The director-general of World Trade Organisations (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has recounted her ordeal in the hands of oil subsidy thieves during her time as Nigeria’s minister.
Iweala took the occasion of an interview she granted Atlantic Council to narrate how her decision not to allow unscrupulous oil marketers to continue to rip off the country almost cost her life, and led to her aged mother’s abduction.
“Oil marketers who brought in refined oil, you know, we paid them the difference between the market price and the subsidised price that the government was mandated for selling oil to people.
“And so, that was when I came the second time. This was a big problem. When I left government the first time in 2006, these subsidies were about $2 billion, when I came back, the first thing we noticed was that it had grown to $11 billion.
“So, I asked President Jonathan that we could audit the oil accounts which he fully supported. When we audited, $8.5 billion of the accounts, we found $2.5 billion of fraudulent claims and with his backing, we refused to pay that to the marketers and that led to a series of problems, which I won’t bore you with, including threats to my life.”
Apart from the death threats, the WTO boss also had to endure the kidnapping of her mother for five days. She believed the kidnapping was a part of the effort aimed at halting her reforms saying, “My mother being kidnapped for five days was one of the worst periods of my life and it was a very tough period.”