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Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru: An unusual public servant

By Les Leba

Every year, Nigeria’s media traditionally celebrate persons adjudged to have distinguished themselves in their respective fields of endeavour or indeed, in their apparent dedication and commitment to their responsibilities as public servants.

Similarly, in 2005, the Financial Times of London celebrated Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as the best Central Bank Governor in the world.  Surprisingly, however, not long after, the series of bank failures exposed the shallowness of this award.  Sanusi Lamido Sanusi also got the same award soon after succeeding Soludo.

Soludo and Sanusi’s awards were apparently the product of the London Financial Times’ alleged best practice management in Nigeria’s banking sub sector.  Inexplicably, in spite of these favourable ratings, Nigerian banks are yet to demonstrate any commitment to meeting the financial challenges of the economy; indeed, it is noteworthy that the performance of the Nigerian economy has remained unimpressive, when compared with the economies of those countries with uncelebrated Central Bank governors!

Incidentally, Soludo and Sanusi’s awards came at a time when cost of funds to the real sector remained generally above 20%, and government borrowed at rates of between 10 and 17% with its bonds and bills issues, while inexplicably consolidating ‘surplus revenue’ or savings, which earned interest rate of barely 3%.  It is not clear why our CBN governors have sustained this template for poverty creation, since sovereign risk-free borrowings would normally attract rates below 5%!

Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru
Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru

It seems of no consequence that CBN’s sustenance of high Monetary Policy Rates also instigate inflation rates and constrict consumer demand and industrial growth with adverse consequences on the level of employment.  It is also unlikely that the London newspaper would have the temerity to celebrate the Governor of the Bank of England for any reason whatsoever, if such poisonous monetary indices prevailed in the UK!Sanusi was celebrated for saving the banks by rapidly injecting over N5tn into the subsector.  Although the banks may have survived and now post excellent profit figures, their benefactor, AMCON has conversely posted N2.5tn loss so far, and generations yet unborn will have to repay over N3tn loans raised by AMCON to keep the banks afloat!  Expectedly, CBN has also played down the significant inflationary impact of the additional N2tn cash it created and similarly injected into the banks via AMCON!

Curiously, in spite of the comatose state of our economy in the last 10 years or so, the Minister for Finance has in spite of the controversial quality of her fiscal management, also been a popular beneficiary of local and foreign awards.

Clearly, deepening poverty and steeply rising national debts, in spite of huge budget surpluses under her watch, do not justifiably support any award for quality service.  Despite the preceding catalogue of challenges and failures in the economy, the amiable minister lately received the award of ‘Man of the Year’ from one of the prime media houses in the country.  The award was apparently in recognition of her efforts to increase the vote for capital expenditure in steps of 1 – 2% annually, to redress the imbalance, which, incidentally prevailed in federal budgets throughout her first term in office.

Other media houses have also recently identified persons, who distinguished themselves as their 2012 icons.  Invariably, the awardees are usually people from whom the respective media houses ultimately hope to get some patronage; thus, the otherwise impoverished ordinary Nigerian, who reported an unearned lodgment of N2bn in his account may never be a beneficiary of such awards.  In similar manner, the excellent dedication and commitment of Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, the former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service has remained largely uncelebrated.

However, this fine model of Nigerian womanhood diligently carried out her duties without razzmatazz or fanfare, but ultimately delivered results, which will positively touch the lives of every Nigerian for many years to come.  While most public officers excel in reckless spending and outright fraud, tax collection in the FIRS grew astronomically from slightly below N1.2tn to over N4.6tn in 2011.  Indeed, year 2012 revenue collection may have exceeded the N4.7tn total expenditure projection in last year’s budget.

Incidentally, in spite of the trillions of naira at her ‘disposal’, her eight-year term at FIRS was not characterized by any scandal or controversy bordering on financial mismanagement.

Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru received the MFR award in 2006, while her FIRS project was still work in progress; it is therefore surprising that the excellent quality of the finished article, when she left office in 2012 has largely remained uncelebrated.

In my humble opinion, it should not be out of place to name the FIRS Headquarters after her, while she should also be awarded the highest order of the land.  Omoigui-Okauru, was certainly a most unusual Nigerian public servant.  Madam, may God bless you abundantly!



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