Last week, a portion of former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s book, ‘Fighting corruption is dangerous, the story behind the headlines’, was released online. The portion of the book shared the story of how lawmakers in the face of the dwindling oil price refused to cut down their N150 billion constituency project fund as the Ministers had cut down their salaries due to the falling economy.
Okonjo-Iweala who was finance minister from August 17, 2011 to May 29, 2015, said the lawmakers after much dialogue, agreed to cut down the budget for their projects but then infused N17 billion into the budget. She stated that the Executive had to over look this inclusion so that the budget could be passed.
“By the time we presented the budget on December 16, 2014, oil prices had fallen further to $58 per barrel. We were prepared and we knew we had to trigger the additional expenditure and revenue measures in 2015 to make the budget work. This would be tough, given that we had entered an election year. Indeed, legislators initially refused to accept any cuts to their regular N150billion budget, despite dwindling revenues. But eventually, they agreed to a 13 percent cut against a backdrop of ministers accepting a voluntary 50 percent cut to their basic salaries. In a tough session with the National Assembly’s adhoc committee on the budget (made up of chairs of the Finance Committee and Appropriation Committee of both chambers and other leaders of the National Assembly), an additional N20billion was re-introduced as election expenses for National Assembly members. We insisted the amount be dropped because it nullified the 13 percent cut made to their statutory budget, but managed to reduce the N20billion figure by only N3billion to N17billion. This became the price to pay to have the 2015 budget passed”, Okonjo-Iweala wrote.
Following the widespread criticism from Nigerians after the revelation from the book, the former Minister in a statement released this afternoon, said the content of her book was taken out of context. According to her, she never accused the lawmakers of taken bribe. Read her statement below: