World Bank president, Robert B. Zoellick, today eulogised a former managing director of the bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as she returns to Nigeria to take up appointment as minister of Finance in President Goodluck Jonathan’s reconstituted Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Mr Zoellick, in a statement from Washington, acknowledged Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s contribution to the continued growth of the bank. “Ngozi’s contribution as managing director has been stellar. Her desire to serve her country is truly a big loss for the World Bank, but a major gain for Nigeria as it works to craft its economic way forward,” Mr Zoellick said, adding that she has proved her determination and capacity to work in the interests of poor people in developing countries around the globe.
The World Bank boss recalled the various times Mrs Okonjo-Iweala represented the bank in different global fora, pointing out that given her passionate advocacy for the poor and her belief in Africa’s promise and growth, her decision to redirect her intellect, economic and managerial skills to help redress the various challenges facing Nigeria cannot be faulted.
“We are truly proud that Ngozi is choosing to support her country in this way. Nigeria is fortunate to have someone of Ngozi’s stature. She’s been a big part of the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœnew’ World Bank, and I want to thank Ngozi for her leadership, drive and impact,” Mr Zoellick said. “Her creativity has led to the development of initiatives in the World Bank for the recovery of stolen assets and South-South co-operation.”
Apart from her role as a managing director, with oversight functions for the World Bank’s work in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala also played a pivotal role in overseeing the Bank’s Food Crisis Fund established to help countries adversely impacted by high and volatile food prices. More than 40 million people in 44 countries benefited from the fund.
Boost to government
According to the World Bank, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who is internationally recognised for her role as a strong advocate of gender issues, “skillfully and successfully chaired the latest round of replenishment for the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, the International Development Association (IDA) by helping to raise a record $49.3 billion.” Prior to accepting the position of managing director at the World Bank is 2007, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. (July 2003 to June 2006); served as Nigeria’s Finance minister and later in charge of Foreign Affairs.
As Minister of Finance, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors in 2005 that led to the wiping out of over $30billion of Nigeria’s external debt, including outright cancellation of $18 billion, under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
She is expected to give a boost to Mr Jonathan’s administration, as she is widely known to possess a reputation as a corruption fighter.