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How US helped Nigeria secure debt relief — Okonjo-Iweala

Posted by Oluyinka Akintunde and Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe, Abuja on 2005/11/16 | Views: 982 |

How US helped Nigeria secure debt relief — Okonjo-Iweala


The Minister of Finance,Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed on Tuesday in Abuja that the cancellation of 60 per cent (more than $18billion) of Nigeria’s debt to the Paris Club of creditor countries was partly facilitated by the United States Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice.

The Minister of Finance,Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed on Tuesday in Abuja that the cancellation of 60 per cent (more than $18billion) of Nigeria’s debt to the Paris Club of creditor countries was partly facilitated by the United States Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice.

The minister, speaking at the opening of the two-day Women in Business Conference which has as it theme, "Women as Agents of Change," said she was linked to Rice by the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Ann Kruger.

She stated, "When we were doing the debt relief, I got to a sticky point and I held a meeting with Kruger of the IMF, a formidable woman whom the men really fear when they go to meet with her and interact with her.

"And I was telling her (Kruger) how we had got to a sticky point and that we needed the US to back us up. I did not know that she was a very close friend of Rice."

"What she did was to pick up her phone right there and then put a call through, requesting Rice to see me. I was able to go around to have a meeting with her (Rice), which helped considerably in moving things for us on the debt problem. She supported us and helped in facilitating the debt relief for the country," Okonjo-Iweala explained.

Nigeria last month, paid $6.4billion to the Paris Club, the first tranche of a $12.4billion payment plan that will result in $18billion of Nigeria’s debt being written off.

She emphasized that Nigerian women had contributed immensely to the upliftment of the economy citing the contributions of the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, Dr. Dora Akunyili; the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, and the Minister of State for Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman.

"We need to ask ourselves how we can be an agent of change and use our positions as leverage for the economy," she said.

The guest speaker at the conference, Baroness Rosalind Howells of the House of Lords, United Kingdom, advised the international community to ensure that women played significant roles in the attempt to banish poverty from Africa.

She said, "If women are not allowed to be part of the reshaping of the continent, we may find ourselves poorer."

She said only unreasonable people can be agents of change.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to suit the system and the unreasonable man adapts the system to himself. Only the unreasonable man could be a change agent," she said.

The PUNCH, Wednesday, November 16, 2005

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