A former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Sunday, said that she never claimed in her book that the increase in the 2015 budget by the National Assembly was used to bribe the lawmakers.
The former minister said this in a statement on Sunday by her Media Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu.
There have been reports that the minister in her book, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines,’ revealed the blackmail and arm-twisting that characterized budget passage by the National Assembly during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The minister, according to the report, had cited an instance in 2015 when the National Assembly leadership forced the executive arm to part with N17bn for the federal lawmakers before passing that year’s budget.
The N17bn alleged bribe, according to the reports, was beside the National Assembly’s N150bn annual budget.
Reacting to the reports, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, told reporters that he was not aware that lawmakers took a bribe.
Gbajabiamila, who was the Minority Leader in the 7th Assembly, admitted that lawmakers had a running battle with Okonjo-Iweala and her aides over the budget because they fused in their own projects to the detriment of some lawmakers.
He had said, “My hunch is that being an election year, members might have wanted several projects sited in their constituencies so that they could have something to campaign on. It is wrong to portray that members were given money for the passage of the budget.”
But in the statement issued on Sunday, Okonjo-Iweala said that the book didn’t talk about bribes, adding that it indicated that lawmakers increased the budget by N17bn and such practice needed to be changed.
She said, “One more time, it is important that people read the book for themselves. In the case of the N17bn, the book does not talk of bribe.
“It indicates that lawmakers increased the budget by N17bn and we had to accept that to move on; hence, the term ‘price to pay’.
“The reason for discussing what happened is that this approach needs to change. The country must clear up and clarify its budget process for the future to improve.”
She said in the statement that the claim by Gbajabiamila that she and her aides inserted their own projects in the budget was untrue.
“Those like honourable Gbajabiamila trying to introduce lies that myself and my aides put in our own projects and lawmakers were fighting with me on that basis are playing their usual cynical games and Nigerians are tired of that!”