Okonjo-Iweala, SaharaReporters In War of Words over Nigerian Economy

Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Three days ago, news website, SaharaReporters, published a story suggesting that Nigeria was broke and was now planning to dip its hand in the country’s N3.4 trillion pension funds to enable it to finance its deficits. Read the story here.

In response, Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, faulted the report and accused the paper of peddling falsehood about the administration. But the publication says it’s standing by its report, insisting that the Nigerian economy is indeed in shamble.

Read a statement by the minister’s Special Adviser on Media, Paul Nwabuikwu, below. And below that is Saharaeporter’s reaction to the statement.


We have received several enquiries about a story titled “Nigerian Government broke; targets pension savings” posted on the website of Saharareporters.

The story, like many other recent articles by Saharareporters purporting to be exclusive stories on various aspects of the Nigerian economy, is a complete fabrication.

As Nigerians know, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan recently presented its mid-term report which is a forthright account of the achievements as well as challenges facing the economy.

The country has $48 billion in reserves, including N5 billion in the Excess Crude Account to help shore up the economy. So the idea that the country is broke is alarmist.

It is true that the country is experiencing some revenue shortfalls that everyone knows about due to oil theft for which the President is taking some serious measures.

Also, contrary to the claim in the story that the country has borrowed from local and international banks to finance recurrent spending, the Jonathan administration has in fact reversed the tendency of borrowing to finance recurrent as was the practice in the past.

Also untrue is the claim that the country has been downgraded by international ratings agencies. In fact the truth is the exact opposite; ratings agencies and international investors have consistently stated, through various platforms, that the Nigerian economy is a well-managed one with good prospects in the medium and long term.

Regarding the country’s debt situation, the overall picture is positive as the Coordinating Minister showed clearly in her recent well publicized statement. The multi-dimensional strategy adopted by the Jonathan administration is leading to positive outcomes.

The level of borrowing has been brought down, bonds are being paid off through a sinking fund and the country is not taking the kind of high interest loans that led to the debt burden which existed before the historic Paris Club debt deal. The Borrowing Plan which was approved by State Governors and the National Assembly is focused on financing power transmission projects, inter and intra city rail projects, dams and other key infrastructure.

The notion that the Jonathan government is “eyeing” the N3.4 trillion pension funds to finance deficits underscores the desperation of this “activist” medium and its sponsors. It is a total invention. In fact, the government is currently engaged in strengthening institutions and critical processes in the sector to enhance security and stability of the funds.

With this latest outing, Saharareporters has reinforced its well-earned reputation as a discredited purveyor of falsehood.

Paul C. Nwabuikwu
Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister

Saharareporters has now responded to this statement, insisting that the economy is indeed in trouble and questioning the economic stats and indices being showcased by the administration. The paper says the claim by government that the economy is growing is contradictory to the growing unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure and worsening standard of living in the country.

Read the full statement below.

Saharareporters received a statement signed by Paul C. Nwabuikwu, a senior aide to Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in response to our recent report on the dire financial crisis in Nigeria.

Instead of addressing our factual reporting of the declining fortune of the Nigerian economy, the minister resorted to her accustomed pettiness and name-calling.

She recently exhibited the same trait when she got Yushau Shuiab, a spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), fired from his job after he wrote an article questioning her lopsided appointments and accusing her of abuse of office.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala comes across as intolerant of facts, blinded by an ambition to be hailed in foreign circles as the answer to Nigeria’s economic woes, and driven by an excessive opportunism that disdains stark reality. 

We affirm that our recent report, like others in the past focusing on the Nigerian economy, was the product of painstaking investigation, undertaken to expose corruption, lies and deceit perpetrated by Nigerian officials to hoodwink unsuspecting Nigerians that a transformation was taking place in their lives. This website speaks to numerous knowledgeable and reliable sources, in government and out, within Nigeria and abroad.

Their conclusion is that the so-called transformation trumpeted by Ms. Okonjo-Iweala and other functionaries of the Goodluck Jonathan administration is phony. Using their insight into the policies and actions of the government, they insist that Nigerians are materially worse off today than at any time in the recent past as a result of economic mismanagement and large scale graft, the hallmarks of the Jonathan regime.

During Ms. Okonjo-Iweala first tour of duty as finance minister under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, she pursued an aggressive debt repayment agenda, handing over more than $12 billion of Nigeria’s scarce funds to repay debts of doubtful origin. To justify that scam against the Nigerian people, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala boasted that, with the debt payment accomplished, Nigeria was in a position to save $1 billion per year, pledging that the monies would be invested in developing infrastructure.

Nigerians now wonder: Where are the $1 billion annual savings Ms. Okonjo-Iweala promised Nigerians in 2006? Where are the roads? Where are the new hospitals? Where are the significant improvements in the state of maternity care she promised Nigerians in 2006?

In 2007, when Ms. Okonjo-Iweala was giving esoteric speeches about the economic magic she and her colleagues were achieving for Nigerians, the exchange rate of the naira to the US dollar was 120 to one; today it is 160 naira to a dollar.

At a 2007 TED conference, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that Nigeria had 40 billion in foreign reserves. Today, with rising oil prices in the international market, she admits that Nigeria only has $48 billion in the reserve.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala has stepped into the role of chief obfuscator on the economy, encouraged no doubt by her ability to get away for so long with deception on and misrepresentation of the true condition of the Nigerian economy. We, however, refuse to be impressed by her steady string of fictional claims about a supposedly vibrant Nigerian economy.
It ought to be recorded that Ms. Okonjo-Iweala oversaw an era of some of the most reckless acts of corruption and heists of the Nigerian commonwealth in her first four years as finance minister under Mr. Obasanjo’s hypocritical administration. Under her watch, Nigeria attained bogus economic progress where numbers, charts and fake stats were frequently displayed and deployed to fool the unwary and the gullible. 
Meanwhile, under Mr. Obasanjo’s and her noses, billions of dollars of public funds were stolen in the name of “investments” to upgrade Nigeria’s electric grid. She helped to dispense import waivers to dubious businessmen and churches, an exercise that cost Nigeria a fortune.
Since Ms. Okonjo-Iweala’s second coming as minister, complete with the bizarre title of “coordinating” minister she crafted for herself, Nigeria’s economic condition has worsened.

Tell, where is the evidence of economic growth and buoyancy when almost six states of the Nigerian federation have been paralyzed by Islamist insurgency? Where is the sign of economic vitality when half of Nigeria’s oil production is stolen by crude robbers, most of them elements close to President Jonathan? Which foreign investors are pouring money into a country where the electrical grid has  nearly collapsed and at a time when the few local industries are moving to countries like Ghana and Benin?
Does Ms. Okonjo-Iweala calculate that most of the “vulture capital” operations run by some of her former colleagues that are selling bonds to Nigeria at cut throat prices can be considered investors even when they are already pulling out their funds and ripping Nigeria apart?

Where else in the world would an economy grow at 6.5% and yet fail to provide jobs for more than half of its youths? How is the economy working when Nigerian soldiers participating in peacekeeping operations in neighboring countries have to beg locals for food? If the Nigerian economy is “sound,” how come workers are being owed salaries? Why have many pensioners not been paid their entitlements after retirement? What explains the fact that ministries and parastatals have lately not received their allocations? 

If the economy is sparkling, why are Nigerian roads so bad? Why were they not fixed in the years Ms. Okonjo-Iweala has been practicing her economic wizardry? Which economy can survive the greed of a President Jonathan and his inner circle? Today, Mr. Jonathan has pardoned corrupt former governors and other officials that Ms. Okonjo-Iweala condemned in 2007; the pardoned men now sit across the table from the president and his cabinet to further destroy Nigeria.

Which economy can survive such full-throttle promotion of corruption?

The questions for Ms. Okonjo-Iweala are many, but we are content to ask her to provide to the public a profile of the last four years of Nigeria’s so-called foreign reserves? If Nigeria has $48 billion in such reserves and it is a sign that our economy is buoyant, why does Nigeria have to borrow, even if interest-free loans?

Why does the minister designate the foreign reserve in US dollars but the so-called “Excess Crude” account in naira? And if the excess crude account was N5 billion, what was it when Ms. Okonjo-Iweala became finance minister?
We are surprised that it took Ms. Okonjo-Iweala several years to understand that Saharareporters is “activist media,” a tag we wear as a badge of honor. Our mode of reporting scrutinizes official versions of events; we question the actions and policies of government officials; we have developed an ever-growing network of sources who avail us of the innermost secrets and deals of those in power because they trust us to report fearlessly and to protect their identity; we believe in speaking truth to power; and we always crosscheck statements made by sources before publishing accounts. We continue to demand openness and transparency in the conduct of governmental affairs; and we demand that Nigerians be allowed to feel the impact of any so-called economic growth, not in carefully manipulated press statements, bar charts and economic ratings and projections, but in the manner it impacts positively on their daily lives.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala may lash out all she wants and choose to operate as an economic hit-woman, but we are not fazed. We will continue to beam a searchlight on her handling of the economy, including calling attention to her hypocritical role in empowering a cartel in the fuel import business, a cartel whose depredations she criticizes in the media when it suits her agenda.


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  • suleiman

    Nonsense no need to tell us cux we are feeling it on our body. Dax hw she lied abt SURE P

    • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

      even if Iweala walks on water, you will still be hating. So Kafara abeg.

  • Charles Johnson

    thank GOD we have people like Sahara reporters. more grease to your pens. the day of reckoning must come.

    • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

      another low information Nigerian. You are relying on Sahara reporters on Economics without checking out if they have any expert. You deserve pity.

      • Habjis

        You have express your views, Allow others also to express theirs. You may not necessarily have the same understanding.

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    As usual, Sahara reporters keeps playing to the gallery. The Issue was whether Nigeria is broke as alleged by Sahara reporters. The Honourable minister has proven to all decent and reasonable people that this is not the case.
    SR is just been daft in telling us the biography of Iweala. PROVE THE MINISTER WRONG OR SHUT UP.

    • Semiu

      Awusa, how is Reno Omokri doing? I always feel the way you work on Premium Times. Keep it up

    • charis

      You knw wht I m gonna u just 1 question…are u on dis planet earth and in nigeria to b precise or not?are u blind to see dt d economy is in shambles???or u just chose to close to ur eyes to d consistent unemployment struggle,the threatenin security situation,the strikes and all?let me tell u somethin dt u dnt knw,a society dt is not at peace cnnt be developed, an average Nigerian lives below a dollar a day

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    Which responsible human being relies on sahara reporters on economic news? Where is their expert on finance? Can they mention one? Exposing corruption is one thing but delving into economic postulations requires that one should at least know what he is talking about.

    • suleiman

      Ugwu responsible human beings like us rely on sahara reporters cux they r d bst in africa. U dnt rely on dem bt yet u follow dem abt on evry post nd u try to oppose dem

  • Dan maikoko

    “Ms. Okonjo-Iweala may lash out all she wants and choose to operate as an economic hit-woman,” This is the heaviest statement from Sahara Reporters and it exposes what Ngozi stands for an “economic hit woman”! Those not privileged to watch the documentary “The Confessions of an Economic Hit man” by John Perkins should immediately look for it, watch it, digest it and the real Ngozi will come out.

  • APC Lankey

    SR is another mouthpiece of APC

  • suleiman

    Nice one sahara reporters, since iwela is shameless she will come out with her busy body like chicken dat is abt to be cut off nd start talking rubbish. She claim the economy is boasting yet no jobs,poor infrastructure,poor social amenities. The only aspect were the economy is boasting is in d area of crime rate, social menace and poverty. With d recent strike of asuu,asup,nupeng,tanker drivers this has clearly shown us dat indeed the economy is boasting.the only thing she knows is calling figures that nigerians dnt understand,ask her the price of bag of rice or mudu of gari or tin of milk she can never tell you bt yet she claim to be minister of finace. Madam fix it nigerians are tired with dos inpossible figures of urs,pls wen u want to call money jst call dem in naira and compare it to d economy and hw it directly affect the common man.

  • charis

    I really dunno why we like to decieve ourselves in this country!we knw and it is glaring to us that our economy is still underdeveloped bt we keep lying to ourselves and some useless woman who wears cheap ankara to mk us think dt she’s nt eating money wld come and start giving us stupid figures sayin dt our economy is doin well and dt we aint borrowing!we are nt dunce oh!!Nigerians are nt dunce anymore!!!

  • frank dave

    Another hogwash from the stable of SR; one that serves in their ridicule. Instructive how the article has sort to whizz through a concussion of issues that’s has nothing to do with the minister, yet it fails extensively in articulating it’s position; in fact I has not point! I am not going to be drown into trying to unpick this drivel; folks who erroneous understanding of economy is restricted to exchange rate of the naira and dollar in 2006, is really one to be humorous about.
    And no, I have no affiliation to the government and persons in authority; a tag frequently attached to individuals with some reasoning.

  • OJ

    No need for this hot exchanges, it’s obvious this economy isn’t working fine at all. Nigeria economy is in dire, that’s a fact I do not expect the “coordinator” to admit hence her job will be threatened. This also shall pass us by…soon!

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    Nigeria economy is in comatose and lacked strong foundation and solid platform despite the president Jonathan finance minister and leader of the economic team assurance and denial.
    What is negatively contributing to the domestic economy of Nigeria is the massive wasteful expenses of the government despite its record of no tangible structural achievement that can be pointed out by president Jonathan and his finance minister Dr Okonjo-Iweala .
    Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is an IMF/WB agent and representative who is implementing IMF/WB script:fuel-price 2012-increase,naira devaluation,electricity tariff increase and more further requests for foreign loans deliberately to compound Nigeria future generations lives with endless foreign debts interest rate payment.
    Moreover,Dr Okonjo Iweala is getting paid her monthly salary and allowances in foreign dollars currency as a finance minister in Nigeria by IMF/WB

  • Omokhodion Irene

    SAHARA REPORTER – The quality of the article above and the SAHARA report is a shame to Nigerians and the journalists in Nigeria. Same roadside, beer palour, shouting discussion on National issues.

    Bassey Udo wasted my time and this space with this his essay. As Samson said above, no facts, no analysis, no verification, no examples. This write is typical of the average Nigerian posture on issues. All claim to be experts on national economic issues, pulling down anyone in government for every reason.

    Check this out for me: Before Obasanjo’s time, Nurses and teachers in Edo State were paid pittance and could not afford basics of life. I have many withing friends and families. They mostly lived on loans to pay school fees and house rents. Many could not afford decent clothes – faded wrappers, dresses and most wore slippers from soft to hard plastics. They became traders inside classroom and hostile even killers in hospitals. Till date average Nigerian nurse is unfriendly and hostile when ministering to patients, especially the unknown, helpless and poor citizens and children.I mean all hospitals whether federal, state or private. Things were hard for everybody.

    Environment: Most Nigerians, I speak for Edo Delta states may remember the pollution from second bikes and rickety vehicles mostly Peugeot used in Nigeria them. Major cities were polluted from these bikes and vehicles used for public transport. Smoke everywhere in towns and cities. Did it not change during Obasanjo’s time. In Edo Delta now, the air is as clean as can be and parents are relieved that future generations will not be brought down by sicknesses and diseases caused from constantly inhaling smoky and sooty exhaust fumes from city full old second motorbikes etc. Then motor bikers were dirtier then and smelly, some like lunatics in appearance. Now in these states, they appeared decent from that yesteryears.

    Environment: Second hand fridges, air conditioners etc were the order of the day, yet l expensive. As a young man, an old second hand fridge was passed on to me then and with joy, I took it to the envy of my friends. That fridge was always under repair every 4 months, till it packed up. NOW WHAT IS THE CASE??? In my state , people and even students now buy brand new fridges and air conditioners for same prices as the old second hand ones.

    If you are sincere, you should have known that that such changes are across the country. For us here, it is a great difference to the life of the people – healthier, safer and better life with the said changes.

    Visit Edo ? Delta states, visit any school or hospital, peep into any premises, you will see green grass, better dressed personnel, even cars, yes, CARS, for teachers and nurses parked inside schools. Many were bought with means connected to their new income profile. It is even better in other states.

    Read the newspapers and you will see that the Northern states have not done badly relative to years back on infrastructure.

    All the roads are still not perfect, But we can ply them in stand travel times. Journeys of 2 hours is now tow hours not 6 or 8 hours.

    ABROAD: If you ever traveled or lived long enough in Europe in the years of Babangida etc, you would have felt the disdain and general lack of presence that followed any Nigerian then. After the repayment of the debts, you may have noticed also that Nigerians were able to access travel visas, business men were able top have ears from overseas business community. I know because I experienced it. Check out how Zimbabweans are treated outside their countries now especially in the western World where assured business have been conducted over the decades. They are broke and have no money.Am not saying Nigerians are liked the more now, but at leats many with genuine concerns can expect to have visas and travel – academics, workers etc. See how many average Nigerian worker travel now to Dubai, Canada, Italy, etc

    I do not know Okonji Iweala nor Obasanjo. Am not a politician. It pains to see reporters and others tear down effort by others to build even if it is a termite effort.

    Follow up on the Electricity issue: I saw high tension and substations being constructed in remote areas in Rivers state; Ahoada, Mbiama, Patani axis under thsi programmer. I worked in the forests around there over one year. YES, I SAW IT. Something was done on electricity. I will always tell all who care to listen and my kids to come about the transformation tha Obasabjo government brought to my part of this country. I say so because I experienced it.

    A lot is still undone. Infact so much but that is not to say, he never stood to point out the way he wanted us to go. Okonji and Obasanjo did. Give them regard for whatever they have done. You may not do better if you are give the mantle.

    I believe all past regimes dropped something good on the country no matter how little. If we all can recognise and build on what ever seed has been sown, it will be good for all. Expose failures but recognise the good.

  • Fred

    Sahara Reporters should not be discouraged in reporting the truth and exposing falsehood. You would have scored more with me though if your language had better moderation.