Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wall Street wants Nigeria's Sovereign Wealth Fund

In a bid to ensure that they grab the portfolio of the Federal Government’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), Wall Street titans - Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase - are already courting top government officials for the management of the Fund.
The New York Times disclosed this Tuesday, saying that the Fund was expected to buffer the Nigerian economy from volatile commodity prices and impose fiscal

Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had said that the Federal Government was considering the recruitment of the management team for the Fund through a transparent process.

She had said the government, which was targeting the best qualified Nigerians within and outside the country, had commenced with the engagement of KPMG to drive the process. Okonjo-Iweala had revealed that advertisements calling for applications from interested Nigerians would soon be published in The Economist and Financial Times of London.

In fact, Okonjo-Iweala had stated that KPMG was expected to conclude a shortlist of the candidates by mid- November.
New York Times quoted the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, who helped to create the proposal, to have said: “The country is at a point of inflection, and what we do in the next few years will set the pace. It’s a land of opportunities, which unfortunately has not been tapped well.”

According to the American-based newspaper, by saving and investing the petro dollars, Nigeria hoped to break the resource curse.

“The nation, which derives 80 per cent of its revenue from oil, created the sovereign wealth fund to buffer its economy from volatile commodity prices and impose fiscal discipline. The government so far has set aside $1 billion for the fund, and it could funnel as much as $2.5 billion a year, if oil prices remain high,” it added.

On his part, a research associate at the University of Oxford, who studies sovereign wealth funds, Ashby H.B. Monk, noted: “One of our biggest problems in civil society is the time horizon that we’re operating on — whether election cycles or quarterly reports. The idea of a sovereign fund is to give government bureaucrats an opportunity to make long-term policy knowing that the buffeting winds of capitalism won’t blow them off course.”

Aganga added: “It’s important that we have some savings for the future generations. It just makes sense for your economy. You’re completely exposed otherwise.”

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Rivers State, Mr. ChibuikeRotimi Amaechi, has said state governments are willing to partner the Federal Government in the implementation of Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) if they are given the latitude to access their funds and make individual contributions to the common purse.

Amaechi said this Tuesday while speaking at a colloquium titled: “Jurisprudence, Democracy and Rule of Law” held at the state House of Assembly, Port Harcourt, to commemorate the Supreme Court judgment that ushered him into office in October 2007.

Speaking against the backdrop of the suit instituted on Monday by the NGF against the Federal Government at the Supreme Court seeking to block the latter from the operating the SWF, he said: “The rule of law eliminates completely the rule of man. Governors agree that the Federal Government should save but the law has to be respected. What the Federal Government has done is merely kidnapping of our money.”

He explained that the SWF, “like all things in the country”, must fall within the ambit of the law.

“Section 80 of the constitution was talking about Consolidated Revenue, and it also says that the executive authority of a region shall extend to the execution and maintenance of the constitution of the region and to all matters with respect to which the legislature of the region has for the time being power to make laws but shall be so exercised as not to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive authority of the federation or to endanger the continuance of Federal Government in Nigeria,” he said.

He said the Federal Government was being economical with the truth in its bid to liberalise the downstream sector, arguing that it had spent N1.264 trillion, which is more than the N264 billion that was appropriated to it by the lawmakers for this year’s budget.

He said this is the question the lawmakers should be asking the executive arm of government at the national level, pointing out that beyond the argument of oil, subsidy is also the argument about corruption which takes place at the top and trickles down to permeate the entire society.

In his presentation, constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, applauded the Supreme Court judgment that ushered in Amaechi as signalling the supremacy of the rule of law as unassailable.

He enumerated the guiding principles of the judgment as ushering in of a new operational philosophy of law, nourishing of the democratic culture and making courts to shy away from the constraints of technicality.

Similarly, Prof. Adele Jinadu, who also spoke at the occasion, observed that some had argued that the Supreme Court judgment on Amaechi versus INEC and two others usurped the rights of the voters, adding that “we must resort to government bylaws instead of government of rule of men.”

This Day

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