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Awaiting A Miracle …The Fairy Dream of a New World

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Anytime today or late Wednesday, the world shall behold or reject a new President of the World Bank by name Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala or Prof Yong Kim. The former is Nigeria’s Finance Minister and coordinating minister of the economy while the latter is a renowned health expert and nominee of the United States of America (USA)

Considering the measure of passion injected into the lobby for the position, especially among the emerging economies, it would be a major disappointment should the vote by the bank’s  board go the way of Yong Kim, a Korean-American, whose credentials on development economy, finance and banking are weightless against what Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala parades.

By Friday, the  race had become one between just two, on account of  the withdrawal of the Brazilian nominee, Dr Jose Antonio Ocampo, over lack of support from his home country, Colombia, which seems more interested in the presidency of the International Labour Organization (ILO), than the World Bank.

However, before throwing-in the towel, Ocampo rallied support for the virtues of merit, integrity, fairness, leadership and indeed competence which he said characterized the candidacy of Nigeria’s Finance Minister, and indeed, expectation of the emerging economies of the world.

A Director of Economic and Political Development at the Columbia University in New York, Ocampo  had expressed doubts over the neutrality of the selection process, and  expressed fears over its eventual outcome. “We did not believe the selection process had been conducted in a fully open, transparent and merit-based fashion, but it had established a strong precedent”.

On this column, April 2, 2012, titled World Bank Presidency: The Odds Against Okonjo-Iweala, My Agony had raised the alarm that International politics, America’s greed and indeed precedent, rather than merit, competence, integrity and indeed leadership will determine the choice of a world Bank President.

Our view: “If the choice of President of the World Bank were to be based purely on the integrity, experience,  expertise, merit and popularity of contending players, without an iota of doubt, Nigeria’s coordinating minister of the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should succeed Mr. Robert Zoellick whose tenure expires June, 2012. But the world today is used to doing without the best and there are yet no positive signs that the choice of a world bank President will be any different”.

In fulfillment of this view and in spite of the impressive credentials of Okonjo-Iweala, the massive support her candidacy enjoys among the emerging economies and indeed the withdrawal of one of the contestants, Ocampo in support of  Nigeria’s Finance Minister, it thus, appears that the  choice of Yong Kim has been pre-determined.

For instance, while, all African directors of the bank voiced support for Okonjo-Iweala during last Friday’s straw polling, the US, Canada, Japan and all European Union countries were seen to be backing the American nominee against popular expectations that the selection process will be open and transparent and the outcome of the interviews be made public.

The last straw that broke the Camel’s back and which now leaves Nigeria’s hope for a World Bank Presidency hinging only on a miracle, came with the defection of Russia from Okonjo-Iweala’s support base. With Russia going the way of the US, the gains derivable from the exit of Ocampo appear minimal.

In fact, as it stands, the battle is now drawn between support for the US, Europe and Russia as against Africa and a divided group of emerging economies like China, Brazil, which nominated Ocampo in the first instance and indeed India.

This scenario is predictable, even understandable, for the same reasons this column advanced on April 2nd, this year, as earlier predicted.

“When on April 20, 2012, the 187-member nations’ board will sit to determine, by consensus, a choice for president of the world Bank, more than the amiable credentials of the Nigerian candidate and the two others will be in consideration”.(My Agony)

Strangely, the vote needs not wait till then as there are indications that the choice could have been made already and merely waiting to be made public either today or as the New York Times has speculated as early as Wednesday. This means the US is close to a consensus if not so, already.

It was for fear of this  in the first instance, that My Agony predicted; “the biggest hurdle shall be the seeming oath taken by Europe and the United States since the inception of the bank after World War II,… That understanding allows Europe headship of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while, the US has kept the World Bank ever since”.

Worse still, US Secretary of Treasury, Tim Geither virtually fore-closed likelihood of his country bending to global pressure needed to give Okonjo-Iweala a go at the World Bank Presidency, when, he was quoted as saying, a fortnight ago, “the US has no problem with either Okonjo-Iweala or Ocampo, but should the presidency of the World Bank be allowed to go to a non-American, it will be difficult to get the US congress to pay US commitments to the bank.” And the US is the major shareholder of the World Bank upon which the survival of the bank and its development projects depend.

Bottomline: It would be absurd, even unthinkable for emerging economies to depend on funds from the World Bank for their development and at the same time, insist on managing such funds. At normal times, this is a possibility but not in an election year, when, the Republican fray is still fishing for more reasons bordering on outsourcing of American honour, to slam US President Barack Obama.

As it is today, the failure of the US nominee, Yong Kim  has been made to appear to be failure of not just President Obama or his Democratic Party but indeed the United States of America. This is the blackmail instrument which will render difficult any attempt to do right, from global perspectives and commit political suicide before American voters.

More importantly, “if the bank’s succession history since 1944 is anything to go by, then it will require more than a miracle for the US to bend or for Europe to betray its major ally in the US, for, wait developing nations.” This, as we canvassed earlier, “is most unlikely, given the imperatives.

This column then suggested:

‘The only solution, methinks, is to shift the conversation to the US political scene and make it an issue, at least to feel the pulse of American voters, whether Republicans or Democrats. Now, all that is late.

However, no matter how unpleasant, the eventual outcome might be come Wednesday, or even later today, Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala  is both a winner and history maker if for nothing else, for going this far in pricking global conscience in pursuit of merit and against the double standards of world powers not doing what they often preach.

Happily, Okonjo-Iweala alluded to that while thanking Ocampo for his support when she said, “I am proud that Dr Ocampo and I have helped make history by changing the way that World Bank Presidential elections are contested”. Unfortunately, that was in hope that the board would vote, in a transparent manner, the right choice on April 20, this year, not knowing that a decision might have been reached and merely awaiting official announcement today or Wednesday.

My Agony is that the scenario now leaves Okonjo-Iweala with only a tiny hope of a miracle. A miracle which will see the US and her powerful European allies and even Russia, make U-turn to support one from the emerging economies like Africa’s lone candidate. This, no matter Okonjo-Iweala’s amazing credentials, seems unlikely, today.

 

Soye Wilson Jamabo

Okonjo-Iweala

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NASS Passes N10.59trn Budget For 2020 … Jerks Its Appropriation By N264bn, Gives Reason

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The two Chambers of the National Assembly (NASS), yesterday passed the Appropriation Bill of N10.59 trillion budget for the 2020 fiscal year with a view to returning the nation’s budget cycle to January to December.
The Lawmakers jerked up the budget as proposed by President Muhammad Buhari to the tune of N246 billion.
The lawmakers passed the 2020 budget following a clause-by-clause consideration of the report of the Committee on Appropriations of the two Chambers.
Briefing the press after plenary session, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Barau Jubril and Stella Odua, respectively, defended the additional N246 billion the lawmakers injected into the budget.
The Chairman described the budgeting process as the best so far because it is the first time the Executive, Senate and House of Representatives came together on a roundtable to agree on a united document as budget of the country.
He defended the N264 billion increase injected into the 2020 budget as not padding of the appropriation bill, but harvested additional revenue, saying the additional fund was brought in conjunction and consultation with the Executive.
Denying that the extra funds injected was padding, Senator Jibrin Barau said the word padding is alien to the 9th Senate because the infusion on additional vote for capital projects was done in collaboration with the executive arm of government.
According to him, the Senate saw avenue to make additional revenue and “just fixed the expected increased revenue to sectors in need of additional revenue”.
He said “In a Presidential system of government, there is room for checks on what any arm of government is doing by the other. President Buhari no doubt presented a perfect budget, but it is our own responsibility as the parliament to critically look at what was presented by the executive and make corrections where necessary.
“During the course of deliberating on the budget, we saw opportunities of where we can get additional income for the government and we deployed them to areas that need further spending.
“The National Assembly has the right to do it and that is what we have done”, he said.
Presenting the report, Senator Barau Jibrin said the increase of N264billion allowed for interventions in critical areas such as national security, road infrastructure, mines and steel development, and health.
A breakdown of the budget, Senator Jubrin said, is that Statutory Transfer stood at N560.5billion, recurrent expenditure-N4.8billion, capital expenditure-N2.5billion, debt servicing-N2.7illionbn, fiscal deficit-N2.3trillion and deficit to GDP of 1.52 per cent.
He pointed out that daily oil production stood at 2.18 million barrels per day, Oil Benchmark stood at $57 per barrel against $55 proposed by the Executive, while the exchange rate stood at N305 per dollar.
Capital Expenditure for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) for the 2020 fiscal year are: Ministry of Defence N116,181,290,730; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N7,608,141,474; Ministry of Information and Culture, N7,555,803,233; Ministry of Interior, N34,035,825,302; Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, N1,722,796,040; Ministry of Police Affairs, N15,959,986,864; Ministry of Communication Technology, N5,919,002,554; and Office of the National Security Adviser, N27,418,469,323.
Others are: Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, N25,188,940,930; Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, N2,158,620,395; Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, N124,395,096,917; Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, N4,976,199,925; Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, N38,583,331,761; Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, N24,445,756,678; Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, N62,882,531,566; Federal Ministry of Transport, N121,366,932,571; and Federal Ministry of Aviation, N52,061,533,122.
Also, for the 2020 fiscal year, the Ministry of Power has an allocation of N129,082,499,363; Ministry of Petroleum Resources, N3,337,444,887; Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, N10,431,563,177; Ministry of Works and Housing, N315,563,564,269; Ministry of Water Resources, N91,679,927,042; Ministry of Justice, N3,853,600,220; Federal Capital Territory Administration, N62,407,154,360; and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, N23,120,350,399.
Others include: Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, N3,735,486,210; Military of Women Affairs, N6,650,300,966; Federal Ministry of Education, N84,728,529,572; Ministry of Health, N59,909,430,837; Federal Ministry of Environment, N12,350,140,731; and Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, N61,085,146,003.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his concluding remarks after the 2020 budget was passed, said, “when we came in, all of us approved our legislative agenda, and one of the key pillars of this agenda is to take back our budget cycle from the very undesirable cycle that cannot be defined to something that can be defined and bought into by our country and business partners living in and outside the country.
“Today, we have been able to achieve this. It means where there is will, there is always a way. This is something that we have been able to achieve together with the House of Representatives.
“I must give members of the Ninth National Assembly the credit, because we thought it was going to be impossible.
“Let me also commend the buying-in of the executive arm of government. When we continued to preach that we have to receive the 2020 budget estimates before the end of September, it was not easy for the executive.
“I know they (Executive) worked day and night. So it was presented to us on the 8th of October. We have been able to work harmoniously. There is no way we can achieve this without all of us working together.
“I want to commend our colleagues from the opposition. This Senate from the beginning, we said, will be bi-partisan. You have given us all the support that we require, and indeed, this is the way it should be”, Lawan added.
The Senate President also noted that with the recent passage of landmark legislations such as the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Act, Finance Bills and Public Procurement Bills by the National Assembly, the Executive arm of government is sufficiently empowered to ensure the successful implementation of the 2020 budget.

 

By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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Wike, Building Legacy For Tomorrow -Nsirim

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The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information And Communications, Rivers State, and Commissioner-designate, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, says the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike is building lasting legacies for tomorrow through the various developmental projects going on across in the state.
Nsirim said the traffic gridlock being witnessed in major roads across part of the state, was due to the concerted efforts by the state Chief Executive’s transformation policies which, he said, havw turned the state to a construction site.
He, therefore, urged residents and visitors to the state, to bear with the State Government and not worry about what they see around, saying that it is the vision of the NEW Rivers mantra to place the state on the trajectory of leadership and governance.
Nsirim, said this while declaring open a two-day workshop for Universal Basic Education Board (UBEC), State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), and Heads of Public Relations (PR) and protocol being hosted by the RSUBEB in Port Harcourt yesterday, with the theme, “Bridging the Gap and Breaking New Grounds in UBE Public Relations/Protocol Practice”.
He described the role of PROs and Protocol officers in basic education management in the country as very strategic and urged them to improve on their professional competencies in order to drive the programmes in their various boards.
“Your roles in basic education is very strategic.There are new strategies being introduced by government to ensure that basic education receives a boost in the country”, he stated
Nsirim also urged them not to see the workshop as an avenue to make new friends, but to improve on their proficiency in order to bring in various stakeholders into the activities of the board .
“What ever opportunity and duty you find yourself, see it as a service to God and write story of prosperity”.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the state SUBEB, Ven. Fyneface Akah, said the workshop was a unifying event that offers a moment of exchange of ideas and skills as well as orderliness among the Public Relations Officers and Protocol managers in order to streamline the way of doing things.
According to him, the workshop will help them on how to get the public to know and understand the workings of the board, adding that they have much work to do in making people understand the activities of the board.
In his own speech, the head, UBEC Public Relations and Protocol, Abuja, Mr. Ossom M. Ossom, who read the good- will message of the UBEC Chairman, said “Public Relations and Protocol practitioners owe it a duty, especially to Nigeria’s school-age population, to use every available opportunity in drawing the attention of all UBE stakeholders to the fact that our country cannot afford to berth and pass through the coming decade as largely uneducated entity and with the largest population of out-of-school children in the world”.
Earlier in an interview with newsmen, the Head of legal and Public Relations, SUBEB, Barr Karibi T. George, said “Public Relations is the live wire of every organization because it builds on the corporate image and reputations of organisation to build public Confidence”.

 

 

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We’ll Monitor Commissioners’ Performance -RSHA …As NUJ commends Wike on Nsirim’s Appointment

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The Rivers State House of Assembly has finally confirmed the nomination of 13 Commissioner-nominees sent to it by the governor, Chief Nyesom Wike.
The confirmation was finally done after debate and sitting to scrutinize complete tax certificate and clearance of one of the nominees, Mr. Sylvanus Nwankwo.
Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani said it was the constitutional mandate of the legislature to screen and confirm Commissioner-nominees; hence, it was not a witch-hunt on any of the nominees.
Debate on whether the nominees should be confirmed after they appeared on the floor of the House on Tuesday started when the Leader, Hon Martin Amaewhule, described all the nominees as, “fit and zealous” persons with requisite qualifications.
In the same vein, Hon. Matthew Dike of Tai Constituency said, “The Commissioner Nominees sent to this Assembly are landmark. It is full of men and women of proven integrity “.
On his part, Hon. Michael Chinda of Obio/Akpor Constituency 2 submitted that the Assembly will beef up its oversight on them, and therefore urged the nominees to be alive to their duties or bow out.
Chinda insisted that performance is key, saying that the House will monitor the activities of the screened and approved Commissioner nominees.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, has commended the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike for appointing their past State Chairman and two times Press Secretary to the Governor, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim as Commissioner.
Chairman of the State NUJ, Stanley Job Stanley, in a chat with The Tide, said the union is excited that after few years a professional communicator has been chosen to serve the state.
Though the nominees, who have been screened and confirmed by the Assembly, are yet to be sworn in and assigned port, folios, the NUJ Chairman expressed confidence that Nsirim will man the Information and Communications Ministry which he (Nsirim) had been a Permanent Secretary in the past three years.
“We are happy for the appointment because as a union, we have been advocating that professionals be appointed to man the Ministry.
“It will be a boost to the image of the NUJ because Nsirim was our former Chairman and for a very long time we have been longing for press/government relations to be cordial,” Stanley stated.
He described the appointment of the Permanent Secretary as well deserving, urging him to use his good offices to boost journalists/ government relations in the state.
Pastor Nsirim was among the 13 Commissioner-nominees screened and confirmed by the Assembly on Wednesday.
Nisirm, a Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Information and Communications until his nomination as a Commissioner, is currently the State Chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations(NIPR).
He has in the last six months championed a statewide image advocacy campaign tagged,” Our State, Our Responsibility.”

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