Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and the former World Bank official Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was recently interviewed by Christiane Amanpour CNN’s chief international correspondent and anchor of Amanpour, a nightly foreign affairs program on CNN International.
On the interview which aired on Tuesday 16th April, 2013, Okonjo-Iweala speaks with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about several issues touching on corruption, oil theft and Nigeria’s power grid problems.
The Minister who has been lauded as just the kind of reformer that Nigeria needs, was a runner-up to lead the World Bank and “Forbes” ranked her as one of the world’s most powerful women.
Speaking on the issue of corruption, Iweala explained that, “Nigeria does have a problem with corruption, and so do many other countries, including developed countries. I don’t like the fact that when people mention the name Nigeria, the next thing they say is corruption”.
According to her, “this is a country of 170 million people; 99.9 percent of them are honest, hard-working citizens who just want to get on with their lives and they want a government that delivers for them’.
Okonjo-Iweala believes technology could be the answer to the problem, “What we’ve said is that in order to help block any leakages and help to, you know, stop any attempts at corruption or taking monies, we must build electronic platforms. We must distance people from the money”, she said.
‘These things were recommended by the World Bank and IMF and we are doing them”, she said. She also strongly believes that Nigeria lack institutions and processes.
About what the president is doing on this issue, the Minster explains, “what President Goodluck Jonathan has done is to call the judiciary, the legislature and the executive arm for the first time to meet together on this issue, because it’s not just about government, but about everyone coming together.
According to her, even if someone is caught, they go to the courts and they are let off lightly. ‘The president can’t do anything about that. The judicial system also has to be strengthened’, Legislators also have to crack down. They themselves have to work at also being transparent and helping the executive”, she said.
Oil leakage causes a significant drain on the economy and the Minister puts it at 150,000 barrels stolen a day, which she admits is huge and that Nigeria cannot afford any leakage. Comparing the situation to Mexico, which sees tens of thousands of barrels stolen each day, the Minister further explained the need for the international community to weigh in to resolve the issue, and the need for Nigerians to commit to fighting it as well.
According to her, ‘Mexico and Nigeria are suffering from this problem, and in Nigeria’s case, “we have international people who also buy that stolen oil. We need them to treat this stolen oil like stolen diamonds, the blood diamonds. Make it blood oil. Help us so that those people don’t have a market to sell this stuff”, she said.
Speaking On the issue of electricity, Okonjo-Iweala explained saying, “Nigeria is not the only country. Almost every developing country has a problem with power, as you know. India has it, South Africa has it but South Africa is far better off because they’ve invested much more’. ‘Many developing countries, even China is struggling with keeping up with infrastructure”, she said.
She admits that the government is not the best place to run the power sector, and that for the economy to do better, privatization is the best option. “Nigeria is pursuing one of the most sweeping privatization programs in any country in the world. We are selling off everything. The generation capacity, the distribution capacity in the country, government is only retaining one thing – transmission, she says.