The former minister accused lawmakers of not being ‘decorous’.
A former Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili, on Saturday lambasted members of the House of Representatives for their treatment of the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Mrs. Ezekwesili, a former Vice President of the World Bank, accused the lawmakers of not being ‘decorous’ when the House of Representatives Committee on Finance walked Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala out of their meeting on Thursday.
“Gosh! Our National Assembly &lawmakers URGENTLY need SERIOUS TRAINING on Respectful Workplace Practices,” Mrs. Ezekwesili said on Saturday morning on her twitter handle, @obyezeks.
According to her, more is expected of lawmakers as the only reason Nigeria is called a democracy is because of the National Assembly.
“These lawmakers need know this and be decorous!. That fellow that was blatantly disrespectful to Okonjo-Iweala may not in the real world qualify to be her Research Assistant. Let’s face facts,” she said.
The former minister later apologised for her seeming remark about the educational qualification of one of the lawmakers.
“Ok, I agree. I was hard on him to compare his academic credentials with that of O-Iweala and so I take that tweet back. Forgive angry me!,” she said.
Mrs. Ezekwesili, who was also a former minister of solid minerals, said she was responsive to the National Assembly when she was in government and never failed to turn up and engage them whenever they called.
“I knew Okonjo-Iweala to be same. Surely, if the Committee Chairman was angry at her for having said she was slightly indisposed, she still deserved fair hearing. I expect our lawmakers to ask the toughest of questions in the discharge of their oversight role. But, do so with plenty of grace- with decorum,” she said.
According to her, the language of disagreement matters a great deal in nurturing the culture of public debate which is core to democracies.
“Let’s get it right! I am huge on that language of disagreement. Disagree all you like but keep it clean of abuse and I will stay engaged. Abusers? Not on my TL!
“I keep coming back to the issue of the language of disagreement in our Democracy. We can’t afford to keep it as base and militaristic as it is.”
“On the substance of the “50 Questions for Okonjo-Iweala.” It is a MIXED GRILL that could have benefited from deeper knowledge of Basic Economics,” she said.
The House of Representatives finance committee walked out Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, Thursday, after a brief but stormy session in which lawmakers tasked the minister with 50 questions on the state of the Nigerian economy.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala had earlier presented the budget proposals for 2014 to the Senate and the House of Representatives, before meeting the house finance committee.
The minister said she was indisposed and only responded to her invitation out of respect for the legislature.
But when lawmakers offered to excuse her due to her health, but with a condition she responds to 50 questions in writing within two weeks, the minister backtracked choosing instead to answer the questions at the meeting.
Exchanges between the minister and the committee chairman, Abdulmumini Jibrin, quickly escalated with Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala accusing the committee of being disrespectful.
“With all due respect, I will not tell your committee that I’m feeling fine when I’m not. We have had good working relationship with your committee; I thought we’ll be treated with courtesy, but the way you’re starting is a bit disturbing,” the minister said.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s experience typifies the frosty relationship between the legislature and the executive. The finance minister was chosen by President Goodluck Jonathan to present the budget, which traditionally, since 1999, has been done by the sitting president.
Though Mr. Jonathan did not state his reason for choosing to be represented, he is believed to have avoided the presentation so as not to be booed by opposition lawmakers of the House of Representatives.
The chairman of the committee could not be reached for comments as at the time of publishing this report.
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