…Says $6m from NPA went into ‘influential pockets’ yearly
Former Director of World Bank and former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has revealed how she and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Madame Christine Lagarde, were locked out of the Presidential Villa by someone she described as ‘a very powerful aide’ of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
She revealed in her recently released book, “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines”, that she became a target of very powerful interests after she sought and got approval from Jonathan for the implementation of the ports reforms, which include the abolishing of a Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) a regime which importers argued added costs to them for duplicate services.
She said she was locked out of the Villa for refusing to obey the order given by an unnamed influential aide in Jonathan’s administration to restore the CTN with immediate effect.
Excerpts: “During my second month in office in September 2011, the issue of port congestion was brought to the attention of the Economic Management team by members of Nigeria’s organised private sector, especially the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) as a serious impediment to doing business. Importers were irate about a Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) regime which they argued added costs to them for duplicate services. They said that their cargos were already being tracked by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) from origin to destination, so then; there was no reason for the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to collect this charge. Upon enquiry, we learned that charges totalled about $6 million a year, so this was consequential. I had never seen this money remitted to the treasury and, in fact, had not known of the existence of the CTN. We recommended that the CTN be abolished immediately.
“On October 14, 2011, the Minister of Transport and I sent a memo to the President that outlined the short, medium and long term problems of Nigeria’s ports, proposed solutions and requested approval for implementation shortly thereafter. Then the problems began. I received an anonymous text telling me the port reforms were bad and harmful and I should rescind them. I learned that some agencies such as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and others that had been told to develop alternative collaborative arrangements with the Customs to take care of their responsibilities while staying out of the ports were not happy and were lobbying to be let back into the ports.
“About six weeks into the implementation of the port reforms, in early December 2011, I received a message that a top-ranking presidential aide wanted me to stop by his office anytime I was in the Villa.