Cooperate With Okonjo-iweala Or Get Sacked – GEJ

Shortly before the swearing in of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Minister of Finance, President Goodluck Jonathan threatened to sack any minister that failed to cooperate with her.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH showed that the president met with the ministers behind closed-doors last week before the inauguration of the former World Bank Managing Director as finance minister and threatened to sanction anyone who refused to cooperate with her.
Our correspondents gathered that the meeting was held to avoid conflicts among the ministers. 
According to a presidency source, the president explained the role of Okonjo-Iweala as the coordinating minister at a meeting which had in attendance, Mr. Olusegun Aganga (the Minister of Trade and Investment) and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Lamido Sanusi. 
It was learnt that Okonjo-Iweala, as the coordinator of Jonathan's economic management team, would serve as "de facto prime minister" in the cabinet. 
However, before the meeting, there were concerns that the finance minister's role would put her on collision course with her colleagues. 
The presidency source said, "Jonathan foresaw that there might be conflicts among ministers. This informed the meeting, where he read the riot act to the ministers and explained Okonjo-Iweala's role as the coordinating minister." 
The source quoted the president to have said that as the coordinator of the economic team, Okonjo-Iweala's position was strategic, but could not be interpreted to mean that ministers would be reporting to her. 
Jonathan was said to have made it clear that project executions by ministries must be brought to her attention since it was her ministry that would release appropriated funds for the projects. 
Continuing, the source said, "Mr. President has said he will not tolerate any attempt to cause division in his cabinet. He has threatened to deal decisively with any minister who tries to cause trouble in the cabinet. In fact, Jonathan warned that any minister, who failed to key into the new policy, would be sacked." 
The president had, at a retreat for ministers, explained that his transformational agenda rested on the success of the economy. 
Jonathan had stressed that since everything rested on the economy, every other ministry would have to maintain a robust relationship with the finance ministry. 
The president had emphasised teamwork, hard work and discipline as the cardinal points of the administration. 
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that Okonjo-Iweala's role as the coordinating minister made her first among equals (a prime minister). 
The minister as the coordinating minister exercises both the fiscal and monetary policy instruments of the Federal Government. 
Fiscal policy involves the use of government expenditure (budget), and revenue (taxation) to influence the workings of an economy. 
On the other hand, monetary policy is the use of interest rates, currency management and exchange rates to control the activities of the country. 
Both are linked as they are geared towards reducing unemployment, maintaining price stability and promoting economic growth. 
Investigations showed that there were concerns that Okonjo-Iweala's independent-mindedness and assertiveness might bring her in conflict with other ministers, especially those who did not share her ideals on how the economy should work, or did not have her level of exposure. 
The President had directed that the ministry of finance would be the clearing house for projects, contract and other activities of the ministries. 
The major tool to achieve this is the budget as each ministry, department and agency is expected to submit an estimate of its revenue and expenditure for each fiscal year. 
The minister had given an indication during her screening at the senate that the country needed to live within its means. 
This had prompted speculations that she would advocate a contractionary budget as opposed to the expansionary one which the country was used to. 
She had also said that policy, which would help to reduce unemployment, diversify the economy and stimulate foreign investment in critical sectors of the economy, would be formulated in line with the transformation agenda of the president.
Before she accepted the job, she reportedly negotiated clear terms on which she would be willing to return to serve in government, including being given broad powers over economic management and freedom from political meddling.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, explained the functions of Okonjo-Iweala as the coordinating minister. 
He said she was made the coordinating minister to ensure that the various ministries worked together to forge synergy in government operations. 
Abati told one of our correspondents that the president had made the economy the centrepiece of his transformation agenda, saying there must be proper coordination for a strong economy to emerge. 
He said, "The duty of the Minister of Finance, making her the coordinating minister, is to ensure that the various ministries work together and there is a synergy in government operations.
"If everything ends with finance, it basically means that, every other ministry would have to have a robust relationship with that ministry. The emphasis is really on this synergy."

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