Okonjo-Iwela rekindles hope for a better Nigeria as she nods President Jonathan's appointment to govt.

Getting ready to serve:Okonjo-Iwela

Former Managing Director of World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela has been given official backing to proceed from the famous world institution to  reshape Nigeria’s financial situations with her wealth of experience.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,  has returned to Nigeria to take up appointment as minister of Finance under  President Goodluck Jonathan’s new dispensation and reconstituted Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Okonjo-Iweala will take up an expanded position as Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance in Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s new cabinet.

An earlier statement by World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the world body was giving full backing to Okonjo-Iwela, and over the weekend the world financial body celebrated Okonjo-Iwela, one of the most influential women in the world: “Her desire to serve her country is truly a big loss for the World Bank but a major gain for Nigeria as it works to craft its economic way forward,” said Zoellick.

Washington, acknowledged Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s contribution to the continued growth of the bank: “Ngozi’s contribution as managing director has been stellar. Her desire to serve her country is truly a big loss for the World Bank, but a major gain for Nigeria as it works to craft its economic way forward,” Mr Zoellick said, adding that she has proved her determination and capacity to work in the interests of poor people in developing countries around the globe.

The World Bank boss recalled the various times Mrs Okonjo-Iweala represented the bank in different global fora, pointing out that given her passionate advocacy for the poor and her belief in Africa’s promise and growth, her decision to redirect her intellect, economic and managerial skills to help redress the various challenges facing Nigeria cannot be faulted.

“We are truly proud that Ngozi is choosing to support her country in this way. Nigeria is fortunate to have someone of Ngozi’s stature. She’s been a big part of the ‘new’ World Bank, and I want to thank Ngozi for her leadership, drive and impact,” Mr Zoellick said. “Her creativity has led to the development of initiatives in the World Bank for the recovery of stolen assets and South-South co-operation.”

Apart from her role as a managing director, with oversight functions for the World Bank’s work in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala also played a pivotal role in overseeing the Bank’s Food Crisis Fund established to help countries adversely impacted by high and volatile food prices. More than 40 million people in 44 countries benefited from the fund.


Boost to government

According to the World Bank, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who is internationally recognised for her role as a strong advocate of gender issues, “skillfully and successfully chaired the latest round of replenishment for the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, the International Development Association (IDA) by helping to raise a record $49.3 billion.” Prior to accepting the position of managing director at the World Bank is 2007, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. (July 2003 to June 2006); served as Nigeria’s Finance minister and later in charge of Foreign Affairs.

As Minister of Finance, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors in 2005 that led to the wiping out of over $30billion of Nigeria’s external debt, including outright cancellation of $18 billion, under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

She is expected to give a boost to Mr Jonathan’s administration, as she is widely known to possess a reputation as a corruption fighter.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala resignation last week  Friday in order to become Nigeria’s new finance minister, spurred hopes of reform in Nigeria, and relived indication that  the government of Goodluck Jonathan meant business in bringing back to balance the state of Nigeria’s economic decadence.

Okonjo-Iweala will take up an expanded position as Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance in Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s new cabinet, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in a statement.

Government sources told Reuters two weeks ago that Jonathan had asked Okonjo-Iweala, a respected former finance minister who helped negotiate debt rescheduling in 2005, to return to her old position with broad powers over economic management.

Jonathan was sworn in for his first full term on May 29 following general elections and his ministerial choices are being closely watched by Nigerians and foreign investors keen for a team capable of driving badly needed reforms.

“We think President Goodluck Jonathan’s selection of the World Bank MD will result in a vote of confidence for his administration, and suggests he is serious about initiating fiscal reforms,” Renaissance Capital said in a research note.

Okonjo-Iweala laid out her vision for the Nigerian economy during her screening by the Senate on Wednesday, pledging she would create jobs and ensure the country “lives within its means” if approved as a cabinet minister.

The high cost of government has been a major concern for economists and investors. Recurrent expenditure accounts for well over half of spending despite poor public services according  to analysis.

Ministers sworn in

Jonathan swore in 17 other ministers on Friday including outgoing finance minister Olusegun Aganga, who is expected to be put in charge of a newly-expanded commerce and investment portfolio, presidency sources said.

Their roles will formally be announced next week.

Aganga, a former Goldman Sachs executive, is expected to oversee the sovereign wealth fund created under his administration as part of his new post, the sources said.

Okonjo-Iweala would also have been sworn in on Friday but returned to the United States in order to resign and would be confirmed once back in Nigeria, the presidency sources said.

Jonathan reappointed 12 outgoing ministers to their old jobs a week ago, including oil minister Deziani Alison-Madueke, a move his critics saw as an uninspiring start.

The inclusion of Okonjo-Iweala in the cabinet could lend more weight to his reform ambitions, although sceptics question whether she will have the full political backing she needs.

“As a reformist, her reputation speaks for itself,” said Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered.

“Whether Ms. Okonjo-Iweala is given the necessary political backing to enact key reforms … will also be closely watched.”

Source: Next, Reuters