The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has responded to the 50 questions raised by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance on the state of the economy.
In her response, the Minister provided detailed 100-page answers to the questions.
In a statement issued by her Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, the Minister said the document provides extensive detail, some of which came in form of tables and graphs.
It was gathered that the document was delivered to all members of the finance committee on the evening of Wednesday.
Okonjo-Iweala in her response said that regardless of the many challenges that remain obvious, the Nigerian economy was showing real and measurable progress in many areas, adding that “This can be seen in the fact that more jobs are being created; roads, rail and other infrastructure are being improved; the country is saving for the future and planning better for the present.”
According to her, “The Jonathan administration, contrary to the impression given by some critics, is making an impact in the areas that, according to credible opinion polls, Nigerians are most passionate about.
“For instance, on job creation which is a central focus of the administration, a total of 1.6 million jobs were created last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of which 250,000 were seasonal jobs created in dry season farming in 10 northern states.
“In manufacturing, the Onne Oil and Gas Free zone created an estimated 30,000 direct and indirect jobs. The government special intervention programme YouWin supported young entrepreneurs, creating over 18,000 jobs. The SURE-P Community Services programme has also created 120,000 job opportunities.”
She stressed that the improved state of Nigerian roads has been confirmed by many who travelled during the Christmas period.
Hear her,“Key highways which have witnessed significant progress include Kano-Maiduguri Road, the Abuja-Lokoja Road, the Apapa-Oshodi Road, the Onitsha-Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road and the Benin-Ore-Shagamu Road. Preliminary work has commenced on Lagos-Ibadan road and the Second Niger Bridge.
“The Railway Modernization Programme involving the construction of standard gauge lines is underway. The 1,124 km Western line linking Lagos and Kano is now functional, while work on the Eastern line linking Port Harcourt to Maiduguri is about 36 per cent complete.
“The Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge line has attained 68 per cent completion, and the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Line which is presently 77 per cent completed, will be completed next year.
“The annual passenger traffic on our railways has increased steadily, rising from 1 million in 2011 to 5 million in 2013,” the minister’s spokesman said.
On the issue of debt as alleged by some House members, Iweala dismissed the allegation, stating there was no substance to the charge.
“In fact, the opposite is true. Right from her Senate confirmation hearing in 2011, the minister had identified rising debt as a major challenge, which the country needs to confront.
“Under the leadership of President Jonathan and working with the Debt Management Office and the Budget Office of the Federation, the minister followed through with a robust approach which includes progressive reduction of borrowing, quick settlement of due debts and the retirement of N75 billion of maturing bonds via a Sinking Fund dedicated to paying off substantial bonds.
“These measures have produced clear results as shown in the reduction of borrowing from N852 billion in 2011 to N571.9 billion this year,” the Minister had cleared.
Comrade James Ezema is a Political Scientist and a Journalist and can also be reached on +2348035823617.