Times have changed for the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – no thanks to alleged threats from indicted oil barons.
Now, there is a tight security shield around her.
Also, there were indications yesterday that extra security might be provided for other members of the presidential task force on subsidy payments.
The Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments initially indicted 21 firms for fraudulent claims that cost the nation N382 billion but the list was later increased to 25 by the Federal Ministry of Finance, based on fresh evidence.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, said of the N422 billion scrutinised, N18 billion was found to be duplication; N21 billion was cleared.
But following investigation of the indicted marketers by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Minister of Finance had been under threats.
No fewer than a dozen armed anti-terrorism squad agents, policemen and State Security Service (SSS) operatives have been deployed in the Federal Ministry of Finance to protect the Minister.
The Minister’s residence is also under 24-hour surveillance.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Some of the indicted oil marketers and barons have been threatening to deal with Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala for insisting that those behind the fuel subsidy scam must be punished.
“The reality is that the Coordinating Minister has stepped on toes by being adamant on allowing justice to run its full course on those who amassed ill-gotten wealth through the fuel subsidy scam.
“Her major sin was the publication of the list of the indicted firms by the Ministry of Finance instead of other relevant organisations.
“Besides elaborate character assassination, planting seed of discord within the cabinet, there are fears that these oil thieves might engage in ‘physical harms’, if all other options fail to get her out of the way.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “What we have done so far is to beef up security around her in the office and at home. Also, her itinerary is now a jealously guarded secret.”
Some of the indicted oil marketers are believed to be under watch by security agencies. One of them is said to have been isolated for championing anti-Okonjo-Iweala campaign and threats. Security agencies may prevail on the court to revoke his bail anytime from now, it was learnt.