Friday, 14 October 2011 02:41

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Profile on ChatAfrik

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria Finance Minister

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (born June 13, 1954) was appointed in July 2011 as the new Minister of Finance for the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Prior to this appointment, she was the Managing Director of World Bank (October 2007 - July 2011) and has also held the position of a Finance Minister and Foreign Minister of Nigeria, between 2003 and 2006. She is notable for being the first woman to hold either of those positions. She served as finance minister from July 2003 until her appointment as foreign minister in June 2006, and as foreign minister until her resignation in August 2006. Okonjo-Iweala was considered as a possible replacement for former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

Education and personal life. Okonjo-Iweala is an Igbo[3] from Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State where her father Professor Chukuka Okonjo is the Obi, or King, from the Umu Obi Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was educated at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an A.B. in 1977, and earned her Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is married to her husband Ikemba Iweala from Umuahia, Abia State - and they have four children. The eldest, Onyinye Iweala received her Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology from Harvard University in 2008 and graduated Harvard Medical School in 2010. Her son, Uzodinma Iweala, is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Beasts of No Nation (2005).

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the 2004 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank GroupPrior to her ministerial career in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala was vice-president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group. She left it in 2003 after she was appointed to President Obasanjo's cabinet as Finance Minister on 15 July.

In October 2005, she led the Nigerian team that struck a deal with the Paris Club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria's external debt (US $12 billion) in return for an $18 billion debt write-off. Prior to the partial debt payment and write-off, Nigeria spent roughly US $1 billion every year on debt servicing, without making a dent in the principal owed.

Okonjo-Iweala also introduced the practice of publishing each state's monthly financial allocation from the federal government in the newspapers. She was instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch and Standard & Poor's. Nigeria is considered to have defaulted on its sovereign debt in 1983 (debt rescheduling is considered a type of default by rating agencies).

Some controversy surrounded Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as Finance Minister, and that of Foreign Affairs minister, Olu Adeniji, as other ministers were resentful of their United Nations salaries of over US$240,000, compared with their own $6,000 base salary. The controversy was spearheaded by reform-minded media reports, although Okonjo-Iweala felt that her critics were unjustified because of the temporary nature of the payment, which came out of the donor supported Diaspora Fund negotiated by the Nigerian government. On Friday, 20 July 2007, the Court of Appeal ruled that the salary payment was not done within the ambit of Nigeria's laws, and directed her and Adeniji to pay back the excess to the account of the state.

Both Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government of Nigeria have appealed the case to the Supreme Court, and judgement is pending. The appeal is on the basis that the appeals court made its judgement due to erroneous information provided to it that the Nigerian government was making the salary payments, when in fact it was not.

She resigned as Nigeria's Foreign Minister on August 3, 2006 following her sudden removal as head of Nigeria's Economic Intelligence team by President Olusegun Obasanjo. She left office at the end of August 2006.

On October 4, 2007, World Bank President Robert Zoellick appointed her to the post of Managing Director, effective December 1, 2007.

Given the recent challenges faced by Nigeria on how to manage the macroeconomic policy in such a way to achieve the country's vision 2020, Okonjo Iweala was seen as a the Joshua who can actually lead the country to attain achieve her goal. During her confirmation as a Minister, she stressed the need to reduce the country's recurrent expenditure which is presently 74% of the National Budget and embark on capital projects which could improve the 14% unemployment rate in the country. One of the conditions she gave to the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, was an additional power to influence/exercise power over the economic team. This power include the appointment of credible and proven staff to head departments and ministries under her portfolio.

Non-profit workIn 2007, Okonjo-Iweala's NGO, NOI Global Consulting, partnered with the Gallup Organization to introduce an opinion poll, the NOI poll, into the Nigerian polity.[9] She is a fellow at the Brookings Institution.[10] Okonjo-Iweala also serves on the Advisory Board of Global Financial Integrity and on the Board of Directors of the World Resources Institute.

Additionally, on September 28, 2007, Irish musician Bono was awarded the Liberty Medal. Bono donated the $100,000 prize to the Washington-based Debt AIDS Trade Africa, which he co-founded, and Okonjo-Iweala accepted the award on the organization's behalf.

Works. Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light - a biography of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, published by Africa World Press, (2003), co-authored with Tijan Sallah.

The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy - an academic piece, published by Africa World Press, (2003), co-edited with Charles C. Soludo and Mansur Muhtar

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