Dec. 24, 2013
Dear Minister Of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala : It has come to our attention that your Special Assistant on Media, Paul Nwabuikwu, is circulating a press statement to a select group of news outlets and bloggers describing as false a report by SaharaReporters about import waivers obtained by Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s office to import 200 BMW cars for her “Africa First Ladies” summit in 2012.
While your aide’s statement did not dispute the existence of waivers that were ultimately granted to Coscharis Motors to import the cars, he went to great lengths to accuse SaharaReporters of distorting the information released by your office.
We are not in the least surprised that you would authorize your aide’s misleading press release aimed at casting aspersions on us. This mendacious release is consistent with your style of responding to legitimate questions about your conduct as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance. You have established a reputation for intolerance of principled and accurate media reports once they raise questions about your ministerial judgments or reflect poorly on your performance.
You would recall that, on December 3rd, 2013, you published a doctored list of beneficiaries of import waivers in response to pressures mounted on your office by Nigeria’s PUNCH newspaper. Without question, you had hoped to bamboozle the public with this incomplete list. However, we refused to accept your list for publication, having received information from officials who should know that your list was distorted and incomplete, indeed an attempt to hoodwink gullible reporters and Nigerians. Yesterday, your office surreptitiously released an updated list on the web. It is this fuller list that revealed part of how the First Lady has benefited significantly from the questionable dispensation of import waivers to politically connected individuals and firms. We duly acknowledged our source.
The tone of your aide’s press statement makes it clear that you had hoped that your updated list would not become public knowledge. That explains the harsh and predictable attack on our medium.
Since your statement claimed that Mrs. Jonathan did not benefit from the imported BMWs, we urge you to go a step further: produce the list of beneficiaries and providing the chassis numbers of the BMWs imported under the questionable waivers you granted to Coscharis Motors in 2012. In addition, we challenge you to provide evidence that Coscharis Motors imported the vehicles for which the waivers were granted.
You should also do the Nigerian public the great service of explaining why presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, claimed that the Federal Government had not contributed a dime to the importation of the BMWs, when your office had indeed granted waivers worth N560 million to the controversial auto dealer.
Since you claimed that your latest release was driven by your desire to ensure transparency, we await a detailed response to the issues raised here.