were
unprecedented in the world. Before then, Malaysia had
the least cost of banking consolidation at 5% of
Malaysian GDP. It did not cost Nigerian taxpayers one
penny. Twenty-five new, stronger banks emerged but
the powerful idea behind consolidation ignited
something even more powerful—‘the race to the top’.
Banks raised more capital, and even banks like First
Bank, Zenith, GTB, etc that did not merge with others
went on capital raising several times.
The consequence was higher levels of capitalization
and within two years, 14 Nigerian banks were in the top
1000 banks in the world and two in the top 300 (no
Nigerian bank was in the top 1000 before I came). Even
after I left office, still 9 banks were in the top 1000.
Our vision was to have a Nigerian bank in the top 100
banks within 10 years. As I see the new Access bank;
Zenith, GTB, Fidelity, Diamond, UBA, FBN, FCMB, Skye,
Stanbic IBTC, Union, Ecobank, etc, I cannot but feel that
we have taken giant steps forward.
Deposits and credit soared (from barely N1.2 trillion to
over N7 trillion); new technologies (ATM and e-banking)
boomed, and banks had 57,000 new jobs; mega
businesses emerged (ask any major operator in the
Nigerian economy their experience with banking and
credit before and after Soludo —the Dangotes, Arik,
MM2, oil and gas operators; etc); capital market
boomed and dominated by the banking sector.
It was a new dawn for Nigerian private sector. I have
heard Dangote twice say that he would not be near as
big as he is today without the banking consolidation.
Many other stakeholders still say it today. FDI and
portfolio inflows flooded into Nigeria. The world
celebrated, and one single transformative idea has
changed the face of the private sector and economy
forever. Banks became Nigeria’s first transnational
corporations with about 37 branches outside of Nigeria.
Nigeria survived the global crisis because of this, and it
is the banking sector that has largely been powering
the economic growth you claim (compare banks trillions
of naira credit for investments in the productive sector
with your government’s miserable expenditure on
critical infrastructure and investment; much of your
borrowing – bonds – is from the banks). Your
privatization of power sector, several PPP projects on
infrastructure, etc, are now possible because of the
mega banks. Today, Nigerian banks syndicate multi-
billion dollar loans— unthinkable before. Madam, if the
consolidation was ‘mismanaged’, there would not have
been any bank to start with in the aftermath of the
global crisis— as President Yar’adua correctly pointed
out. Even you, during a recent presentation at the
Banquet Hall in Abuja advertised consolidation as a
historic achievement. How can you recognize a ‘mis-
managed’ project as an outstanding achievement? As
we say in Igbo, you can’t cover the moon with your
palms.
Let me be clear: the quantum size of the new banks
following consolidation presented challenges of risk
management and supervision. We deployed all we had
and overworked the CBN staff. The carry-over of bad
loans from the consolidated banks was quickly cleaned
up. To the best of my knowledge, we instituted
stringent regulatory and supervisory regime (consistent
with best practices at the time). We even had resident
examiners in the banks and required bank MDs to
personally sign their reports to CBN.
I recall that the former MD of GTB complained of
“regulatory intrusiveness”. To our credit, non-performing
loans (NPL) came down from 22% in 2003 and 2004 to
6% as at 2008. Anywhere in the world, a central bank
that brought NPL from 22% to 6% over a four year
period does not look like one with a loose supervisory
regime. Name other developing countries that
performed better, Madam. So, on point of fact, Madam
lied. Yours was a reckless assertion without basis by a
Finance Minister.
The banks in Nigeria were supervised by the CBN and
NDIC, but other institutions— international firms which
audited them, international rating agencies which also
examined their books, capital market operators since
most were listed companies — all had oversight.
I put on record that there was never any information/
report of infractions by any bank which was brought to
my attention and which we did not act upon decisively
during my tenure. I heard the comment that some of
the bank MDs were my friends. Well, my response is
that perhaps as CME you should kill all your friends
operating in the economy or become their enemies. For
the record, my successor audited all the banks and
none of my so-called friends was indicted. It speaks
volumes. Indeed, it is also a fact that the alleged
personal criminal infractions (including lapses in
corporate governance Madam alluded to) by some bank
CEOs were found out, only AFTER they had been
removed from office.
My successor told me that the comprehensive audit of
the banks did not reveal such infractions. Of course,
you must be God or have a special tip-off from inside
to get to such information while the MDs are in office.
Unfortunately, all over the world, no financial system
has succeeded in routing out all criminal behaviours by
the operators. So, Madam, I challenge you to provide
one shred of evidence that ‘there was no separation
between regulators and regulated’ or be honourable
enough to retract your reckless statement.
What happened? The unanticipated and unprecedented
crisis of 2008/09 hit the world. More than 40 US and
European banks either collapsed or were shaken badly
(remember the Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac, Wachovia, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Citibank,
Goldman Sachs, even UBS, etc) and hundreds of
billions of dollars were spent to bail them out.
The contagion effects spread like a wild fire, destroying
national stock markets and banks. The nascent (big)
banks in Nigeria faced sudden multiple shocks—
liquidity, exchange rate, oil price, capital market, etc. As
oil prices collapsed, loans to oil and gas became non-
performing overnight; loans to the capital market
became non-performing overnight; etc. Our first priority
was to save the entire banking system and the
economy from systemic collapse. I assured Nigerians
that no bank would be allowed to fail, and not many
people know what it took to achieve it.
Once we had navigated through the unexpected /
unprecedented turbulence, we laid out a comprehensive
plan to clean up the debris which we presented to
stakeholders in Lagos (March 2009). I had pleaded with
the Senate to pass the AMCON bill which we sent to
them in 2004. But I had a comprehensive plan to finish
the clean-up with or without AMCON by the end of
2009, including second round consolidation and a N500
billion fund (my book will detail all these). I left behind
an 11-volume document of the Financial System
Strategy 2020 (FSS2020) which has remained the policy
roadmap for the CBN/financial sector since I left office.
I have two analogies for our experience. Ours was
really like an airplane that was cruising and suddenly
meets an unexpected and unprecedented turbulence.
After the pilots and the crew succeed in navigating
through the potential crash and probably land the
airplane, people look in and start blaming the crew for
the broken tea cups, chairs, and drinks that fell during
the turbulence as evidence that the crew never kept the
airplane clean or serviced it.
My second analogy is that of a sudden earthquake in a
region it was never expected and some houses
collapsed. All of a sudden, the housing authority is to
blame for not requiring earthquake-proof foundations
for the houses. Well, my legal experts call it force
majeure, an act of nature!
To be fair, after every crisis, there are lessons (and my
book will detail what, with benefit of that experience,
we should have done differently). Risk management—
which has always been there— now took a new centre
stage all over the world following the crisis. But for
anyone to suggest that CBN under me, for one minute,
took its eyes off the ball is, to say the least, ludicrous.
The US financial system literally crippled the world
costing America hundreds of billions of dollars but no
one has suggested that Alan Greenspan is no longer the
great maestro!
AMCON is a big topic (which I will address at a later
date) but her claims show either ignorance or mischief.
She claims that N5.7 trillion of AMCON funds was used
to rescue banks and the ‘bond issued’ as ‘cost to
taxpayers’. Really? I will deal with the AMCON I
envisaged and the AMCON under you later but let me
state that even if 100% of the banks’ NPL was
offloaded on AMCON, it would not be up to N5.7
trillion.
Enough said for now. The fact is that the Federal
Government has not put a penny in the AMCON fund:
the banking system is financing itself, and together
with the sinking fund by banks, AMCON surely can’t
default (thanks to consolidation that the banks are now
big enough to cough out such funds to solve the
system’s problem). Did you intend to deceive the
readers by refusing to tell them that much of the
AMCON fund is ‘investment’ and not ‘expense’. Am sure
you heard the IMF’s alarm about moral hazard? If you
want, we can have a focused debate on AMCON.
Next, let me briefly respond to a few outlandish claims.
She brags about ‘single-digit’ inflation rate ‘now’ and
alleges that when I left office, inflation was above 13%.
I just laughed at this one. In Nigeria’s history, no
governor of the Central Bank has delivered 24
consecutive months of single digit inflation as I did
until the advent of the unprecedented global crisis in
2008. It was not for nothing that the world cheered us
as monetary policy czar, Madam! Perhaps you are also
not aware that we broke a world record by having a
depreciated real effective exchange rate during a time
of export boom and this was at the heart of our reserve
accumulation and the portfolio/FDI inflows.
I resisted the IMF advice to deplete reserves for
liquidity management, and Nigeria had enough self-
insurance to survive the global crisis. The opposite has
happened under you Madam, and the Nigerian economy
is in trouble. Naira exchange rate appreciated under me
from N133 to N117 before the global crisis; and
reserves grew to all time high of $62 billion. For the
first time since 1986, the official, interbank and parallel
market exchange rates converged under me. You can’t
match these records!
I hereby challenge your attempt to blame others for not
saving for the rainy day. It is not a virtue when you are
quick to appropriate all the credit when things are
going well, but shift the blame when they go wrong.
You blame the state governors— who, according to you,
have taken the Federal Government to the Supreme
Court—not that a Supreme Court judgment forced your
hands.
For your information, the governors have never agreed
to savings and always threatened court action even
under Obasanjo. Why did we save under Obasanjo but
not under Jonathan? Two keywords explain it:
leadership and integrity. Governor Amaechi said the
governors insisted on sharing the funds because they
found out that you were illegally fiddling with the
savings.
So, as Nigerians still wonder, if billions of dollars are
now ‘missing’ under your nose, why should governors
trust you to keep their money? Do the states that have
taken the federal government to the Supreme Court and
refused to save also include the PDP governors—who
are in the majority? If so, then it is fatal: even
governors of your own party, PDP, do not trust you to
keep their money! Furthermore, did the governors also
stop the Federal Government from saving part of its
share? If you ran a surplus budget at the Federal level,
you would have had credibility to blame others or to
say they did not listen to your advice. The key point is
that since you were running huge deficits yourself, it
was also in your own interest to share the ECA. You
did not show leadership or credibility, full stop!
Next, Madam, I was really embarrassed for you to read
that one of the reasons for declining forex reserves is
‘oil theft’. Under you as Minister of Finance and
coordinator of the economy, the basket of our national
treasury is leaking profusely from all sides. Just a few
illustrations! First, you admit that ‘oil theft’ has reduced
oil output from the average 2.3 – 2.4 million barrels
per day (mpd) to 1.95mpd (meaning that at least
350,000 to 450,000 barrels per day are being ‘stolen’.
On the average of 400,000 per day and the oil prices
over the past four years, it comes to about $60 billion
‘stolen’ in just four years. In today’s exchange rate, that
is about N12.6 trillion. This is at a time of cessation of
crisis in the Niger Delta and amnesty programme. Can
you tell Nigerians how much the amnesty programme
costs, and also the annual cost for ‘protecting’ the
pipelines and security of oil wells? And the ‘thieves’ are
spirits? Come on, Madam!
Second, my earlier article stated that the minimum
forex reserves should have been at least $90 billion by
now and you did not challenge it. Rather it is about $30
billion, meaning that gross mismanagement has denied
the country some $60 billion or another N12.6 trillion.
Now add the ‘missing’ $20 billion from the NNPC. You
promised a forensic audit report ‘soon’, and more than
a year later the Report itself is still ‘missing’. This is
over N4 trillion, and we don’t know how much more has
‘missed’ since Sanusi cried out. How many trillions of
naira were paid for oil subsidy (unappropriated?).
How many trillions (in actual fact) have been ‘lost’
through customs duty waivers over the last four years?
As coordinator of the economy, can you tell Nigerians
why the price of automotive gas oil (AGO), popularly
called diesel, has still not come down despite the crash
in global crude oil prices, and how much is being
appropriated by friends in the process? Be honest: do
you really know (as coordinator and minister of finance)
how many trillions of Naira, self- financing government
agencies earn and spend? I have a long list but let me
wait for now. I do not want to talk about other ‘black
pots’ that impinge on national security.
My estimate, Madam, is that probably more than N30
trillion has either been stolen or lost or unaccounted for
or simply mismanaged under your watchful eyes in the
past four years. Since you claim to be in charge,
Nigerians are right to ask you to account. Think about
what this amount could mean for the 112 million poor
Nigerians or for our schools, hospitals, roads, etc.
Soon, you will start asking the citizens to pay this or
that tax, while some faceless “thieves” were pocketing
over $40 million per day from oil alone.
You alluded to debt relief in your response and tried to
take credit. Well, your CV is honest enough to admit
that your two achievements in office as Finance
minister under Obasanjo were that “you led the Nigerian
team that struck a deal with the Paris Club” and that
you “introduced the practice of publishing each state’s
monthly financial allocation in the newspapers”. You
are right about the two achievements. Let me put on
record that Nigeria would have secured debt relief
under anyone as Minister of Finance. President
Obasanjo secured debt relief for Nigeria.
Much of his first term was used to get Nigeria back
into the international community and to campaign for
debt relief. Before you were sworn in as Minister of
Finance, President Bush visited Nigeria and both of us
accompanied President Obasanjo during the meeting.
There, Mr. Bush promised to support Nigeria with debt
relief and asked our president to ensure that he met
the conditions of the Paris Club.
Obasanjo mobilized the global political support and
coordinated all of us to ensure that the government
met the check-list of ‘conditionalities’ as required. I
spent five weeks in the hotel with my team (as
coordinator/chairman for drafting the National
Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy,
NEEDS).
Some of the reform targets in NEEDS became the
‘conditionalities’ Nigeria was required to fulfil to merit
debt relief. You and I signed the various MoU with the
IMF on behalf of Nigeria (the policy support
instrument).
We had a great team at work and each member of the
economic team had specific aspects of the
conditionalities to deliver: Bode Agusto was in-charge
of the budget; Oby Ezekwesili held sway at Bureau of
Public Procurement and later Minister of Solid Mineral,
and Education (but specifically tasked with delivering on
EITI and procurement reforms); Nuhu Ribadu was at
the EFCC fighting corruption; I was at the Central Bank
delivering on monetary policy and banking reforms;
Steve Oronsaye worked hard to delist Nigeria from the
FATF; Nenadi Usman was in-charge of the parastatals;
El-Rufai held forth at FCT and in charge of public
sector reforms; privatization programme went on, etc.
Did you know that the IMF wrote President Obasanjo
threatening that there would be no debt relief if the
CBN did not meet some monetary targets, and do you
know the magic we performed to meet them? Can you
tell Nigerians which of the ‘conditionalities’ that you
personally implemented? With the groundswell of
political support and Nigeria meeting all the
‘conditionalities’, debt relief was assured.
Your major role as stated in your CV was to lead the
team to negotiate the specific terms of the relief,
having fulfilled the conditions. I still believe that Nigeria
should have gotten far better terms than you
negotiated. Of course, with your eyes on returning to
the World Bank after office, I did not expect you to
boldly stand up to the donor community in defence of
Nigeria. Was there a conflict of interest on your part?
By the way, can you tell Nigerians why you were eased
out as Finance Minister and you cried like a baby
begging OBJ to still allow you remain in the Economic
Management team—- barely few weeks after the debt
relief? Why were you eventually also removed from the
economic management team if you were so important?
Ironically, President Jonathan has recycled you, with a
bigger title and greater responsibilities. But the
difference is that the team that did the actual work is
no longer there, and the world has seen that the king is
naked.
You are brilliant Madam, but you need serious help.
Having spent all your life in the World Bank
bureaucracy largely in administration/operations, no one
will blame you if your economics has become a bit
rusty. There are firebrand Nigerians all over the world
to draft to service. It is certainly embarrassing to
Nigeria for you to be bothering World Bank economists
to help you with most basic economic analysis.
Your response on the poverty issue is deeply troubling.
You accuse me of using “2011 statistics on poverty by
the NBS to support his argument, while ignoring more
recent figures”. At least you did not refute the NBS
figure as valid. In the next sentence, Madam went
ahead to note that “as stated in the Nigeria Economic
Report 2014 by the World Bank, poverty in Nigeria has
dropped from 35.2 percent of population in 2010/2011
to 33.1 percent in 2012/2013”. Did you notice that you
have quoted two figures for poverty for the same year
as being equally correct?
So, for 2011, was poverty 71% (according to NBS) or
35% according to the World Bank? To the best of my
knowledge, the last published household survey by NBS
was in 2011. The World Bank does not conduct
household surveys in member states to determine
poverty incidence. So, when and by whom was the
survey that gave the World Bank figures?
What worries me is that this government is the first in
our history to attempt to manipulate our national
statistics under Okonjo-Iweala. When NBS published
the poverty figures in 2011, she felt indicted and
incensed. She called upon the World Bank to come and
examine the ‘methodology’ and get NBS to ‘review’ its
numbers. Oby Ezekwesili (as VP Africa Region rejected
the call to try to tamper with a country’s statistics).
Once Oby left, the ‘World Bank’ started talking about
‘new figures’, without conducting any new surveys. I
was told about it by a World Bank economist, and I
cautioned that it was a dangerous gamble that would
damage the credibility of the NBS. If you want to
‘review methodology’, you conduct another survey but
you can’t change ‘methodology’ because you don’t like
the published figures. No government in our history has
tried it: even Sani Abacha allowed a poverty survey that
put poverty at 67% under his regime. At this rate, who
will believe statistics coming from the Nigerian
government again? Is it now the World Bank that sits in
Washington and allocates poverty numbers to Nigeria?
Something smells here!
Madam alleges that the NBS—as a parastatal under the
National Planning Commission (under me) departed
from the ‘international standard method of poverty
measurement’. How and when, Madam? I was in office
at National Planning for 11 months from July 2003 to
May 2004. A poverty survey was conducted in 2004
and the results computed and published in 2005/2006—
more than a year after I had gone to the Central Bank.
Or perhaps, it was a clever way to divert attention from
your manipulation of published economic statistics.
The NBS published its poverty data in 2006 when you
were Minister of Finance, and you did not question the
‘methodology’ because the figures looked good. In
2011, the poverty numbers (using the same
methodology as in 2005/2006) indicted the government
and suddenly, the ‘methodology’ is wrong. Interesting
times!
Now that you decide which economic statistics
published by NBS to accept and which ones to ‘change
the methodology’ to give favourable figures, you can
keep feeding your manipulated figures to your
international media circus for the vain glorious awards
to sustain an empty hype, while Nigerians groan under
hardship. We can actually ask Nigerians whether they
are getting better off now contrary to your bogus
figures.
Many of Madam’s responses were comical, but this one
is classic. According to her, the chief economic adviser
and NBS “worked hard to determine how many jobs we
need to create in a year”, and went on to ask, “why
didn’t Soludo do this when he was CEA?” (Lol!).
Madam, any good economist needs less than 10
minutes to compute this figure, not the (months? of)
‘hard work’ by your team. My calculation is that the
number of jobs Nigeria needs to create each year to
significantly reduce unemployment rate to sustainable
levels in the next few years is at least 3 million, and not
the 1.8 million by your team. We are talking about the
Nigerian economy, please.
Your magic wand for mass housing is the Mortgage
Refinance Corporation with 23,000 mortgage offers—for
a country with 17 million housing deficit! Then, there is
the pedestrian proposal of a new development bank—
financed with loans from the World Bank, etc? A World
Bank loan to set up another ‘development bank’ where
we already have Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture,
NEXIM, Federal Mortgage Bank, etc?
People have totally run out of ideas and can’t see
anything for Nigeria without through the prism of the
World Bank. I will offer you free consultancy on how to
set up a development bank without a World Bank loan
but we don’t need another one now. I actually gave
President Yar’adua a two page note for a N3 trillion
development fund then, and if we plug your leaking
pipes, it could actually be a N10 trillion Fund. I
envisioned and set up the Africa Finance Corporation
(AFC)—Africa’s premier infrastructure bank!
Frankly, I don’t understand why you seem highly
troubled that the Soludo you thought had “disappeared
from the political space” seems to be still around. Well,
let me assure you that I will only ‘disappear’ in God’s
own time. I gave credit to two past presidents who laid
the foundation of the market economy we operate
today. You did not contest or contradict any of my
points. Rather, what you see is that Soludo must be
‘looking for a position’.
Pity! If I am looking for a position, I would be running
around one of the candidates now just as you are busy
dancing Atilogwu dance at TAN and PDP rallies,
struggling to keep your job. How Yar’adua drafted me
to contest for governor in Anambra and APGA
leadership as well and how I was “stopped” on both
occasions are in the public domain. But I am not
deterred for one minute. Chinua Achebe said that on
leadership, Nigeria is a country that goes for a football
match with its 10th Eleven.
I am proud and happy to have offered to serve my
people, and for the service of Nigeria, I will do it again
and again. How many times did Abraham Lincoln,
Obama, Reagan, etc contest before they got there? I
actually encourage everyone who believes he/she has
something to offer to get involved or stop complaining.
I am happy seeing the increasing critical mass of
professionals (like you) now getting involved. It is good
for Nigeria!
What is at stake is the survival and prosperity of
Nigeria. Next elections are critical, and for me the key
is the ECONOMY. We must offer Nigerians clarity on
the choices before them.
Can I propose a three-way debate with you
(representing PDP/Federal Government), nominee of
APC (Utomi or Fayemi? or any other), and myself (as
independent citizen— I don’t belong to any of the two).
Let us have two bouts of debate between now and
12th February, 2015 focusing on: CBN/AMCON and the
financial system (if you want); our economy and its
outlook, and agenda/alternative paths to sustainable
prosperity post elections.
Choose the dates and times, and for the sake of
Nigeria, I will fly in. You can invite any of your
international media friends as moderators. I feel the
pain of the 180 million Nigerians whose tomorrow you
have carelessly rendered bleak, and when I think of
what the missing trillions could do for them, it becomes
extremely urgent that we all must deepen the debate.
Eagerly waiting for your response, please!
Jonathan’s campaign director, Femi Fani-Kayode , Ex-
Senator, Iyabo Obasanjo » and former Presidential
aspirant, Pat Utomi » also responded to Soludo’s
initial article.

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