Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, indeed said Nigeria’s current economic recession is just “a word”, PREMIUM TIMES can confirm today, two days after the minister denied making such statement.
The confirmation, based on video evidence, counters Mrs. Adeosun’s denial on Thursday, after the comment became controversial, with many condemning it as insensitive to the sufferings of Nigerians.
In denying the comments, the minister had also rejected a Twitter handle that for months posted messages in her name, with its tweets frequently reported by the media.
In its latest post on Wednesday, the account, @Mrskemiadeosun, responded to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics showing that the Nigerian economy contracted for another quarter and was effectively in recession.
But as distraught Nigerians reacted to the verdict, the handle appeared to downplay it.
“The strongest of all warriors are these two, time and patience. I know people are concerned about the recession. Recession is a word,” the handle tweeted.
The tweet generated backlash from many Nigerians, including the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The post was later deleted.
But the criticism intensified on Thursday morning, with the comment making the headlines of some national dailies.
On Thursday afternoon, Festus Akanbi, spokesman for Mrs. Adeosun, told PREMIUM TIMES the account was fake and the statements did not reflect the position of his principal.
“The Twitter handle, @Mrskemiadeosun, does not belong to the Honourable Minister of Finance. At no point did she make that kind of statement in her interaction with the media after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday. The fake handle does not belong to her,” Mr. Akanbi said.
Mr. Akanbi also said Mrs. Adeosun had no presence on Twitter. The office later issued a statement, expressing the same position.
However, a video recording shows Mrs. Adeosun made a similar remark at an earlier event, although with a slightly different context.
Mrs. Adeosun spoke at a town hall meeting organised by the Alumni Association of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies on August 9, 2016.
She spoke alongside the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, Minister Power, Works and Housing, Tunde Fashola, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
The minister used her speech to explain why Nigeria should diversify its economy.
“The diversification agenda is not a rhetoric. The diversification agenda is an economic objective that we would achieve with what we’re doing with the budget, with our implementation and with how we’re managing our finances.
“So, yes, we’re borrowing. We need to borrow because we cannot wait for the oil prices to recover. We have to invest in this large infrastructure projects that are needed to unlock the competitiveness in our economy and create jobs for our people. That’s the objective of this government and that’s what we’re working towards. I’m also extremely confident that we would get there.
“The one thing Nigerians have in abundance is probably our greatest intangible asset is the spirit of the Nigerian people. The entrepreneurship of the Nigerian people. And their hard work. If we can combine those with an enabling environment created by government, I believe this economy can turn around,” Mrs. Adeosun said.
Then the minister moved on to the part where she attempted to allay the fears of Nigerians about the recession at the time.
“I know people are concerned about recession. Recession is a word,” Mrs. Adeosun said. “We can come out of recession. We can make sure it’s as short as possible by sticking to the prescription which is we must be disciplined with our expenditure, we must invest in capital and we must diversify our economy.”
After the video emerged, some of Mrs. Adeosun’s supporters said she made a mistake by denying ties to the Twitter handle in the first place.
At the height of the controversy on Thursday, the handle changed its status from being an “official Twitter account” of the minister to a “parody account”.
The handle’s bio was empty as at 8:46 pm. Friday.
Mr. Akanbi declined further comments on the matter to PREMIUM TIMES Friday night.