Director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has disclosed that while acting as Nigeria’s finance minister, she was threatened with death for rescuing the country huge sums of money from an oil subsidy fraud.
She made her disclosure in a recent interview by Atlantic Council, a United States think-tank on international affairs. She explained that she was threatened for carrying out her job without any partiality. Iweala went on to add that her mother was kidnapped for five days as part of measures to disturb her.
She said: “And just by having an integrated financial management system, we were able to cut down on the phenomenon of ghost workers, you know where people used to put additional people on the payroll in the ministries, ghost pensioners, because ghost workers will graduate to ghost pensioners, and so we got rid of that and saved $1.1 billion for the government,” she said.
“So that is, we were fighting other types of corruption. We had an oil subsidy system in which we used to pay marketers. Oil marketers who brought in refined oil, you know, we paid them the difference between the market price, and the subsidised price that the government was mandated for selling oil to people.
“And so, that was when I came the second time. This was a big problem. When I left government the first time in 2006, these subsidies were about $2 billion, when I came back, the first thing we noticed was that it had grown to $11 billion.
“So, I asked President Jonathan that we could audit the oil accounts which he fully supported. When we audited, $8.5 billion of the accounts, we found $2.5 billion of fraudulent claims and with his backing, we refused to pay that to the marketers and that led to a series of problems, which I won’t bore you with, including threats to my life.