By Elizabeth Chukwuma
When President Muhammadu Buhari, first assumed office as an elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2015, many known Chieftains of the All Progressive Congress, APC, including Adams Oshiomhole , a former governor of Edo state and now Chairman of the Party, took advantage of the change in the leadership of the country from the ruling People’s Democratic Party to the Oposition APC, to rubbish the track records of Okonjo –Iweala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the national Economy under former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.
Some of them including serving ministers were said to have even called on the Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police, led Economic and Financial crimes Commission, EFCC, to probe him, alleging financial misappropriation. Unknown to them, they were dealing with a one –time top official of the World Bank who believes in keeping records. She made herself available to respond to accusations of alleged Corruption against but that was how far the government could go.
The Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus which had spread to over 200 countries across the world and infected no fewer than 1,696,139 people resulting in 102,669 deaths as so far, may have forced Kristalina Gergieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, IMF, to go in search of notable and experienced hands across the world who had shaped their countries’ economies during crisis and returned it back on the path of growth to serve in the Bank External Advisory Group in this trying and difficult times.
Georgieva, the IMF, Managing Director, had said that “the new group will provide perspectives from around the world on key developments and policy issues, including policy responses to the novel COVID 19, facing the entire world”.
The IMF boss who could not hide her feelings stressed that to handle the health crisis, which many believe had overwhelmed the World Health Organisation, WHO, a United Nations, UN, Health agency, requires ” an exceptional and diverse group of eminent individuals with high -level policy, market and private sector experience” across the world”.
It was not surprising why Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former world Bank Managing Director and minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy under two former Presidents of Nigeria, Obasanjo and Jonathan to make the list of the twelve member IMF External Advisory Group.Many believe that the appointment of the two-time former Nigerian minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy was a good advertisement for the country.
Other members of the Group include Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a senior minister and Chairman, Singapore Monetary Authority, a country that had had moved from being a third world country to a developed economy, Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, Lord Mark Mallock Brown, a former UN, deputy Secretary General, United States based Professors Kristin Forbes, Massacgusetts Institute of Technology , Carmen Reinhart, Hrvard University and Raghuram Rajan, University of Chicago.
The list also includes Feike Sigbeima, a former Manging Director, DSM and now the Company Honorary Chair, Ms. Ana Botin, Group Executive Chairman, Santander, Mohammed.A. el Eian, Chief Economic Adviser, Allianz, Scott Minerd, Cief Investment Officer, Suggenheim Investments and Ms. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Chairman of Action Aid International.
The IMF, Managing Director is optimistic that the Group members would bring to bear their experience on the international assignment. She noted that before the spread of the COVID 19 to scores of countries in the world, the Bank had confronted the rapidly evolving world and complex policy issues.
The External Advisory Group , according to a Statement by the Bank Spokesperson is expected to meet a few times in a year with Georgieva, the IMF, Management Team including Georgieva, the Managing Director and the Deputy Managing Director. “I am proud of the Group, members”, the IMF boss remarked.
Note that in tackling the pandemic, the Bank had established a $50 billion Trust Fund to help low and middle income countries adversely affected by the disease. It was said to have also promised to use its $1 trillion lending capacity to further help countries that are struggling with the economic impact of the health crisis including Nigeria.
As a prelude to helpping countries with urgent Balance of Payments needs, the IMF, Managing Director declared that it will “ deploy its flexible and raid-disbursing emergency response toolkit for the purpose”.
At present, the bank, according to an insider report has 40 ongoing arrangements –both disbursing and precautionary, with combined Commitments of about $200 million. These arrangements, are expected to provide another vehicle for rapid disbursement of funds to countries in financing the crisis.
The IMF, officials may have discussed the $1 trillion lending capacity of the Bank that could be used to aid the merging and developing economies feeling the COVID19 catastrophe. “We had a dynamic discussion with the Group to gain their insights and to receive informal reactions to our ideas and approaches, she had said.
There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that with the treatment meted to her by some members of the Buhari Administration, both past and present, she may not want to use her position to help Nigeria to benefit from the IMF , $1 trillion fund for lending to emerging and developing economies by the Bank.
This is bad news to the Nigerian government which may have to find a way out of reaching out to the former Finance minister and Coordinator of the economy to mend fence with her. This is where former Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan may have to intervene to force the former minister to have a change of heart towards the Buhari Administration in this trying and difficult times that the IMF is calling for global unity to tackle the covid 19.