By Jide Ajani
It was not an easy task of the Finance Minister , Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala to convince President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, and members of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, on the need to rescue Nigeria from financial crisis by removing the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, SundayVanguard can reveal.
In fact, it was discovered that Jonathan and Sambo had to sit through long hours of strategy meetings and briefings by Okonjo-Iweala, who doubles as the co-ordinating minister for the Economic Management Team, EMT, before they could be convinced on the need to remove the subsidy on PMS. Sunday Vanguard was also made to understand that, at some point, the vice president had to insist on working out the details of the figures (using a personal calculator) that would accrue to the Federal Government as well as state and local governments in the event that the subsidy is removed.
There were, at least, four separate briefings by Okonjo- Iweala to members of the EXCOF on the path to economic recovery that Nigeria needed to toe if the “country was to be rescued”, a source told Sunday Vanguard. For instance, it was gathered that in the week of Sunday, September 11 to Saturday, September 17, there were two briefings by Okonjo-Iweala on the path Nigeria should toe for quick economic recovery.
Both briefings were made to members of EXCOF. After the EXCOF meeting of Wednesday, September 14, members were again requested to return to Aso Rock Presidential Villa for another round of briefing on the way to economic recovery. And, again, on Friday, September 16, another round of briefing was carried out by the Finance Minister. Okonjo-Iweala, Sunday Vanguard was told, insisted that the only way to rescue Nigeria was through the removal of the subsidy.
It was after these rounds of briefings that a committee was then set-up by Jonathan, and which was headed by Sambo, to go “and work out the details of how the subsidy issue would, be tackled along with the possible benefits that Nigerians would derive”, a source inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa said. Most importantly, on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, Okonjo-Iweala, again, made a special presentation on the finer details of the engagement of the Federal Government on the subsidy issue.
During that briefing to ministers, Okonjo-Iweala, in a document, titled, BRIEF ON FUEL SUBSIDY, (by) Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the coordinating Minister for the E c o n o m y / H o n o u r a b l e Minister of Finance explained the key facts about subsidy, what fuel subsidy is all about, deregulation of the downstream sector benefits for deregulation), why the subsidy was going to be removed, pointing out that it was a major fiscal and financial burden on the nation, those who benefit from subsidy, the relationship between subsidy and the Federal Government of Nigeria’s budget, among other things.
Sunday Vanguard was further made to understand that Okonjo-Iweala went on to explain how Nigeria compares with other African countries, how Nigeria compares with other oil producing countries in the areas of GDP, per capital income, where Nigeria will stand after the removal of subsidy when compared to both African countries as well as oil producing countries, how the Federal Government plans to use the freed resources from subsidy and those who would benefit from the subsidy removal. It was learnt that the 19-page document, presented by Okonjo-Iweala, shed more than enough light on the issue of subsidy and further enlightened members of EXCOF on what Nigeria was confronting.
Indeed, it was understood that the type of education that the ministers received engendered a spirit of confidence in them.