The office of the former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has rejected allegations reportedly made by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar, that a substantial part of a $1 billion loan obtained from the China-EximBank by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for a Kano-Lagos rail project was diverted to other projects.
Paul Nwabuikwu, Okonjo-Iweala’s spokesperson, said he wanted to state categorically that there was no truth in the reported allegation.
“Anyone who is interested can cross-check with the China-EximBank or the Chinese Embassy,” he said.
“It is noteworthy that even though President Buhari, in his reported comments on the allegation, made no reference to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala but rightly stressed the need for due process and transparency in the execution of public projects, a sponsored media campaign has once again been launched by political elements to make the former Minister the culprit in a non-existent scandal.”
Nwabuikwu said the procedure was that funds for approved loans remained in the China-EximBank and are released directly to the Chinese firm executing the contract only after the presentation of duly certified proof of work by the responsible Ministry.
In that case it would have been the Federal Ministry of Transport, based on the agreed milestones.
“For the sake of emphasis, the China-EximBank does not disburse money directly to government and therefore the issue of diversion does not arise,” said Nwabuikwu.
“This is yet another example of the kind of whispering campaign of calumny, innuendo, misinformation, and outright distortions being perpetrated by certain political elements against Dr. Okonjo-Iweala in a bid to try to damage her reputation.”
Nwabuikwu said the former minister’s office was confident those behind the alleged campaign will continue to fail.
“We respectfully request the media to refrain from attaching Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s name and photographs to spurious and unfounded allegations. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as a Nigerian citizen in a democracy, a citizen who has served her country with honesty and integrity, also has some fundamental rights to justice and fair play.”