Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has denied that Nigeria is implementing the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund(IMF), and the World Bank, in what appears a measured repudiation of accusations that government’s planned fuel subsidy removal, is engineered by those world bodies.
“We are now partnering with an institution that is here to listen and help us,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said Monday at a meeting with the IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, and Nigerian federal lawmakers, amid growing public concern about a stormy policy the Jonathan administration seems bent on implementing.
“We set the policies, we set the pace, and they support us to do what it takes for the Nigerian economy. The idea of the IMF coming to tell people what to do, this is no longer what happens and so we are happy to partner with this institution.”
She added, “The IMF does an article focus consultation in every country, and over 187 members including United States, France and all the developed countries. They have consultation and look at the direction of the economy and see whether we are doing well or we are doing poorly, and what we need to make it better. It is very different from having a programme, and Nigeria does not have an IMF programme. We are working on our own but like every country, they review us.”
As nationwide furor grows, with labour unions and civil groups threatening mass action in protest, the administration has become faced with accusations that its economic policies are tailored to suit the IMF and the World Bank, two organizations perceived as anti-Nigeria, and anti-African.
At a meeting on Monday, President of the Senate, David Mark, tasked the IMF managing director, who is visiting Nigeria as part of a West African regional tour, to lead reforms at the organization so as to make its policies more African friendly.
“Our markets are accessible to you but yours (Europe) are not accessible to us,” Mr. Mark said. “This imbalance of trade is not good; you should make effort to give us some levels of accessibility to your markets.”
While meeting separately with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, said the IMF is undergoing reforms under Ms Lagarde who is just months on the job.
The minister said Nigeria was not implementing policies that are scripted by the Fund, although she would not directly relate her remarks to the widespread concerns over the fuel subsidy controversy. She said the nation’s economy was only available for periodic reviews.
Ms Lagarde, a former France Finance minister, praised Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala for leading a successful negotiation that secured Nigeria debt relief in 2005.
She acknowledged the IMF made mistakes in apportioning a common economic model to different countries, but said the Fund was now different and willing to help when needed.