- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has disclosed how the executive branch of government was forced to part with N17b, in order for lawmakers to pass the 2015 budget
- The former finance minister disclosed that the leadership of the National Assembly, working through various committees, manipulated the budget for their own gains
- She said lawmakers introduced an additional N20b as election expenses for the 2015 elections
- The figure was eventually beat down to N17b; and that was how the budget was finally passed
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former minister of finance, has disclosed how the National Assembly, during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, engaged in blackmail and arm twisting to pass budgets.
In her new book, 'Fighting Corruption is Dangerous:The Story Behind the Headlines', Iweala recollected how the executive arm of government was forced to part with N17bn in order for the lawmakers to pass the 2015 budget, The Nation reports.
Legit.ng gathers that the former minister said that at the time, crude oil prices in the international market had drastically reduced. She added that the N17bn was besides the National Assembly’s N150 billion annual ‘standard’ budget.
She stated: “The legislature was concerned largely about three things — the size of its own budget; the nature and the size of the capital budget, particularly investment projects; and the number and geographical location of the projects.
“Senators and representatives felt that their role as appropriators of the budget was not just to vet and approve budget parameters and oversee budget implementation, but also to shape the size and content of the budgets, including details of specific projects.”
According to Iweala, members of the NASS Finance and Appropriation committees even felt "they had the right – indeed the duty – to get into the details of the budget formulation and preparation process, all along the budget value chain.”
She disclosed how working through various committees, the Assembly’s leadership “sought to add more to individual projects or create completely new, unappropriated major projects, thereby distorting the budget.”
However, she explained that “not all National Assembly members supported these unfortunate manipulations of the budget.”
She continued: “National Assembly members had negotiated large increases in the National Assembly budgets and would brook no discussions or challenges on the issue.
“Their operational budget had ballooned to N150 billion or 16 per cent of the budget and almost 3.5 times the 2006 budget (in naira).”
She said the lawmakers bluntly refused to give up some of their benefits in view of dwindling revenue in 2015, when it was proposed that they do so.
She stated: “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 N150 billion budget, despite dwindling revenues.
“But eventually, they agreed to a 13 per cent cut against a backdrop of ministers accepting a voluntary 50 per cent cut to their basic salaries.
“In a tough session with the National Assembly’s ad hoc 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 N20 billion was re-introduced as election expenses for National Assembly members.
“We insisted the amount be dropped because it nullified the 13 per cent cut made to their statutory budget, but managed to reduce the N20 billion figure by only N3 billion to N17 billion.
“This became the price to pay to have the 2015 budget passed.”
Iweala described federal legislators as a tough political group to deal with.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has revealed the reason she didn't thrown in the towel and resign from the Goodluck Jonathan administration, despite all adversities during her two terms as minister.
The ex-minister, who spoke at the London School of Economics and Political Science said resigning from office would have been the easiest thing to do.
She said she was about to resign when her mother was abducted and the kidnappers demanded she resign on national TV.
Naija lawmakers overreact - on Legit.ng TV: