The last is yet to be heard about the missing $10.8 billion as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday assured that the report of the audit into the unaccounted $10.8 billion oil money would be ready soon.
Speaking at the Financial Times Africa Summit 2014 in London, with the theme, “Consolidating the Continent’s Rise”, she said the figure was not new but had been a source of discussions between the Ministry of Finance and the Petroleum Ministry and that the huge attention it generated prompted the government to take steps leading to the appointment of PriceWater House Coopers to do a forensic audit.
“Initially it was $48 billion, then $20 billion but the figure we have always had is $10.8 billion. I am the Minister of Finance; if money is missing, I want it to be used for good things for the country and that was why when we went to the Senate to demand for forensic audit, the President supported and asked that it should be done
“We engaged PriceWater House Coopers with the Auditor General taking the lead. They initially asked for 16 weeks to complete the work. They have spent 11 or 12 weeks so far and they will be done in a couple of weeks,” she said.
On the devastating Ebola disease, she said Nigeria needs to be commended for the efforts made in ensuring the index case did not take the illness out of the country and also containing it.
“Nigeria did a great service by stopping Sawyer who was Minnesota bound. Ebola cannot be said to be the real elephant in the room as it has been hyped beyond proportion by the media.
“We all want democracy but how do you get it? It involves money. People who sponsor campaigns believe they must get something from the government when elections are won. These are the real elephants in the room and we need to deal with it,” the Minister said.
In her remarks on Focus Nigeria earlier, Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Arunma Oteh, had described wholesale and retail trade as the future of Nigerian economy.
Oteh said Nigeria is focusing more on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) development as a way of creating more jobs and improving the standards of living of its citizens because it recognises that SMEs are vehicles for wealth creation, which could in turn improve the economy of the country.
“I think first and foremost is the recognition globally about the importance of SMEs because they are the ones that create jobs. I think there is a greater focus on how SMEs can be supported. In our own country, President Goodluck Jonathan recently set up an SME Council.
He set up a job board and all of that is focused on how we can practically address the challenges we are facing with SMEs,” the DG noted, adding that to grow these SMEs, therefore, she believes the capital market is absolutely an important solution to source funds, among other reasons.
“We need to provide funding at reasonable cost. Capital that is patient so that people can grow their businesses and banking finance is not patient. What we need is capital that would be there for a long time, a market-based finance that is long term and there is a global recognition of that fact also,” she explained.
Oteh also expressed the need for investment focus on the housing sector in Nigeria, which, she lamented, has 50,000 mortgages as the highest it has booked at a time ever.
“Housing is big and government is focusing on it. This is because apart from providing housing for Nigerians to bridge the housing deficit, the sector is also capable of providing the much-needed jobs to move the economy forward.
In the process of building houses, different people are needed, from the plumbers, masons, engineers, other workmen and even manufacturers of building materials are empowered,” Oteh stated.
Source : SunOnline