Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Import waiver granted First Lady to import 200 cars: Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala replies Sahara Reporters

Sahara Reporters published a report a few days ago, claiming that the office of the 1st Lady obtained import waiver to import 200 BMW cars for her “Africa First Ladies” summit in 2012. The ministry of Finance says the report is false. Saharareporters insists it's true & has responded. Find a statement from the ministry of finance below and SR's response after the cut...



Saharareporter's story on waiver granted office of the First Lady is a complete distortion 

The story by Saharareporters on the so-called waivers scandal in which the notorious news website made outrageous allegations against the Office of the First Lady is a false exclusive based on distorted information.
The website merely extracted and distorted information on the list of beneficiaries of the revised waivers policy which the Federal Ministry of Finance voluntarily published as part of its drive for transparency and accountability. Continue...
The revised waivers policy replaces the old regime of individual waivers with the objective of boosting key sectors such as agriculture, power, gas and mines/steel. The strategy is to deploy waivers as a stronger tool of economic development.
Part of the information published by the Federal Ministry of Finance was a list of state governments, private sector organizations and other institutions which were granted waivers to bring in vehicles for various events including sports festivals, conferences and workshops. This practice did not begin with the Jonathan administration.
Beneficiaries of the waivers for vehicle imports include state governments such as Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Lagos as well as organizations such as the continental First Ladies Forum which was granted a waiver for vehicles required for their event hosted by Nigeria. The First Lady did not in any way personally benefit from this waiver.
It is important to recall the fact that the country has a nascent leasing industry and no company in the sector currently has the quantity and quality of vehicles required for such events. Government is encouraging private sector organizations with the requisite focus and expertise in this area and the hope is that soon it would no longer be necessary to grant such waivers.
The resort to falsehood by Saharareporters based on a distortion of information voluntarily made available by government underscores the desperation of this scurrilous medium and its paymasters.
Paul C Nwabuikwu
Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance. 


The Truth about the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Waiver Policy
1.      You may recall that the
Punch Newspaper published editorials accusing the government and the Federal Ministry of Finance of running a corrupt waiver policy, and challenged the Federal Ministry of Finance to publish those waivers. (http://bit.ly/1jCH3j4)  
2.     The Federal Ministry of Finance categorically refutes the allegation that it is running a corrupt waiver policy.
3.      Two years ago the Executive introduced a total reform of the waiver policy. Waivers are now only granted on a sectoral basis. This means that every company in the sector enjoys the same waiver privileges. All companies or entities involved in a sector or given activity will benefit from the same waivers once they meet the necessary criteria.
4.      The Federal Ministry of Finance published an abbreviated version of the full waiver report in several newspapers. It was also announced that the full version is available at www.budgetoffice.gov.ng and on social media (http://on.fb.me/1fWHYG5).
5.      The SaharaReporters claim that the Federal Ministry of Finance surreptitiously released an updated waiver list on the web only on December 22nd, 2013 is categorically false. In the spirit of transparency, the full waiver list was made public on December 3rd  
6.      For the avoidance of doubt: the Federal Ministry of Finance has never denied issuing waivers to African First Ladies Forum conference. This official event for First Ladies of all the other African countries necessitated vehicles for the transport of these visiting dignitaries. The waiver granted for this occasion is similar to other waivers issued to various state governments and government institutions such as Rivers, Lagos, and Akwa Ibom for similar official sporting and conference events.
7.       As always The Federal Ministry of Finance welcomes all legitimate inquiries and criticisms. The Ministry of Finance cannot be expected to remain silent when falsification and distortion of facts occurs.
Paul C Nwabuikwu
Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance.

Sahara Reporters Response below...
By Omoyele Sowore 

Dear Minister Of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala : It has come to our attention that your Special Assistant on Media, Paul Nwabuikwu, is circulating a press statement to a select group of news outlets and bloggers describing as false a report by SaharaReporters about import waivers obtained by Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s office to import 200 BMW cars for her “Africa First Ladies” summit in 2012.

While your aide’s statement did not dispute the existence of waivers that were ultimately granted to Coscharis Motors to import the cars, he went to great lengths to accuse SaharaReporters of distorting the information released by your office.

We are not in the least surprised that you would authorize your aide’s misleading press release aimed at casting aspersions on us. This mendacious release is consistent with your style of responding to legitimate questions about your conduct as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance. You have established a reputation for intolerance of principled and accurate media reports once they raise questions about your ministerial judgments or reflect poorly on your performance.

You would recall that, on December 3rd, 2013, you published a doctored list of beneficiaries of import waivers in response to pressures mounted on your office by Nigeria’s PUNCH newspaper. Without question, you had hoped to bamboozle the public with this incomplete list. However, we refused to accept your list for publication, having received information from officials who should know that your list was distorted and incomplete, indeed an attempt to hoodwink gullible reporters and Nigerians. Yesterday, your office surreptitiously released an updated list on the web. It is this fuller list that revealed part of how the First Lady has benefited significantly from the questionable dispensation of import waivers to politically connected individuals and firms. We duly acknowledged our source.
 The tone of your aide’s press statement makes it clear that you had hoped that your updated list would not become public knowledge. That explains the harsh and predictable attack on our medium.

Since your statement claimed that Mrs. Jonathan did not benefit from the imported BMWs, we urge you to go a step further: produce the list of beneficiaries and providing the chasses numbers of the BMWs imported under the questionable waivers you granted to Coscharis Motors in 2012. In addition, we challenge you to provide evidence that Coscharis Motors imported the vehicles for which the waivers were granted.

You should also do the Nigerian public the great service of explaining why presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, claimed that the Federal Government had not contributed a dime to the importation of the BMWs, when your office had indeed granted waivers worth N560 million to the controversial auto dealer.

Since you claimed that your latest release was driven by your desire to ensure transparency, we await a detailed response to the issues raised here.

Sincerely,
Omoyele Sowore
For Saharareporters.com