Friday, 9 December 2016
By Simon Kolawole
Dearly beloved Nigerians, I have a number of proposals today that may interest you. Or upset you. One, I respectfully propose that we concession the Niger Delta to the Netherlands for 17 years. Do not change the revenue allocation formula. Do not increase the derivation formula; retain it at 13%. In fact, scrap the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta. Just hand over the Niger Delta as it is now to the Dutch and ask them to “build, operate and transfer” the region by 2033. Just a change of leaders. The same followers, the same land, the same water, the same creeks, the same share of national resources and the same 1999 constitution.
Let me fantasise: in just 17 years, the Niger Delta would have a massive network of well-built roads, electricity would shine bright everywhere, schools would be brimming with brilliance, quality healthcare would be within the reach of the people — and the lives of the Niger Deltans would be reformed and transformed. Let me fantasise further: skyscrapers, refineries, power plants and holiday resorts would dot the landscape. In fact, the bridge from Port Harcourt to Bonny Island would finally be built. Just a change of leaders. The same followers, the same land, the same water, the same creeks, the same share of national resources and the same 1999 constitution.
My second proposal. The south-east, in my view, is one of Africa’s most blessed regions in terms of human resources. Hand it over to the Japanese to build, operate and transfer by 2033. Don’t abolish quota system. Retain federal character. Forget confederalism. Don’t stand on any Aburi Accord. Simply hand over the place to the Japanese on a 17-year concession agreement. Just a change of leaders. The same followers, the same land mass, the same palm wine, the same kola nut, the same share of national resources and the same 1999 constitution. By 2033, you would swear you have mistakenly strayed into another country.
Join me in my fantasy. The first thing the Japanese would do is to come up with a policy that would make all south-east councils buy their official cars from Innosons Ltd. All south-east government vehicles would be from Innosons. All lawmakers would use Innosons cars. All official cars would be from Innosons. All contractors would patronise Innosons. You know what would happen? Innosons would be so overwhelmed with orders they would explode! Positive vibration! They would start assembling vehicles for export to Africa and beyond. Innosons would become our own Honda. Soon, Simonsons would spring up to rival Innosons.
What we know as the south-east today would become the manufacturing hub of Africa. Whatever you want to buy would be produced from there: mobile phones, electric kettles, shoes, bags, shirts, TV sets, computers, wallets, fans, air conditioners and photocopiers — all thanks to the Japanese. No, not that the Japanese would set up these factories. It is the same south-easterners (and foreign investors) that would be energised to troop to the region as a result of the leadership the Japanese would offer — easily discernible in clear vision, cohesive and intelligent policies, creative incentives, tenacity of purpose and an unwavering, genuine focus on development.
My third proposal: let us sign a 17-year lease agreement with the Dubai rulers to help us run the north-central. As usual, I am proposing different leadership only. Other variables would remain. The same followers, the same land, the same water, the same yams, the same mangoes, the same share of national resources and the same 1999 constitution. I will not even suggest modernising “our agriculture”. I am talking about travel and tourism. Look at Lokoja, Kogi state, the confluence of River Niger and River Benue. Picture the billion-dollar travel and tourism industry that Sheikh Al Maktoum could engineer there within 17 years!
Imagine what Al Maktoum can do to Jos — that beautiful, temperate city that used to be the home of expatriates! In 17 years, we would be discussing Jos in the same category as Marrakech, Pattaya and Cape Town as preferred tourist destinations. Imagine what Dubai rulers would turn Zuma Rock to in 17 years! This mighty mountain would play host to Nigeria’s own Disneyland. You would soon be seeing “Zoom to Zuma” commercials on CNN across the world, shortly after the airing of “Incredible India”! It would be a destination for local and international fun-seekers. And to think Zuma is just a few kilometres away from the Abuja international airport…
I’m writing just 1300 words, so space would not allow me to discuss concession opportunities for the south-west, north-west and north-east — or what could happen if we lease the federal government of Nigeria to Rwanda for 17 years. Let me now time take questions and observations so that we can close our discussion and shut down. Your first observation is that I’m being too simplistic. You said I make it look like it is so easy to build roads, fix electricity, provide quality health care, improve education standards, develop tourism and create a manufacturing hub. You said I am living in fantasy. Thanks for the compliments, but I am not fantasising.
Pack your bags today and pay a visit to Bonny Island, where the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) plant is located. You won’t believe you are in the same Niger Delta. The roads are perfect. Electricity is 24/7. Water flows without inhibitions. The schools, whether conventional or vocational, are of the highest standards. I am not talking about what would happen by 2033 — I am talking of what has been on Bonny Island all along, courtesy the NLNG. If you want further evidence of what oil money can do, you can also visit the Europe-like staff quarters of the multinational companies in the Niger Delta. Yes, it can be done! I repeat: it can be done!
Your second question is that I make it look like there are no ethno-religious and political problems inhibiting Nigeria’s progress, and I talk as if there is no need to change the constitution, ditch federal character, increase derivation to 50%, or break Nigeria to pieces.
No, Ma’am, you misunderstood me. I will never understate the political and ethnic problems plaguing Nigeria. I am not 100% naive. I see, feel and observe the complexities everyday. What I’m saying, Ma’am, is that in spite of these challenges, in spite of our “bad” marriage, we can still make progress! That is why I suggest, in my proposals, that we should change only one variable — leadership.
Your own question, Sir, is why a 17-year concession? Why not 10 years? Why not 50 years? It was deliberate, Sir. We have had an unbroken democratic experience since 1999, and I am saying that if our leaders are actually interested in developing this country, 17 years is enough to go very far. My proposal is for us to have a different kind of leaders for the same period of time with the same followers, the same climate, the same humidity, the same temperature, the same vegetation, and the same share of resources. The concessionaires would still contest elections every four years but no Nigerian politician would be eligible to run until after 17 years.
I can see that professor is unhappy with me. How on earth can I be asking for a re-colonisation of Africa by proposing that we hand over to the Dutch, Japanese and Emiratis? I’m sorry, Prof, I am only speaking in parables. I am saying if the Dutch could build a country on water, if the Emiratis could create an oasis in the desert, if the Japanese could develop without natural resources, then developing Nigeria would be a piece of cake! We are blessed with all the brains, all the resources to develop this country. Our leaders must use their brains — or lease one. Forget oil. Forget FAAC. With proper leadership, the needed billion dollars would flow in from all over the world!
I will take one more question and then go home. A Nigerian who lives in the UK took his family to Dubai for the first time in August and called me from there. “Simon,” he said, “these people have two heads.” We both laughed. So your question is: are you sure there is nothing really wrong with us? If these things are doable here, why are we not doing them? Professor Chinua Achebe famously wrote in The Trouble with Nigeria (1983): “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else."
December 7, 2016
#Punch Editorial Board
THE crisis in the power sector will simply not go away. Across the country, darkness reigns and factories and other businesses are in dire straits. Unprepared for a sophisticated business like power, the generating and distribution companies are weighed down by debts, dilapidated equipment and their own glaring incompetence. Amid all this, the Power Minister, Babatunde Fashola, is sounding like a cracked record, repeating his untenable mantra that the fatally flawed power privatisation would not be reviewed. Who will save Nigerians from the tyranny of a dysfunctional power system?
Power supply in the country is beyond pathetic. Last week, power supplied reached 3,927 megawatts at its peak, but averaged slightly less than 3,000MW, according to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission. For a country with a population of 170 million and Gross Domestic Product estimated at $481.1 billion in 2015 by the World Bank, this is miserable. In a presentation by Funke Osibodu, CEO of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, at the PwC power forum in 2015, it was revealed that, of the total installed capacity of 12,522MW, some 5,381MW was not available; another 3,626MW was classified as “non-operational”, leaving only 3,789MW operational.
Guesstimates of actual requirements range from 25,000MW to 150,000MW. There is however general agreement that less than 20 per cent of the Nigerian population have continuous access to power and only four million out of the country’s enumerated 32 million households have access to electricity.
Without resolving the mountain of debt afflicting operators, there is no hope in sight for a resolution of the crisis. The DisCos claim that government agencies owe N156 billion. They in turn owe the GenCos over N300 billion. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the GenCos also owed the banks about N357 billion by March end, this year. They owe gas companies a further N110 billion for gas supplied to their turbines, while some N402 billion in bank credit to electricity companies is said to have become toxic.
It was never meant to be like this. But three years after the unbundled assets of the former state-owned power monopoly were privatised, Nigeria is no better off than it was in 2013. The hope that privatisation would bring in foreign investment has been dashed; the dream of local banks reaping from an unleashed strategic sector has been drowned in an ocean of bad debts as loans provided to the incompetent local consortia that won the bids have gone bad. Private capital was expected to drive production, reduce the costs of doing business in a country where businesses provide 80 per cent of their power through expensive private arrangements and stimulate job creation.
Unlike Fashola and President Muhammadu Buhari, who unwisely refuse to review the power assets sale of 2013, the organised private sector that bears the brunt of inadequate power supply, has called for a review. This newspaper has consistently called for intelligent policy measures that will evict some of the hopelessly incompetent domestic investors that cornered some of the GenCos and DisCos through official chicanery. They can neither attract the necessary foreign funding, nor do they have the technical savvy to reverse what Fashola identified as over three decades of lack of investment in our power sector. The minister has also exposed the hypocrisy of the DisCos in their repeated claims of being owed without providing documentation.
Apart from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, leading industrialist, Aliko Dangote, and committees of the National Assembly have aligned with this progressive view, labelling the privatisation a colossal failure. We reject Fashola’s inference that a sovereign state can become so helpless within its own domain when its vital interests are threatened. The United States and European countries have on several occasions blocked the sale of companies to certain foreign entities when over-riding national interests are deemed to be at stake. The British government, through the UK Competition Commission, compelled the Spanish consortium, Ferrovial, which had purchased British Airports Authority, to give up Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh airports, citing possible “adverse effects for both passengers and airlines.” The same UK government that triggered modern privatisation has, on occasions, had to step into the rail and water privatisations to protect national interest, the preeminent responsibility of any government. We oppose the continued release of public funds to non-performers such as the N213 billion intervention provided by the CBN for gas issues.
The only realistic way to attract the $10 billion investment that the IMF says the country needs every year for 10 years to reverse the power supply deficit is to review and properly, transparently privatise the power assets. Contrary to Fashola’s erroneous assertion that reversing the flawed sale would scare foreign investors, we assert that it would rather reinvigorate investor confidence. We recall how global enthusiasm for Nigeria’s power sales was scorched by the corruption-fuelled process that eventually had all the 17 unbundled assets acquired by local consortia, save for one that had Kepco, the Korean operator, as technical partner. Genuine investors were simply scared off to pave the way for local misfits.
Since it still holds substantial minority stakes in the privatised entities, the government should creatively apply pressure on the chronically inadequate investors – through aggressive debt recovery, performance targets and regulatory measures – with a view to compelling them to sell or give up their stake. Though some criticised the motive and method, official hostility made Sadiq Petroleum to give up its majority equity purchase in African Petroleum Plc shares in 2005. The country will remain for long economically shackled unless we are able to evict these interlopers in the power sector.
To resolve the power crisis, the government should urgently and wisely sell the 10 power plants developed under the National Independent Power Projects to major foreign players. No indigenous operator has the track record, technical or financial capacity to deploy and reverse our power predicament. Resolving the 80 per cent dependence on gas-fired plants and harnessing coal, solar, wind and water are crucial. We need a second national power grid in addition to regional grids, instead of the folly of relying on only one.
The first order of business, however, is for Fashola to climb down from his high horse and commence an immediate review of the privatisation or Buhari should compel him to do so.
Friday, 2 December 2016
Starting from 12.30 pm on Saturday, November 26, 2016 in the African Hall
of the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja, the autobiography
of the acclaimed political godfather, Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, simply
titled: “My Life and Nigerian Politics” will be presented to the public on
an occasion that has been deliberately organised to reflect the mood of
the times. However, regardless of this deliberateness, the caliber of
guests that have been carefully invited has, undoubtedly, elevated the
essence of the event: to celebrate the life and times of the political
icon; and, perhaps, his expected withdrawal from active partisan
Therefore, while the Planning Committee of the event may have succeeded in
solemnising its atmospherics and nuances, the gravitas associated with the
personas of some distinguished Nigerians who would be present at the event
may have, to some extent, spun it out of control in terms of the intended
air of sobriety, which the celebrant desires. And, this should be
understandable when one considers the compact, yet impressive list of
invitees. Nevertheless, the event would not come near his 80th birthday
held three years ago, at the same venue, with pomp and ceremony, yes, with
But, I sincerely doubt if anybody can do much about discounting, on
occasions such as this one, the presence of the like of former head of
state, General Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar who would chair the ceremony;
former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan who is a special guest; former
defence minister and foremost philanthropist, Lt. General Theophilus
Yakubu Danjuma who is the Chief Presenter of the book; the president of
Dangote group and Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; chairman of
Globacom, Otunba Mike Adenuga; and former vice president, Architect
Mohammed Namadi Sambo, among others, who are special guests. Only their
presence would serve to electrify any gathering. That is the truth.
Nothing can also diminish the status of Anenih who is the central focus of
the event, not even the planned low-key nature of it. The fact that he
has decided to put, in the public domain, pieces of information about his
participation in politics and government, which he has documented for
posterity, helps to accentuate his relevance and the seriousness of the
event. He created for himself a reputation as a taciturn politician, a
man of few words but remarkable actions and practicability, such that he
came to be widely regarded as “Mr. Fix It”. It is therefore expected that
watchers of the political scene should enthusiastically relate with his
opening up on events and developments that have shaped his individuality
in the last thirty eight years in order, perhaps, to fill in some gaps,
confirm what they have already known or get introduced to new facts.
By opening up at this time, as a godfather of sorts, since political
friends and foes are wont to refer to him as such, Anenih has purportedly
broken his own silence code. That he has resorted to documenting the
story of his participation in government and party administration is
evidence of this. He has been very reserved, neither granting press
interviews nor taking to the public space to ventilate his positions.
But, then, Anenih, political strategist and tactician, is just a good
father (read godfather) of political interactions, whose passion is to
reward loyalty and spurn disloyalty; and this he has done creditably.
Therefore, Anenih’s autobiography, from the snippets ferreted, thus far,
from it, is unapologetically and truthfully presented in a lucid prose to
sustain attention of readers who are desirous to catch up with some new
information concerning the intrigues that underpinned, for instance, the
June 12, 1993 presidential election debacle. He was the national chairman
of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) on which platform, the late
business mogul and presidential candidate of the party, the late Chief
M.K.O. Abiola won the June 12 presidential poll. He is, at all material
times, well placed to talk about what happened: how Abiola won the
election; how the announcement of the results of the poll was halted
midway and the unofficial final result which saw Abiola win the election
was annulled by the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida; and how General
Sani Abacha (now late), who was Defence Secretary in the Chief Ernest
Shonekan led-Interim National Government, sacked Shonekan purportedly on
the prompting of Abiola and appropriated power rather than relinquish it
How and why did Abacha get to sack Shonekan? What role did Abiola play in
the overthrow? There are so many other questions, which, as learnt, are
answered in the book. There are also many other issues that the narrative,
which traverses the entirety of Anenih’s life and times, deals with.
Members of the public, especially the politically-oriented, should
consider reading the rich account of the life and politics of a man of few
words through his singular book.
Mr Ojeifo, Editor-in-Chief of The Congresswatch magazine, sent this piece
National Asset as part of solutions in tackling the current recession?
We hear people talk about selling of national assets and people are pointing at NLNG, I am completely opposed to the sale of our asset, there are alternatives. If you look at the NLNG model today it is a 51% IOC and 49% Federal Government Joint Ventures. Instead of just selling my take is that government should go and borrow with good interest rates. Borrowing is not bad but it should be well utilized. This is where good leadership with clear vision comes in. And that is why we are lucky with President Buhari and his zero tolerance to corruption. With President Buhari we can borrow, and tie the funds to capital projects.
There is corruption everywhere, even the cook you send to the market, driver you send to buy fuel are all corrupt. We allowed it to grow to a cancerous stage; we just have to quickly strengthen the security agencies especially the EFCC. I have also heard that people are saying it is one-sided and only targeted at the opposition. Look at cases of the judges, corruption has eaten into the very fabric of our nation, today, the EFCC is not doing badly, if I have my way I will expand EFCC to be like a ministry and as such have EFCC Czar in all the States just like we have Commissioners of Police, we just have to expand it, the cases before the commission are too many. The Judiciary again is not helping matters; I think there should be legislation where no case will exceed 6 months. And the EFFC boss Mr Magu should be confirmed to immediately give him confidence.
Having spent 34 years at the NNPC how will you described the reform in that sector under the NNPC Boss, Maikanti Baru?
Once the leadership is properly placed, the tendency is that the company will run well. I must commend Mr President for appointing Baru, he is a fantastic Engineer, courageous and fearless, he went through the various sectors of NNPC unblemished. Many of the issue confronting NNPC, like the restructuring, the PIB, JV funding, with Baru we can go to sleep, I see a better NNPC under him; For once, this is a round peg in round hole. What I will urge government to do is to support him and allow NNPC to run as a business outfit. The only issue we are yet to address now is the refineries; government should also have the will power to do a complete deregulation in the downstream, once we do that the issue of fraud and corruption in the downstream could be eliminated. I also think that we should start having local refineries because if you see what we are doing, we take crude out and refine in some neighbouring West African Countries which are brought back as refined products, we need to put in place modular refineries just as it was done in Niger Republic.
You participated in the Edo June 18, 2016 governorship primaries. What lessons did you learn from it?
The APC governorship primary in Edo State has come and gone and I have since moved back to my Oil and Gas consulting business. Talking about lessons learnt from the primaries, one thing was very prominent and that was the role played by a seating governor and I have since realized that the seating governor has an overwhelming influence on who succeeds him. He has about 60% influence. Secondly, looking at the various primaries within and outside Edo State, I can see the high level of opaqueness, that is, the more you look, the less you see. There is a mind-set of who will win the primaries from the onset and that is why today people are clamoring for Independent candidacy and I pray that our politics will evolve to that level so that people who have the capacity can come out as independent candidates.
Some of your party leaders, opposed to the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun are calling for his resignation. What is your take?
You will recall when I joined APC in November 20, 2014; I said two individuals caused me to join the party, that is President Muhammadu Buhari and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun for their respective individual Characters. Chief Oyegun has been a first all his life. A brilliant and principled public servant, he is well read, an economist from a premier University and spent all his years in the public service. A man who at the tender age of 36 rose to the position of Permanent Secretary at the Federal level, taking charge of key Federal Ministries. He challenged the money bags in the then Edo State and their collaborators in Abuja to become the first Executive Governor of Edo State. This is a man who could have clinched key ministerial position in Gen Sani Abacha’s government but instead opted out as NADECO Secretary in exile. For 16 years that PDP was in power, he was wooed and cajoled to join “the biggest party in Africa” but he refused to budge and abandon his progressive position in partisan politics. So having Oyegun as the national chairman of APC is a blessing, I don’t know what Nigerians want; we have this ‘pull him down syndrome’. Who are the people calling for his removal? They are some over ambitious APC chieftains; some of them are not well read. Odigie-Oyegun is a quiet and amiable gentleman with capacity to work. The Nigeria media must not join this people in flying this narrative; some of them have resorted to all sorts of propaganda so that Mr President will take action against Chief Odigie-Oyegun. We urge President Buhari and APC as a party to be weary of these overzealous politicians that want to destroy the APC. What they are doing today is not really about Odigie-Oyegun, rather they are throwing stones at Mr President and that is because before they get to Mr President they want to get the national chairman out of the way. They see him as a buffer for Mr President and ultimately for 2019. We are barely two years into the Buhari-led administration and they are already fighting ahead of 2019. Their desire is to discredit Odigie-Oyegun so that their plot against Mr President can work. So it is not Odigie-Oyegun that they are fighting, but President Buhari.
There is pressure on President Buhari to reshuffle his cabinet over alleged non-performance, how do you respond to this?
Nigerians are too much in a hurry. Asking Mr President to remove a minister that has served just less than 18 months is unfair. When I was Group Executive Director in the NNPC, I went for a meeting with the Algerians, little did I know that the Algerian minister had a PhD in Gas Engineering and had been there for 12 years, he became an authority when you talk about Gas but we don’t do that in Nigeria. You put a man in office and under one year people starts fighting to remove him. For me, Mr President have a good team, my advice is to realign their portfolios. Today people are talking about many lawyers in his cabinet, what Mr President should do is to look for core professionals and move them to their related ministries, that is square peg in square hole. People are speculating that Oshiomhiole is coming in; he definitely can do well as labour minister considering the fact that he was once a strong unionist as NLC President. People should be appointed in such a way that they can add value. Look at the two Ministers of Health being core medical personnel. So, Mr President can look inward and see how he can rejig and realign ministers to ministries related to their fields of study.
What are your perspectives on the economic recession and possible way out?
Truly, we are in a recession caused by several factors. First, there was poor leadership by the previous government, Oil price drop, Nigeria’s over- dependence on foreign products, corruption, mono-economy (over dependency on Oil and Gas), the activities of militants and pipeline vandals, Unstable monetary policies, Unemployment are contributing factors. Corruption grew like an oak tree and we allowed it to grow. Today, we import all kinds of things into the country including tooth picks. Now, the question is how do we come out of it? On a short term, I recommend to Mr President that we should quickly resolve the Niger Delta issue. Recently, some Niger Delta leaders met with Mr President but I want to differ because I feel the governors should be the arrow head of such meeting because they know the people. Secondly, what we need to do by way of moving our nation forward comprises the following: By putting in place strong institutions that will ensure proper implementation and interpretation of our laws, it must be mentioned that waste must be cut in the government. The security vote must be reduced both at the federal level and at state levels, Promote “Made in Nigeria” Goods; we should encourage new businesses by lowering our interest rates, tackle job creation through agriculture and solid mineral development. We must as a matter of urgency encourage all tiers of government to embark on road construction to ease transportation of goods and services. On the medium and long term, the rail way sector should be developed.
Adeosun also revealed that the Federal Government generated N272.03 billion in the first 10 months of 2016.
The Minister made these disclosures in Abuja while addressing the media on the recovery of revenue from government agencies.
She named some of the defaulting agencies in remitting of revenue as Nigeria Communication Commission, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Bureau of Public Enterprises, Nigeria Shippers Council, National Pensions Commission, Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading and National Health Insurance Scheme.
The defaulting agencies also include: Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Industrial Training Fund, National Health Insurance Scheme, Nigeria Postal Service, Nigerian Television Authority, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, National Information Technology and Development Agency, Raw Material Research & Development Council, Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, among others.
Adeosun said: “A Recovery Committee chaired by the Accountant General of Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, has been set up to recover the outstanding N450 billion operating surpluses, including holding bilateral discussions with the affected agencies.
“We have been getting positive responses.
“Some Agencies have started making remittances to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
“The sum of N640 million was received from Nigeria Shippers Council on Wednesday.
“Our duty is strictly auditing and investigating.
“We are not a prosecuting agency.
“We will be reporting some of these defaulting agencies to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for prosecution.”
The minister stated that demand notices had been issued to affected agencies for the payment of outstanding operating surpluses.
The agencies, Adeosun added, have also been invited to a meeting scheduled to hold on December 6 where they are required to submit a repayment plan or face appropriate sanctions, including deduction of amount owed directly from Treasury Single Account balances, besides prosecution by the EFCC.
She revealed a total N272.03 billion independent revenues generated between January and October this year.
Adeosun added: “Independent revenues are projected to increase to N811.03 billion as we recover amounts owed and drive greater compliance going forward.”
The Recovery Committee has invited the management of these agencies to explain why their operating surpluses have not been remitted as mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.
Sections 21 and 22 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, specifically states: (1) “The Government corporations and agencies and government owned companies listed in the Schedule to this Act (in this Act referred of as ‘the Corporations’ shall, not later than six months from the commencement of this Act and every three financial years thereafter and not later than the end of the second quarter of every year, cause to be prepared and submitted to the Minister their Schedule estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years.
(2) “Each of the bodies referred to in sub-section (1) of this section shall submit to the Minister not later than the end of August in each financial year:
a. An annual budget derived from the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section; and
b. Projected operating surplus which shall be prepared in line with acceptable accounting practices.
“(3) The Minister shall cause the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (2) of this section to be attached as part of the Appropriation Bill to be submitted to the National Assembly.”
Section 22 (1) states: “Notwithstanding the provisions of any written law governing the corporation, each corporation shall establish a general reserve fund and shall allocate thereto at the end of each financial year, one-fifth of its operating surplus for the year.
“(2) The balance of the operating surplus shall be paid into the Consolidate Revenue Fund of the Federal Government not later than one month following the statutory deadline for publishing each corporation’s accounts.”
Adeosun disclosed that some of these agencies had incurred huge expenses on overseas training and medicals and huge expenses on behalf of supervisory ministries and/other organs of government involved in oversight or regulatory functions without appropriate approval.
She also listed other infractions of the agencies to include payment of salaries and allowances to staff and board members, governing councils and commissions, which are outside or above the amount approved by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission and the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
Adeosun added: “The list also includes unacceptable expenses incurred on donations, sponsorships, etc, unfavourable contract signed for revenue collection by a third party; granting of staff loans that have not been repaid as well as sale and transfer of assets to board members, among others.”
According to the Minister, the overall effect of these practices is that operating surpluses of these agencies are lower than should be.
Consequently, the Minister has directed the Accountant General of the Federation to issue a circular that will limit allowable expenses that can be spent as part of measures to ensure these agencies face strict monitoring.
This development is part of the government’s resolve to ensure that leakages are tackled.
The Federal Government is set to recover about N450 billion operating surpluses that were not returned by 33 agencies from 2010 to 2015.The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeousun, made the announcement on Thursday in Abuja at a news conference.
She said that an audit had been carried out on the agencies in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), 2007.
The minister said that a recovery committee headed by the Accountant General of the Federation had been set up to recover the money from the agencies.
Mrs. Adeosun noted, however, that some of the agencies had started returning various sums, saying that N640 million had been received from the Nigeria Shippers Council.
“The total independent revenue generated between January and October, 2016 was N272.03 billion but there is a projected increase to N811.03 billion as we recover amounts owed.’’
She said the audit revealed that there was a lot of non-remittances and under-remittances of operating surpluses and that some agencies were operating without an approved budget.
The minister added that there was overstating of budget and spending above budgeted amount, failure to reconcile accounts and existence of irreconcilable differences.
“The audit also showed that there was under-reporting of revenues, failure to submit audited financial statements, payroll fraud and exaggeration of payroll costs, over-payment of staff salaries and abuse of personnel grants,” she said.
The minister said while there was unapproved monetisation of medical and other allowances, there was also non-compliance with the PPA and failure to convert to IPSAS accounting.
IPSAS stands for International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
According to her, some of the agencies affected are the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigerian Ports Authority and Corporate Affairs Commission.
Others are the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigerian Export-Import Bank, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and National Open University of Nigeria.
Also affected are the Nigerian Railway Corporation, West African Examination Council, Joint Administrations and Matriculation Board and the National Hospital, Abuja among others.
Mrs. Adeosun said that some of the audit reports had been sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The financial regulations are very clear, where audit reports have indicted some of the officers, some of these audit reports are going to the EFCC.
“Some of the audit findings were so serious that the decision was taken that some of those particular reports must go to the EFCC.
“Remember that we are not a prosecuting agency, ours is to investigate and then we hand it over to the relevant agencies,” she said.
The minister said that the agencies that defaulted had been asked to come up with their repayment proposals to see how they could be made to repay the money.
“We know that in some cases that money would have already been spent so they will now give us a proposal of how they are going to repay but the money has to be paid.
“We are also looking at their Treasury Single Account (TSA) to understand how much money they actually have because in some cases these surpluses are in their accounts.
“Our plan is not to grind to a halt the activities of any agency but to institute fiscal discipline in all the agencies,’’ the minister stated.
Mrs. Adeosun also said that a circular was issued on November 22, requesting submission of estimates of revenues and expenses for the next three financial years.
Other documents that were requested are the annual budget which must be IPSAS compliant and projected operating surpluses for review and approval.
According to her, a review team has also been set up to evaluate submitted estimates before budget submission to the National Assembly.
She said that failure to comply with the provision of the FRA to review and approve their budgets as advised would be restricted to payment of salaries only until the budget was regularised.
“We have the National Assembly’s support that if an agency does not have its budget approved; it really has no business spending.
“It is wrong for an agency to operate without a budget. It is public money and that means that the agency can do literally anything it wants and that is wrong.
“It is for those agencies who know that they do not want to be in the situation where they can only pay salaries to do the right thing, everybody knows the rule.’’
She said further that a circular on the inclusion of 92 additional corporations, agencies and government owned companies to the schedule of the Act had also been issued.
According to the minister, the exercise is an ongoing process and all agencies will eventually be audited. (NAN)
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is used to getting a beating from his children. His son, Gbenga, once tried to strip him publicly with a rather nasty accusation of in-family wrongdoing.Not long after that, his daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo, followed with a letter that sold her father down the river at a time when the old man thought his own open letter had dealt a major blow to the broken government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
This time, the fire is not coming from his biological children. It’s his political offspring, who even call him grandfather, that are giving him the stick.
After Obasanjo’s politically charged speech at the first Akintola Williams lecture, the chairman of the House committee on media, Abdulrazak Namdas, came for the former president.
The lawmaker from Adamawa and 1998 graduate of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism didn’t hold anything back. In response to Obasanjo’s attack that the National Assembly is a den of “unarmed robbers,” Namdas threw the kitchen sink. “Obasanjo,” he said, “is the grandfather of corruption.”
To support his allegation, Namdas went into the past.
Have we forgotten how Obasanjo paid off the 1999 Senate to get the Senate presidency for Evan Enwerem, instead of Chuba Okadigbo who was the senators’ preferred candidate?
Have we forgotten how Obasanjo distributed bribes in the National Assembly; how he paid the House to remove Speaker Ghali Umar Na’Abba, but failed to buy their support?
Have we forgotten that under Obasanjo’s presidency private businessmen took bags of money to him and funneled the change to build his private library in Abeokuta?
And how can anyone forget the biggest scam of all – Obasanjo’s failed attempt to secure a third term through the backdoor and the billions of naira in bribes lost in the bid?
And the same Obasanjo is accusing the National Assembly of corruption?
I understand how emotional family issues can be. But if Namdas can suspend his emotions for a moment, he’ll find that this is an issue on which many ordinary people outside the comfort of the Green Chambers agree with Obasanjo.
No need to shoot the messenger.
Nothing makes the point about public perception of the National Assembly more clearly than Namdas’ own modest career as a 47-year-old first-time Federal lawmaker and former Adamawa State correspondent of the latter-day Daily Times.
Since he did not deny that he now earns N10m monthly – and no other lawmaker has denied it yet – it is reasonable to assume that he has earned at least N160million or the minimum wage of nearly 8,900 workers in 17 months.
To bring it home to Adamawa where Namdas comes from, what he has been paid so far is 12 percent of the N1.9billion monthly salary paid to civil servants in his state.
And to put it in the language of recession, Namdas’ pay can buy a loaf of bread for the 26,500 civil servants in his state, and he’ll still have change.
Namdas can hang Obasanjo by the next pole, if he wishes, but can he look at Nigerians with a straight face and say what he has done since he left NIJ in 1998, to deserve a monthly pay of N10m?
Sure, the guy deserves his lucky break and those who voted for him to represent them obviously believe in him. But the first time his voice was heard was not during the debate on the Gender Equality Bill or during discussions about the House publishing what members earn.
Instead, we heard Namdas loud and clear during the debate in the House to buy cars for committees, and then again when he said, with great pleasure, that House members had just taken delivery of the first set of new cars worth N3.6billion.
Of course, never in short supply of words when there’s mess to clear, Namdas also spoke to justify immunity for the leaders of the National Assembly at a time they are facing charges of corruption.
When Obasanjo accuses the lawmakers of corruption – and he’s not doing it for the first time – it’s not enough for Namdas and co to ask him to remove the log in his own eyes. They can remove it for him, by shining the light on his tenure.
Unfortunately, Namdas’ reply suggests that the House agrees that it is corrupt, but less corrupt than Obasanjo.
We’re really not interested in the debate about which member of the family is more corrupt – Obasanjo or his grandchildren in the National Assembly. We’re fed up with that rotten past and demand answers and accountability, not name-calling and blame shifting.
If Namdas and co have evidence of corruption against Obasanjo, which shouldn’t be difficult for them to find for a man whose imprints are all over the map, they should bring it on. Nigerians have a right to know and demand that this grandfather should be held to account for what happened on his watch.
But we will not let name-calling deflect attention from the specific charges Obasanjo made against lawmakers. Is it true that a Rep collects N10million monthly and a Senator collects N15m?
Is the National Assembly enjoying remuneration outside what is approved by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission?
In short, why have lawmakers refused to publish the full details of their earnings?
Namdas should be particularly interested in helping to provide answers. He’s not just a lawmaker; he was one of the 50 reported by the firmer chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, to be collecting “illegal allowances.”
By the way, Jibrin, another Obasanjo offspring, is alleged to have cornered N9billion in constituency projects, which he’s not talking about.
It’s been said, quite often, that the public does not sufficiently understand the difficult and complicated work of lawmakers or the fact that they’re the weakest and most vulnerable link in our relatively young democracy.
That may be true. But the way to strengthen the legislature is not make it another commodity market. It can only earn respect and public confidence by openness.
Namdas can put a nail in the grandfather’s political coffin by leading the campaign to publish what lawmakers earn and asking the House to pass a resolution for President Muhammadu Buhari to act on the Halliburton report, for a start.
This grandfather, like the proverbial beast that grazes in spite of the hunter’s bullets, has seen too many wars on too many fronts to be dented by mere name-calling.
Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and board member of the Paris-based Global Editors Network.