*Agbakoba asks FG to prosecute treasury looters
The Federal and state governments have finally agreed to withdraw the sum of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) into the Sovereign Wealth Fund Account.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, who disclosed this at the ongoing Investigative Public Hearing on Fuel Subsidy Management in Abuja , added that the total sum of $1.001 billion was accrued into the account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In his presentation, Olisa Agbakoba, former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) however, noted that “ Nigeria can generate over N10 trillion if the local content of the oil and gas if fully enforced.”
Okonjo-Iweala who spoke on ongoing efforts toward ensuring sustainable economic growth through improved revenue generation, job creation, and reduction in recurrent expenditure said that contrary to claims in certain quarters, Nigeria was not broke.
She said that for the country to achieve the required growth, it could not continue to depend on domestic debt through bonds, to finance its economy, adding that the high interest rate being paid ranged between 16 and 19 percent.
“When we are raising these bonds, we should be careful. Raising domestic debt may be very difficult for us to pay salaries and they have to depend on the EU to do that. Unemployment is unduly high…if such happens it means we may have to transfer the debt to the future generation. We must work very hard in cutting cost, raising revenue and block wastages,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala explained that the Federal Government was already taking certain measures aimed at recovering the sum of N179 billion owed by some revenue generating agencies, as well as boosting internally generated revenue (IGR); streamlining agencies with overlapping functions; cutting cost and inefficiency, as well as overheads of government across board.
She explained that government was likewise working towards investing in some sectors which were capable of generating substantial revenues - especially Agriculture, Housing, Maritime and Mineral Resources. This according to her, would reduce the over N1 trillion spent annually on food importation in the country.
Commenting on government’s failure to meet its 6,000 mw power generation target, the minister observed that plans had been made to lay pipelines for the delivery of gas to power plants across the country.
For his part, Olisa Agbakoba, former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) urged the Federal Government to plug all leakages within government revenue generation agencies, stressing that the country could rake in as much as N5 trillion annually if all revenues due were remitted into government coffers.
Agbakoba also suggested that government should strengthen the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti graft agencies to ensure that identified treasury looters were brought to book.
Agbakoba, who expressed support for the commercialisation plans of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the deregulation exercise would curb recklessness in the system.
He urged the committee to ensure that the KPMG report on the oil and gas sector was implemented to the letter.
He said that those behind the mismanagement of the subsidy regime should be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.
He urged the federal government to further empower the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to effectively carry out its functions and attributed the rot in the industry to the non-implementation of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Local Content Act.
He called on government to diversify the country’s revenue sources and stop over- reliance on oil and gas, saying “the National Assembly should ensure that government pursues policies that will promote development.’
“If we want to change our country, let us implement our laws. The economy will not grow by budgeting so much money. It will grow by government empowering our people. Why does our government still bank in foreign banks? Is anything wrong with our banks? Government has to promote Nigerian businesses. We have to love ourselves first.
“Mobil Oil Ltd is still importing foreign lawyers to write simple agreements. They still bring in foreign engineers, while our people are here without jobs. Can you go to the United States or Britain and do that. Of course they will not allow you to do that.
“We need to have a very clear idea of how to grow our economy using Nigerians…not a single one of the 113 oil rigs is insured in Nigeria . Can we not bank our forex in the country, why do we put all our monies in foreign banks, to grow the banks?