The Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, failed to answer many of the questions sent to her by members of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance on the ‘true state’ of Nigeria’s economy, the lawmakers have said.
In a review of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s response to the 50 questions issued to her by the committee, the lawmakers said some of the questions were “either not answered, partially answered, outrightly ignored or completely misunderstood.”
The lawmakers’ response is contained in a letter addressed to the minister, dated January 31, and signed by the Chairman of the Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
The committee also said it observed several lacuna in the minister’s response.
“The Committee further noted glaring missing gaps in the responses, absence of supporting proofs to assertions and lack of relevant documents to back up the presentation as is the practice in any legislative oversight or investigation.
“Many data and statistics provided were inconsistent with subsequent information provided while answering other questions,” the committee said.
The 50 questions
The 50 questions were issued to the finance minister on December 19, 2013by the committee. The questions bordered on the state of Nigeria’s economy.
Though the committee gave her two weeks to respond, the minister sent her response and made it public on January 16.
The presentation of the questions to the minister had sparked controversy between her and the House committee on December 19, 2013, when she appeared before the lawmakers.
A disagreement occurred during the minister’s appearance as a video sourced by PREMIUM TIMES showed the minister initially making jest of the lawmakers after they informed her of their decision to hand her the 50-question homework.
The video indicates that the controversial meeting started on a warm note with exchanges of pleasantries between the executive team, led by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala (and including the Director General of the Budget Office, Bright Okogwu) and the lawmakers led by the committee chairman, Mr. Jibrin.
Despite starting on a good note, the meeting degenerated when the lawmakers told the finance minister not to respond to their questions on that day after she said she was ‘feeling ill’.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said she came to the meeting ‘out of respect’ to the lawmakers as she was not healthy enough to attend.
After the presentation of the questions, however, the minister insisted she would answer the questions on that day, a request refused by the lawmakers who said they wanted her to come back when she was ‘strong and energetic.’
After studying the minister’s response for two weeks, the lawmakers have now said the response falls short of their expectations.
Committee expresses dissatisfaction
The House committee stated its disapproval at the minister referring it to other government agencies for details of the responses to some of its questions.
“…if all the questions raised are beyond the competence of the Minister of Finance, it is certainly not beyond the competence of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy to the extent of information you must have in your possession unless you say otherwise,” the lawmakers said.
The committee, not satisfied with her responses, then resent what it described as “additional observations and requests” on about 40 of the 50 questions it earlier sent the minister. It said those should be provided on or before February 20.
“The observations and requests are made on questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, , 35, 36, 37, 39, 41, , 43, 44, 45, 47, and 48 while further details on the following questions will be taken at the hearing: Questions 7, 18, 19, 21, 2, 8, 29, 34, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 49 and 50.
“Your responses this time and submission of the supporting document are expected to put issues in clearer perspective to enable the Committee conclude preparation for the hearing.
“The Committee has scheduled an investigative hearing to give you the opportunity to explain and defend your submission before the Committee and enable Nigerians to participate and make their contributions to this issue,” it said.
The public investigative hearing is scheduled to hold between March 3 and 6.