Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has charged the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to publish details of the federal allocations released to all the federating units since June 2014.
The association noted that it was imperative that details of these humongous allocations made to states and local governments around Nigeria are disclosed in form of public information on the website of the finance ministry, especially from mid-last year when the ministry unilaterally stopped disclosing the very details of these allocations.
HURIWA, who stated this in a media statement jointly signed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf and made available to News Express, said it was reliably informed by United States of America-based researchers that the finance ministry indeed stopped publication of details of federal allocations to states and local councils since June last year, adding that this shortcoming adversely affected the advocacy campaigns of credible pro-transparency non-governmental organisations in Nigeria, and must be redressed by the minister before she bows out on May 29.
HURIWA stressed that the comprehensive financial release to the component parts of the federation must be disclosed freely in the spirit of Freedom of Information Act of 2011, so to enable Nigerians hold their governors responsible for the poor situation of finances in most of the 36 states.
The rights group noted: “When Mrs Okonjo-Iweala first became minister of finance, she did something that revolutionised government accountability and citizen participation: she introduced the monthly publication of the detailed Federal Allocation to all tiers of government, in the major newspapers and on the Federal Ministry of Finance website. While many considered it to be an exuberance of political naivety that would be quickly dispensed of by more sophisticated and seasoned political and administrative minds, Dr Okonjo-Iwela stood her ground. Those pundits were wrong. She was right. And that singular action gave courage to Nigerians that, indeed, government could be held accountable when citizens became knowledgeable participants.
“When in 2011 she became the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Okonjo-Iweala reiterated her commitment to the continued publication of the data as a legacy of her commitment to Nigeria. The re-statement was a necessary testimony to the personal and professional sacrifices she was willing to make, especially in light of the numerous attacks on her person, from many who saw her return to Nigeria as being compromised, and nothing more than an adventure to ‘come and chop’ her share.
“When sometime last year we received several complaints and requests from researchers and other interested citizens that the minister was not living up to her words – that the ministry was not publishing the detailed reports (by federal statutory bodies, states and LGAs) of the monthly allocations on its official website, we decided to take a wait-and-see approach, convinced that it was probably nothing more than a technical issue. It has been almost a year now. So, we decided to take a closer look and went to the official website of the ministry, and what we found was quite disturbing.”
HURIWA found out that the last detailed allocation published on the site was for the FAAC Distribution made in May 2014 – over a year’s worth of data remains unpublished. A search for other months (June 2014 to April 2015) returned an error message, as seen by us from an image we now have in our file. “This was not what we expected, and we call on all those who have responsibility to publish these reports to do so: let the legacy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s contribution to Nigeria’s fiscal development not die on her watch,” the group averred; noting: “As the curtain draws on this administration and possibly on Okonjo-Iweala’s tenure as Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it would be rather unfortunate if she ended it by not publishing the allocations for the last year of her tenure in office.”
HURIWA affirmed: “Whether by omission or commission – neither of which history would care to differentiate – the Minister for Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, should see to it that the story told about this adventure in government accountability is not that of the doubting pundits who said that it was only a matter of time. And the irony would be that it was with her hands and implicit consent and inaction that it finally came to an end.”