The Senate yesterday notched the federal cabinet up with the confirmation of former minister of finance and currently managing director of the World Bank Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and nine others including Professor Bath Nnaji, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, Comrade Abba Moro, Dr. Samuel Ioraer Ortom, Professor Viola Onwuliri, Prof. Ita Okon Bassey Ewa, Sen. Idris Umar and Erelu Olusola Obada.
Of the 10 that were confirmed, only six were grilled while four nominees including acting national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr. Mohammed, Moro, Ortom, and Umar were simply asked to bow and go.
Answering varied questions on the economy, finance and banking, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala called for caution in the implementation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy of cashless society: “I support the objective of cashless society, but we should be careful about it and do it with deliberation because it might have the negative effect if you implement a minimum or a maximum withdrawal limit. It may get to a point where people will decide to keep their money in their mattresses and refuse to put them in the bank if they think they will not be able to withdraw them”.
Speaking on subsidy, the former finance minister declared that the issue was not an ideological one adding that the problem was with the generalization of subsidy. According to her it works when it gets to the poor who are the main target of the policy.
“But in Nigeria subsidy which consumes about N500billion to N600billion gets to both those who need and those who do not (the rich). Nigeria is not the only country struggling with it, Indonesia which is another oil driven economy is also struggling with it. The gap between the rich and the poor keeps getting wider as a result. This is a country where the rich keeps getting richer and the poor getting poorer,” she added.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala also told the senators that it is possible to achieve a balanced budget. “Right now we need to work very hard because the budget that we have is such that the recurrent expenditure is almost 74 per cent of the budget. Therefore there is not much left for capital; so we need to work hard to put in place a strong fiscal policy and continue to implement fiscal policies that will enable us to tackle the various challenges in the economy while at the same time living within our means.
Prof. Nnaji, told the senators that about N10.5billion is required annually for 10 years to fix electricity generation, but he assured that by 2014 the power generation capacity in the country would hit 15,000 megawatts.
In the same vein, immediate past minister of finance Mr. Olusegun Aganga told the senators that the country has been having deficit budget for the past nine to 10 years adding that the deficit increased more than N500billion in 2009 and 2010. “It was N1.1trillion and in 2011it’s going to be more than that, despite the fiscal consolidation we started,” he said. He further added that domestic debt has gone up.
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday made public the names of his aides, with his chief of staff Mr. Mike Oghiadomhe retained and Mr. Oronto Douglas and Hon. Kingsley Kuku returned as special advisers to the president on research/strategy and Niger Delta affairs respectively.
The 18 presidential aides will be sworn in today at the council chambers in the presidential villa.
Chairman, editorial board of The Guardian Newspapers, Dr. Reuben Abati, according to the list is the new special adviser to the president on media and publicity, while the only female presidential candidate in the 2011 general elections, Mrs. Sarah Jibril has been appointed special adviser to the president on ethics and value.
The other presidential aides are Eng. Mohammed Kachalla Abubakar, deputy chief of staff; Ambassador Hassan Tukur, princicipal secretary to the president; Prof. Abubakar Sambo, special adviser to the president on energy; Senator Joy Emordi, special adviser to the president on National Assembly matters; Mrs. Sarah Akuben Pane, special adviser to the president on social development; Dr. Tunji Olagunju, special adviser to the president on NEPAD.
Others include Dr. Pius Olakunle Osunyikanmi, special adviser to the president on international relations; Prof Dan Adebiyi, special adviser to the president on special duties; Mrs. Asma’u Abdulkadir, special adviser to the president on gender issues; Nze Sullivan Nwakpo, special adviser to the president on technical matters; Yakubu Abdullahi, special adviser to the president on political matters (office of the vice-president); Barr. Bashir Sufyan, special adviser to the president on legal matters (office of the vice-president); and Senator Isaiah Ballat, special adviser to the president for special duties (office of the vice- president).
A statement signed by the secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senato Anyim Pius Anyim to this effect reads: “The president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR has approved the appointment of Principal Aides to assist him in discharging his constitutional obligations to the nation.
The Special Advisers would be sworn-in on Thursday, 7th July, 2011 by 2.00pm at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa.