The Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, tweeted on January 17, 2023, that he was the head of the economic management team while he was vice president.
“As head of the economic management team while I was Vice President, I was instrumental in designing a private sector revival strategy and advocated for the opening of the economy for private sector investments in several sectors. And we made tremendous progress. #AtikuAtNESG,” he tweeted.
Replying to this tweet, Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, said: “Dear former Vice President Atiku, please ask the handlers of your @Twitter account to stop misleading the public. You were never the Head of the Economic Management Team. This absurd lie does you no good at all. Please ask your Team to stop it. Happy New Year. Wish you well.“
The question, therefore, is: was Atiku Abubakar the head of the economic team as claimed?
The EMT is a team of experts that manage the resources, finance, income, and expenditure of a country and advise the President on economic policy matters.
Currently, Nigeria’s EMT is being chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Other members of the EMT are the Minister of Finance, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Information and Culture, Governor of the Central Bank, Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Director-General of the Budget Office, Director-General of the Debt Management Office, and Director-General of the National Bureau of Statistics.
Economic Management Team vs National Economic Council
National Economic Council (NEC) is listed as a federal executive body by the Nigerian constitution. Part 1 of the third schedule, paragraphs 18 and 19 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, state that “there shall be National Economic Council which shall comprise the following members – (a) the Vice-President who shall be the Chairman; the Governor of each State of the Federation; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria”
This council shall have the power to advise the president concerning the economic affairs of the Federation, and in particular on measures necessary for the coordination of the economic planning efforts or economic programmes of the various governments of the Federation.
By law, Atiku Abubakar was the head of the National Economic Council from 1999 to 2007 when he served as vice president of the country.
The Economic Management Team (EMT) is however different from the National Economic Council. According to multiple sources, EMT was set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 after the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as finance minister.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Bullion series 2007 highlighted the appointment of the EMT by the Obasanjo administration in 2003. The Centre for Africa-Europe relations in its publication about Nigeria’s debt reforms said “when President Obasanjo was re-elected in 2003, he appointed a new economic management team headed by former World Bank director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. This team implemented many policy reforms.”
By Okonjo-Iweala’s own admission, Obasanjo was the political head or chairman of the team, while she was to lead the team. Modupe Adelaja, director-general of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), in her reporting of Obasanjo reforms also confirmed that the EMT was set up in June 2003 by Obasanjo.
We found no credible record stating that Atiku was the head of the EMT.
Atiku Abubakar was indeed the head of the National Economic Council, as mandated by the constitution. However, President Olusegun Obasanjo set up an Economic Management Team which he chaired but was led by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Atiku’s claim that he led the Economic Management Team is false.