Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Okonjo-Iweala, Ngozi (2008 portrait).jpg
Minister of Finance
In office
11 July 2011 – 29 May 2015
President Goodluck Jonathan
Preceded by Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga
Succeeded by Kemi Adeosun
In office
15 July 2003 – 21 June 2006
President Olusegun Obasanjo
Preceded by Adamu Ciroma
Succeeded by Nenadi Usman
Coordinating Minister for the Economy
In office
11 July 2011 – 29 May 2015
President Goodluck Jonathan
Preceded by Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
21 June 2006 – 30 August 2006
President Olusegun Obasanjo
Preceded by Oluyemi Adeniji
Succeeded by Joy Ogwu
Personal details
Born (1954-06-13) 13 June 1954 (age 62)
Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria
Political party People's Democratic Party
Alma mater Harvard University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (born 13 June 1954) is a Nigerian economist best known for her two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria and for her long standing career at the World Bank, where she rose to the position of Managing Director (October 2007 – July 2011).

In 2007, Okonjo-Iweala was considered as a possible replacement for former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.[1][2] Subsequently, in 2012, she became one of three candidates in the race to replace World Bank President Robert Zoellick at the end of his term of office in June 2012.[3][4][5] On 16 April 2012 it was announced that she had been unsuccessful in her bid for the World Bank presidency, having lost to the US nominee, Jim Yong Kim. This outcome had been widely anticipated.[6] However, this was the first contested election for World Bank president after the demise in 2010 of the Gentlemen's agreement that the US would appoint the World Bank president and Europe would appoint the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.[7]

Education and personal life[edit]

Okonjo-Iweala is an Igbo[8] from Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, where her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo is the Eze (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.

Okonjo-Iweala was educated at the International School Ibadan and Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in 1977, and earned her PhD in regional economic development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981. She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that supported her doctoral studies.[9] She is married to Ikemba Iweala from Umuahia, Abia State,[10] and they have four children. The eldest, Onyinye Iweala received her PhD in Experimental Pathology from Harvard University in 2008 and graduated Harvard Medical School in 2010. Her son, Uzodinma Iweala, is the author of the novel Beasts of No Nation (2005) and the newly released thoughts on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa [Our Kind of People] (2012).


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the 2004 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group

Prior to her ministerial career in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala was vice-president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group. She left it in 2003 after she was appointed to President Obasanjo's cabinet as Finance Minister on 15 July 2003.

In October 2005, she led the Nigerian team that struck a deal with the Paris Club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria's external debt (US$12 billion) in return for an $18 billion debt write-off. Prior to the partial debt payment and write-off, Nigeria spent roughly US$1 billion every year on debt servicing, without making a dent in the principal owed. However, following years of mismanagement under her watch, the combined domestic and external debt of the Federal Government is in excess of $40 billion by the end of 2014. Add to this the fact that abandoned capital projects littered all over the country amount to over $50 billion. There is no word yet on other huge contingent liabilities. If oil prices continue to fall, it was said that Nigeria will soon have a heavy debt burden even with low debt-to-GDP ratio.[11][12]

Okonjo-Iweala also introduced the practice of publishing each state's monthly financial allocation from the federal government in the newspapers. This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance. She was instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch and Standard & Poor's. Nigeria is considered to have defaulted on its sovereign debt in 1983 (debt rescheduling is considered a type of default by rating agencies).[13]

Some controversy surrounded Okonjo-Iweala's appointment as Finance Minister, and that of Foreign Affairs minister, Olu Adeniji, over the payment of their salary in dollars. Okonjo Iweala and Olu Adeniji were paid US$240,000, compared with their $6,000 base salary. The controversy was spearheaded by reform-minded media reports, although Okonjo-Iweala felt that her critics were unjustified because of the temporary nature of the payment, which came out of the donor-supported Diaspora Fund negotiated by the Nigerian government.[14] On Friday, 20 July 2007, the Court of Appeal ruled that the salary payment was not done within the ambit of Nigeria's laws, and directed her and Adeniji to pay back the excess to the account of the state.

Both Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government of Nigeria have appealed the case to the Supreme Court, and judgement is pending. The appeal is on the basis that the appeal court made its judgment due to erroneous information provided to it that the Nigerian government was making the salary payments, when in fact it was not.

She resigned as Nigeria's Foreign Minister on 3 August 2006 following her sudden removal as head of Nigeria's Economic Team by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. She left that administration at the end of August 2006.[citation needed]

On 4 October 2007, World Bank President Robert Zoellick appointed her to the post of managing director, effective 1 December 2007.[15]

In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was reappointed as Minister of Finance with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan. She took a lot of heat, more-so than any other government official for the unpopular fuel subsidy removal policy by the Nigerian government which led to Occupy Nigeria protests in January 2012.[16]

During her confirmation as a Minister, she stressed the need to reduce the country's recurrent expenditure which is presently 74% of the National Budget and embark on capital projects which could improve the 14% unemployment rate in the country.[17] In her role as the Coordinating Minister For the Economy and Minister of Finance, she has extensive influence/exercise to shape the direction of the Jonathan economic team and the transformation agenda.[3] This indubitably makes Okonjo-Iweala responsible for the success or failure of Mr. Jonathan's economic policies. Unfortunately, it is widely believed that things are not going well with Nigeria's economy. The country's foreign reserves instead of increasing is actually grossly below what Jonathan's administration inherited despite an average oil price of between $105 – $120 during this period. President Olusegun Obasanjo met about $5 billion in foreign reserves, and the average monthly oil price for the 72 months he was in office was $38, he left $43 billion in foreign reserves after paying $12 billion to write off Nigeria's external debt. In an article a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and a world class economist, said that by his calculation, if the economy had been properly managed, the nation's foreign reserves, which now stand at about $30 billion, should have been between $102 and $118 billion and the exchange rate around N112 before the fall in oil prices towards the end of 2014. He said even with the fall in oil price, objectively, the reserves should be around $90 billion and exchange rate, not higher than N125 per US dollar.[18]

In September 2015, she joins Lazard as Senior Advisor.[19]

Non-profit work[edit]

In 2007, Okonjo-Iweala's NGO, NOI Global Consulting, partnered with the Gallup Organization to introduce an opinion poll, the NOI poll, into the Nigerian polity.[20] She is a fellow at the Brookings Institution.[21] Okonjo-Iweala also serves on the Advisory Board of Global Financial Integrity[22] and on the board of directors of the World Resources Institute.[23]She is a member of the International Advisory Board at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.[24]

In 2011, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was called back to Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan to head the economic team as Nigeria's Finance minister. It was from this position that she contested the presidency of the World Bank. She received support for her ultimately unsuccessful campaign from a number of former World Bank employees and from publications including The Economist, The Financial Times and Newsweek, which said: "If competition follows normal process, Kim stands no chance [against Ngozi Okonjo Iweala]."[citation needed]. Nigeria's BusinessDay newspaper also published an article ("World Bank Presidency – a question of politics or ability?") by guest writer, Olu Omoyele, in which he states that Okonjo-Iweala's "credentials for the job are...outstanding" and added that "she has a well developed network of academic, political and economic relationships across the world which should aid her in dealing with the challenges an institution like the World Bank."


On 1 January 2012, the Nigerian government removed the fuel subsidy. That action triggered a nationwide riot which had Dr. Iweala in the cross-fire. She was blamed more than any other public servant for the removal of subsidy.[16][25][26]

Honors and awards[edit]

On 28 September 2007, Irish musician Bono was awarded the Liberty Medal. Bono donated the $100,000 prize to the Washington-based Debt AIDS Trade Africa, which he co-founded, and Okonjo-Iweala accepted the award on the organisation's behalf.[28]


  • Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light – a biography of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, published by Africa World Press, (2003), co-authored with Tijan Sallah.
  • The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy – an academic piece, published by Africa World Press, (2003), co-edited with Charles C. Soludo and Mansur Muhtar
  • Reforming The Unreformable: Lessons From Nigeria – an account of Ngozi's work under Obasanjo's administration between 2003 – 2007, published by MIT Press, (2012)


Okonjo-Iweala has not expressed interest to contest political office in Nigeria. However, she has been vocal in her denunciation of the manner in which the country is currently accumulating huge debts.[29] Recently, she was pictured at the Nigeria's ruling party convention in Abuja.


  1. ^ Wroughton, Lesley (18 May 2007). "INTERVIEW-Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala for World Bank?". (Reuters). Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  2. ^ McKenna, Barrie (17 May 2007). "Washington negotiating Wolfowitz's exit". Globe and Mail (Toronto: CTVglobemedia Publishing). Retrieved 6 October 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "Hats off to Ngozi". The Economist. 30 March 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  4. ^ McGroarty, Patrick (22 March 2012). "Nigerian Receives Backing for World Bank". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones). Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Closing of Nominations for President of World Bank". 23 March 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Rushe, Dominic (16 April 2012). "Jim Yong Kim secures World Bank job amid criticism of US domination of role". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "Development Committee Communiqué", IMF.
  8. ^ Nwobu, Lawrence Chinedu (31 January 2006). "Ohanaeze and the Igbo Leadership Question". BNW Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2007. 
  9. ^ "Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Biography". Nigerian Federal Ministry of Finance. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Elendu, Jonathan (6 August 2007). "Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Tom or Joy". (Elendu Reports). Retrieved 6 October 2007. 
  11. ^ Nigerians react to Soludo, Okonjo-Iweala controversy – The Sun News,
  12. ^ Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election, by Charles Soludo,
  13. ^ "Nigeria's credit rating" (PDF). Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Paul Vallely (16 May 2006). "The woman who has the power to change Africa". London: The Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2006. 
  15. ^ a b c d e "President Zoellick Appoints Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Managing Director, World Bank". (World Bank Group). 4 October 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2007. 
  16. ^ a b Kelvin Osa-Okunbor (26 January 2012). "Subsidy removal: Decision was collective, says Akpabio". Lagos, Nigeria: The Nation. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  17. ^ "July 2011 article". [dead link]
  18. ^ Soludo, Okonjo-Iweala and the missing N30tr – Politics.
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Abiodun, Eromosele; Tumise Adekunle (11 May 2007). "Okonjo-Iweala Partners Gallup for Polling in Nigeria". Thisday online (Leaders & Company). Retrieved 7 October 2007. 
  21. ^ "Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Nigerian Finance and Foreign Minister, Joins Brookings". Brookings Institution website. 10 January 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2007. 
  22. ^ "Advisory Board – Global Financial Integrity". Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "WRI Elects Cadoso, Gore, Okonjo-Iweala and Thomas". World Resources Institute website. 18 August 2005. Retrieved 31 October 2007. 
  24. ^ "Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala | Blavatnik School of Government". Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  25. ^ Jide Ajani, "Fuel Subsidy Removal: How Okonjo-Iweala convinced Jonathan,Sambo, ministers", Vanguard, 25 December 2011.
  26. ^ Olalekan Adetayo, "Subsidy: Govs turned against me – Jonathan", Punch (Nigeria), 8 May 2012.
  27. ^ Nworah, Uche (28 November 2006). "Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Honoured As Nigerian of the Year 2006". Nigeria Village Square. Archived from the original on 17 June 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2007. 
  28. ^ "Bono gets medal for his work in Africa". Associated Press via The Washington Post. 27 September 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2007. [dead link]
  29. ^ "Okonjo-Iweala warns against rising domestic debt" from[self-published source]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Adamu Ciroma
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Nenadi Usman
Preceded by
Oluyemi Adeniji
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Joy Ogwu
Preceded by
Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga
Minister of Finance