“There is a real problem in the country with corruption and governance like in many other countries,” said Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told CNBC.
(WATCH VIDEO: Nigerian corruption ‘sensationalized’: Fin Min)
Last year in a survey by graft watchdog, Transparency International, Nigeria was ranked the 144th most corrupt country in the world amongst the 177 countries surveyed. Almost 70 per cent of nations were thought to have a serious problem with public servants on the take and none of the countries scored a perfect score.
“I also think that corruption has been trivialised and I gave a talk on that last December. Our media like to sensationalise these things. I actually think they’ve trivialised corruption and taken attention away from where the real problems are.”
“Everything now is corruption. If someone sneezes, you accuse them of corruption, it’s a catch word. They love it.”
Okonjo-Iweala believes that the media have to be careful because by using the word ‘corruption’, it diverts attention away from where the real problem is and so journalists should not over sensationalise it.
“Is there a problem? Yes. Let’s focus on where those issues lie and let’s also focus on what the government is doing to fight corruption. At the end of the day, who is going to fight the corruption? It has to be Nigerians.”
Earlier this year, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi Lamido accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of not remitting 20 billion dollars to the federal account.
“Those kinds of numbers, you can’t have them thrown around and just leave it so what have we done? With the approval of the president, we’ve hired independent forensic auditors to go in and tell us what the truth is.”
The ‘missing money’ was initially 49.8 billion dollars and then 10.8 billion dollars and finally 20 billion dollars.
“Mr Sanusi is a former colleague with whom I work very well with and I don’t think I should be commenting on his motives but I always maintain that it’s not that there is no issue in the oil sector. We know there is and we could use more transparency and more openness there and we will get there.”
Okonjo-Iweala added, “What is blocking us is having the petroleum industry passed. I think the only way that we will get the kind of transparency to satisfy Nigerians and all of us is when the country actually in a more commercial fashion and is commercialised and publishes its numbers and opens its books.”
NIGERIAN OIL SECTOR AFTER GDP REBASE
Despite the fact that Nigeria’s recently rebased GDP figures showed that the country’s non-oil sectors accounted for more of the economy’s GDP than the oil industry, the petroleum industry continues to be at the centre of the economy.
(READ MORE: A closer look a Nigeria’s GDP rebasing)
“In the rebasing exercise, one of the interesting aspects was that the non-oil economy showed incredible growth particularly agriculture and in the rather unusual sectors like the Nigerian film industry,” Tom Wilson, Africa Practice told CNBC.
(WATCH VIDEO: Nigeria could see ‘super growth’ if corruption ends: Pro)
Data by the National Bureau of Statics showed that the growth rate in the country stood at 6.81 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 and the non-oil sectors’ growth rate stood at 7.95 per cent showed the highest growth rate as at the end of September 2013.
“In Nigeria, we have these incredibly strong fundamentals of a huge market, 170 million people, we’ve got great human capital in terms of the dynamic population and there’s an opportunity to see growth and move away from the oil economy,” Wilson said.