Saturday, 10 November 2012

Cold War In Jonathan's House Over Okonjo-Iweala, Subsidy Payment

There is uneasy calm in the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan over the probe of fuel subsidy management and ongoing trial of some oil marketers. Investigation, revealed that the ongoing probe by the EFCC has triggered division in the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

It was learnt that some ministers are unhappy with what they consider as overbearing influence of the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on the investigation of the marketers and her insistence that they should be punished when there could be room for restitution.

Some of the marketers are facing trial for the alleged mismanagement of about N382 billion while a few others are being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A few were granted bail on Thursday, pending the filing of charges against those that are found culpable.

However, it was gathered that some ministers favour refund of illegally paid subsidy funds than full-scale trial of marketers which Okonjo-Iweala has been championing.

The aggrieved ministers also complained against alleged ‘blanket stigma’ given to marketers including a few ones that had been ‘helpful’ to the administration of Jonathan.

According to findings, some of the ministers also faulted Okonjo-Iweala for going about the probe as if it was purely her initiative without the input of other cabinet members.

The aggrieved ministers were said to have been covertly working to undermine Okonjo-Iweala, with some of them pushing for her exit from the cabinet for proving to be “I too know.’’

But the President is said to be backing the Minister of Finance because he believes she is guiding the economy in the right direction.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The truth is that some ministers are unhappy with the way the probe into the fuel subsidy scam was handled by Okonjo-Iweala. Their argument is that the process of investigation and trial could paralyse the oil sector, particularly the fuel supply system.

“But the Finance Minister insisted on bringing transparency into governance instead of giving soft-landing to the ‘untouchable’ marketers. In fact the release of the report of the Presidential Committee to the public and the uncovering of the 25 indicted marketers deepened the crack between Okonjo-Iweala and the ministers.

“There are handfuls who are engaging the Minister of Finance in cold war, which is apparent to cabinet members. They pretend to be tolerating her, but if they have their way, they would want the President to drop her.”

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