The House of Representatives on Thursday called on the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to throw in the towel if she could no longer endure the heat that went with holding a public office.
The lower chamber noted that the minister’s response to the 50 questions on the state of the economy was unsatisfactory and portrayed her as a combative public officer, who felt that she was superior to the legislature.
The House called on her to quit honourably rather than attempting to engage the legislature with “gutter” tactics.
The Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Victor Ogene, who reacted on behalf of the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, and the entire House in Abuja on Thursday, noted that her “grandstanding” would not derail the resolve of the lawmakers to expose corruption in public service.
Part of Ogene’s reaction reads, “In this season of government by letter-writing, the House of Representatives would not allow itself to be entangled in a gutter brawl; rather it will remain focussed on one of its core mandate of exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence, as guaranteed by Section 88 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
“Indeed, whosoever is unable to take the heat in this regard is free to honourably leave the kitchen”.
The House also frowned at the approach adopted by the minister in responding to the House questions, observing that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was more interested in playing political drama than responding to all the questions with “facts and figures”.
The House expressed surprise that she chose to publicize her response on the pages of newspapers while the House was on recess thereby exposing her intention to “play to the gallery” and seeking to confuse Nigerians with high-sounding economic terms.
Ogene stated, “From her response, you would see who clearly is playing to the gallery.
“If a committee of the House has requested you to provide information which in most cases ought to be handled with circumspection; this is an interaction between you and the House and your response, the first thing you did, while the House is still on recess is to publicise it.
“Then the Nigerian people should now know that they have a finance minister who is more interested in political drama than in the reality of addressing the Nigerian economy.
“For instance, she talks about the fact that some of the issues raised by the committee are already in the public domain and have been extensively debated by the government, journalists, civil society organisations and the private sector.
“The simple question to ask is, do you run government on the basis of debate on the pages of newspapers or in the mass media? The answer is clearly no”.
He observed that rather than reduce her answers to facts and figures, the minister’s response dealt more with “broad micro-economy policies”.
On her response to the question on job creation for instance, Ogene stated that Okonjo-Iweala was praising herself on the basis of SURE-P jobs.