Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s remark about Nigeria debt profile infuriates Professor Festus Iyayi, who says the minister’s remark is “irresponsible and shameless”.
A lecturer at the University of Benin, Friday, described the recent utterances of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance Minister as “irresponsible and shameless” at an event where the minister’s father was the Special Guest of Honour, in Lagos.
Festus Iyayi, a professor at the Department of Business Administration, University of Benin, said that the nation’s debt buy back scheme in which US$12 billion was spent was an “unparalleled robbery in the history of the world.”
“We were told that there would be no more foreign debts…the country’s total earnings would now be devoted fully to the development of our people,” said Mr. Iyayi, while delivering a lecture titled ‘After Education, What Next?’
“Thus, in April 2012, their Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told the nation that the nation’s total debt stock was now $44 billion with $5.9 billion in external debts and $38.1 billion or N5.6 trillion in domestic debts.
“Another N559.6 billion, she said, had been set aside in the 2012 budget to service the domestic and external debts.
“She then went on to tell the nation that the situation was healthy for the economy….and we are reasonably in good shape.”
Mr. Iyayi further stated that the country’s increasing poor population are not benefiting from governance.
“Besides the fact that the promise that was made after the dubious debt buy back scheme has been criminally broken with impunity and without accountability,” Mr. Iyayi continued.
“Can anything be more irresponsible and shameless than telling us that ‘we are in reasonably good shape’ in the face of debts totalling $44 billion?”
“Who or what, we might ask, is in reasonably good shape as a result of these dubious loans – the increasing population of not just the poor, but the core poor?”
Chukwuka Okonjo, the minister’s father, had already spoken out against those attacking her daughter’s “principled stand” in the wake of the federal government’s removal of fuel subsidy earlier this year.
However, on this occasion, the retired professor of Economics chose to remain silent, only focusing his eyes on Mr. Iyayi while he spoke about the nation’s debts.
When it was his turn to give remarks, Mr. Okonjo merely complained that he was not asked to give the vote of thanks.
Mr. Okonjo also called for a revolution in the education sector.
“I have calculated, in 23 years, we are going to catch up with Canada, the most educated nation in the world,” said Mr. Okonjo, the traditional ruler of Ogwashi-Ukwu, a Delta State community.
“There is an intellectual distance which also must be revolutionized. We must shorten the distance just as we shorten the distance between the rich and the poor.
“If we do, we’d see that this is the greatest thing we have done,” Mr. Iweala added.