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Akinpelu Dada and Olalekan Adetayo
The Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of the World Bank, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, held talks with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Wednesday on how the bank could help Nigeria overcome an economic crisis caused mainly by a sharp fall in crude prices that has eaten deep into its oil revenues.
The Federal Government is planning to borrow N1.8tn from abroad and at home to help fund the over N6tn budget for this year, which has been delayed by several months due to wrangling between the Presidency and the National Assembly.
Although Nigeria has held talks with the World Bank over a possible loan or credit facility in recent months, Indrawati did not address this when speaking to reporters after the meeting.
“We would like to know how we can help Nigeria to make the very important decisions, whether on micro economic policy or other sectoral policy, that will make this economy move forward to become a strong middle income country,” she said.
Indrawati, who met the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, on Tuesday, said she and Buhari discussed the government’s “commendable goals to improve tax collection and crackdown on corruption.”
The President appealed to the World Bank to facilitate the speedy repatriation to Nigeria of stolen funds still being held by the Swiss authorities.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President spoke during the meeting he had with Indrawati at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Shehu quoted the President as saying that the repatriation of the additional $320m from Switzerland, which had been identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under the late Gen. Sani Abacha administration, would help to ease the current economic hardship facing the country.
Buhari assured Indrawati that his administration was taking appropriate steps to ensure that public funds were no longer stolen or misappropriated by government officials.
The President said, “We need the support of the World Bank for the repatriation of the funds. We are as concerned as the World Bank about accountability. If such repatriated funds have been misapplied in the past, I assure you that the same will not happen with us.
“$320m is a lot of money and we will not allow it to be misappropriated or diverted.”
One of the conditions given by the Swiss authorities for the repatriation of the funds is that they should be expended on social programmes for the benefit of Nigerians in an efficient and accountable way and guaranteed by the monitoring of the World Bank.
Buhari also assured the World Bank managing director that his administration would honour all agreements with the institution that would help to stimulate Nigeria’s economy and reduce the level of poverty in the country.
He said Nigeria would welcome more international assistance for the rehabilitation of damaged homes, schools, health facilities and other infrastructure in the north eastern states affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Indrawati told Buhari that the World Bank was ready to use its knowledge, expertise and resources to help Nigeria achieve faster growth and development.
“We will strongly support you to create jobs and ensure prosperity in Nigeria,” she assured the President.
She also expressed the bank’s full support for the war against corruption being waged by the Buhari administration.
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Source: Punch News