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How Britain funded UNDP's dollar pay for Okonjo-Iweala, Adeniji

Posted by From Laolu Akande, New York on 2007/10/26 | Views: 690 |

How Britain funded UNDP's dollar pay for Okonjo-Iweala, Adeniji


DETAILS of the controversial dollar-denominated salaries paid to two Nigerian former ministers during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration have been disclosed to The Guardian in New York by a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which managed the trust fund from which the emoluments were paid from.

DETAILS of the controversial dollar-denominated salaries paid to two Nigerian former ministers during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration have been disclosed to The Guardian in New York by a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which managed the trust fund from which the emoluments were paid from.

According to UNDP Administrator, Kermal Davis, the British government made a substantial contribution to the funds used to pay former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her Foreign Affairs counterpart, Chief Olu Adeniji.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was redeployed to the Foreign Affairs Ministry before she left the cabinet. The dollar-salaries were approved by the Obasanjo government on the strength of their previous international jobs. Okonjo-Iweala was Vice President at the World Bank while Adeniji was a United Nations Special Representative.

Okonjo-Iweala is returning to the World Bank from December 1 as a Managing Director.

Responding to enquiries from The Guardian at the UN last week over the UNDP Trust Fund, UNDP administrator, Kemal Davis, stated that "capacity-building covered not only procedures and computers, but also included skilled people in the government and other public systems."

He said very poor salary structures in some countries made it extremely hard to retain skilled people, and the primary approach of the UNDP was support for civil service reforms so that better salaries could be paid to skilled people within the system.

Gilbert Houngbo, head of UNDP's Africa Bureau, to whom Davis directed the question on the Nigeria dollar-salary saga added that the "trust fund was not funded with UNDP money, but by the Nigerian government and one important national donor. The UNDP merely managed the fund, which had been set up for a temporary period and was then phased out."

The Guardian confirmed that the national donor in question was the British Department for International Development (DFID),

Investigations revealed that DFID which played a crucial role in working with Okonjo-Iweala to set up a database on Nigeria's foreign debt at the inception of her tenure as Finance Minister, contributed substantial funds to the payment of her $240,000 salary through DFID to the UNDP trust fund.

Houngbo added that similar capacity-building initiatives are now on in Sierra Leone, Malawi, Liberia, Kenya and Ethiopia, all African nations. He said matter-of-factly there were African experts abroad who should be encouraged to return home and help their countries. For instance, he said there are more than 4,000 Nigerian doctors in the United States U.S. alone.

Already, a Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, has ruled that Okonjo-Iweala and Adeniji should refund the excess of the dollar-salary to the Federal Government.

The ruling was at the instance of a suit filed by human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).

Houngbo explained that the UNDP had an approach to helping civil service reforms that included facilitating the return of migrants, among which was to let skilled professionals stay in their country.

The UNDP official noted that in African countries, "capacity-building, at both the local and national levels, remained the top challenge, and that is where the United Nations, including the UNDP, had a key role to play."

According to him, the excellent leadership in the ministries of many countries was characterised by a new can-do, results-oriented and pragmatic attitude. But then capacity remained weak in terms of overall administration. He said the focus of the UNDP was on the capacity of African governments to deal with the global economy and foreign investment, and to negotiate optimal contracts with foreign investors that were truly beneficial to their respective countries.

After joining the Obasanjo administration in 2003, Okonjo-Iweala was paid $240,000 and Adeniji received $120,000. Later in 2005, Dr. Ikemba Iweala, Ngozi's husband disclosed that his wife had stopped receiving the dollar salary.

The DFID manages Britain's aid to poor countries and works to rid off extreme poverty in such nations. Headed by a cabinet minister who is a senior minister in the UK government, the agency prides its main duty as that of reducing poverty around the world, with two headquarters (in London and East Kilbride, near Glasgow) and 64 offices overseas. DFID also has over 2,500 employees, almost half of those who work abroad.

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.