Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives has queried the non-disclosure of interest accruing to Nigeria’s foreign reserves accounts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Dogara made the observation during an interactive session with delegation from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) led by its chairman, Victor Muruako, who canvassed for retainership of certain percentage of operating surplus recovered from various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The House had through a resolution passed on the 15th December, 2015, calling on the apex bank to declare interests accruable to the foreign reserves accounts of the federation.
To this end, he proposed that agencies like the FRC should be in custody of such information for dissemination to the public when necessary.
Dogara said: “We earn interest on foreign reserves, like Botswana because they don’t have oil, it is the second highest revenue after resources earned from natural resources. You will see it as a budget item; interest earned from foreign reserves.
“In Nigeria, we have been asking the question, are we earning or are we just running charity with it or just leave people to manage it? Are we capitalising the interest and what is the interest? Nobody has ever told us.
“CBN, it is the custodian of the foreign reserves we have but the point is that, if they are not forthcoming with regards to what has been happening with the interest earned on foreign reserves, there should be an agency of government that we can run to,’’ Dogara argued.
The Speaker who stressed the need for transparency in the management of the country’s resources, also frowned at the breach of the Fiscal Responsibility Act which stipulates the ceiling on borrowing.
“Do we continue borrowing until we have borrowed billions? The Fiscal Responsibility Act speaks to those things so why is it that it is not being done,’’ the Speaker said.
He noted that there was urgent need for the government to properly fund the commission in order to deliver on its mandate and strengthen its powers.
According to him, the commission has the capacity to reduce corruption by over 80 percent.
He said that the approach adopted by the government to fight corruption through the EFCC to punish corruption offenders after the crime has been committed should be redirected to checking the root of the problem.
“The entire motive for, or the reason for the establishment of this agency was for us to have an agency that will ensure that we have efficient allocation of resources in our country.
“Once resources in a country are not efficiently allocated, or in an efficient manner, there is bound to be dislocation in the economy of that country.
“If we hope to get the best from agencies such as this, it means that we have to resolve across board to put some resources at the disposal of the agency. Otherwise, if we think that we cannot fund the agency but the agency will live up to expectations, I think we are only deceiving ourselves.
“From the way we are fighting corruption, it is like emphasis is built on EFCC. But the problem with that approach that you are dealing with symptoms of corruption and corruption is like a tree.
“Once you continue to deal with the leaves and the fruits, and the root is still there, you cannot totally eliminate corruption.
“These are preventive agencies and we ought to invest more in agencies such as the Fiscal Responsibility Agency because we have to make it difficult for the corruption itself to take place and once we do that, we will be applying the remedy at the root of corruption.
“There is no limit to the kind of attention we can pay to agencies like this because this is the right way to combat corruption itself to ensure that resources are efficiently allocated and that we have fiscal discipline.
“Once we have done that, we would have reduced incidents of corruption by perhaps, over 80 percent,” Dogara said.
Speaking earlier, Victor Muruako, FRC Chairman who called the need for speedy amendment of the Act, emphasised the need to empower the commission to retain a percentage of the operating surplus it collects from MDAs on behalf of Federal Government.
“This is in order to boost its activities and grant it financial independence,” he said.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja