FORMER Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has accused the Lagos legal luminary Femi Falana of being political and acting on a script by his ‘paymaster’ to drag her name into the mud. The economist stated that the attempt by the human rights activist to mix her up in issues that have nothing to do with her in his letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a desperate joke filled with malicious intent from an integrity-challenged charlatan
Okonjo-Iweala, in a release on Monday, stated that Falana was being used by corrupt individuals to tarnish her image, adding that it was not the first attempt by the lawyer to do this.
According to her, this happened anytime she receives national or international recognition for her work.
“He has resorted to this action because his previous efforts to tarnish my name – through his discredited NGO, and petitions to the EFCC – failed, because they were lacking in credibility.
“This latest effort to try to attach my name falsely confirms that Femi Falana is nothing but a tool of corrupt elements whose interests were hurt by the work I did in fighting corruption while in office.
“These elements have now made a habit of making false allegations against my person whenever I receive any national or international recognition for my work.
“The pattern is clear and Nigerians should be alerted to it. I will not be intimidated from going on with my life and performing my duties. I will not give in to cowardly and unmanly bullying,” she said.
The former minister further explained that the latest attempt to implicate her falsely suggested that the lawyer had no grasp of the facts, adding that contrary to allegations, she had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged misuse of $2.1 billion by the office of the former National Security Adviser (NSA).
She explained that the January 20, 2015 memo in which she sought and received the approval of former President Goodluck Jonathan for the release of part of the newly returned Abacha funds to the NSA for the purchase of arms was totally separate from the $2.1 billion issue.
“The memo which is now in the public domain speaks for itself. The release of the resources was in response to an approval by the former president, following a meeting chaired by him after a committee had considered the request,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala added that it was a fact that some of the funds recovery was done under the regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar and the first term of President Olusegun Obasanjo, when she was not even in government, reiterating that during the time she was finance minister in the second Obasanjo administration, $500 million was recovered.
“As documented by the Field Study conducted by the World Bank with the assistance of national and international NGOs, this amount was properly applied. It is on record that I championed transparency and vigorously fought corruption during my two terms as minister. Among other actions, starting from the second Obasanjo administration, I, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, published monthly revenue allocations to all tiers of government for Nigerians to see,” she added.
The former minister said while serving in the Obasanjo administration, she requested the assistance of the World Bank and Department for International Development (DfID), to build institutions and systems that could block leakages from the treasury, adding that this stalled after she left office in 2006 until August 2011 when she returned under the Jonathan-led government.
She said with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance team, she re-invigorated the establishment and use of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management Systems (IPPIS), the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS) and the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
“All of this saved the country billions of naira by drastically reducing avenues for corruption in the public service. These facts are well documented in successive World Bank, DFID and IMF Article 4 Reports.
“It is gratifying that the present government has adopted and is further building on these systems for the benefit of the country,” she said.
She concluded that Falana was callous beyond belief for ignoring a fact of recent Nigerian history; the kidnap of Professor Kamene Okonjo, her 83-year-old mother, by agents of fuel subsidy fraudsters who were angry that she had blocked them from defrauding the country further.
“The kidnappers had told the traumatised old woman that they were sent to punish me for refusing to pay some oil marketers,” she said.
According to her, it was insensitive and, in fact, inhumane for Falana and his sponsors to level false accusations against someone like her, who went through a searing personal ordeal for her principled fight against corruption, adding that Falana’s attempt to implicate her falsely was a disservice to law, justice and the image of the country.
“It is sad that a person who had earned some prominence as a human rights lawyer now tramples on the human rights of others as a political jobber,” Okonjo-Iweala stated.