…New one underway
…As minister assures elections won’t jeopardise economy
…W/Bank raking wake-up call
By Emeka Anaeto & Emma Ujah, Bali Indonesia
The Presidential Committee on Revenue Mobilisation may have jettisoned the revenue reporting and remittances template of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, with a new template now underway.
A hint on this was given by the Finance Minister, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, while addressing the media at the concluding sessions of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Bali, Indonesia, yesterday.
President Muhammadu Buhari had set up the committee in the wake of a long-drawn battle between the NNPC and the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) over shortfalls in remittances of oil revenue into the Federation Account.
The controversy had led to a stalemate in FAAC disbursements three months ago.
According to the minister, a draft template is currently a subject of negotiation between the parties involved in the controversy.
The new NNPC reporting template, she said, would be more transparent, in terms of income and expenditure.
Her words, “Let me tell you what we are doing in terms of more transparency with NNPC reporting. There was a committee that was set up by the president on revenue mobilisation.
“One of the intentions is to ensure that all revenues are reported in a transparent manner. That committee is working to support FAAC and they have agreed on new reporting template for NNPC which is still being negotiated.
“NNPC has reviewed the template and made its input and FAAC has also reviewed the template. It has to be agreed and then NNPC will start reporting in that template. The essence is for NNPC to make its reporting more transparent so that more information will be provided on the revenue that is generated and the cost they have incurred.
“We hope that in the next few weeks it will be concluded and the new reporting will take effect. Reporting has been a concern for the whole of FAAC, both state and federal government.”
W/Bank poor rating wake-up call
Meanwhile the finance minister described the poor ranking of Nigeria on Human Capital Index by the World Bank as a “wake-up call,” adding that the government would not be discouraged by it.
She said that the federal government would mobilise more resources to the critical areas of education and health in recognition of the fact that human capital remained the most economically smartest sector to invest.
Her words, “On the new presentation “Human Capital Development Index (HCI) by the World Bank where Nigeria ranked low-44 percent and some other low records against us, while these results are disheartening, and depressing, we see it as a wake-up call.
“We admit that this pervasive action was due to ling years of under-investment in human capital, which we have before now realised and for which we have been addressing.”.
On debt vulnerability, the minister said that the IMF expressed concern about the vulnerability of debtor nations, especially in the face of the rising rates in the United States of America.
According to her, although Nigeria’s debt to GDP was low, the government would not rush to borrow just that sake.
Hajiya Ahmed said, “We have a lot of headway to borrow but we are not rushing to borrow more because we have to consider the current debt service burden that we carry. We have to enhance our domestic revenue mobilisation so that we can ease the debt service burden that we carry.”
Rather, she said that the fiscal policy of the current administration would place more emphasis on raising revenue while reducing borrowing.
She said that the government would not raise tax rates but expand the tax base by bringing in more tax payers into the tax net.
“To change the tax it means we will review the tax laws. That may be a process we will address in the future. Right now, we don’t have any plan to review upward taxes in Nigeria. We don’t have such plans.
“Instead what we are trying to do is to identify people who are supposed to pay tax but they are not paying. A lot of efforts are being put to expand the tax base, as well as, improving the tax collection processes and it is already yielding results.
“We have seen our tax base grow from 13 million to 19 million. That number is not enough for a country of 185 million but we are doing a lot of works in this regard. You also recall VAIDS was implemented and phased out in June, even though VAIDS is closed, the rigour contained in the VAIDS programme is still ongoing”, she said.
Election won’t affect economy
The minister also said that the forthcoming elections would not have effects on the nation’s economy.
According to her, “The discussion we had with IMF Managing Director included the concerns around what is going to happen to the economy because of the elections.
“We assured them that we have a directive of the president to focus on the economy. There are a few key functionaries within the government who have been directed to focus on working to sustain the growth that we have in the economy and not to be distracted by election processes.
“Some of us are actually focusing on the economy and IMF was comfortable with that and they said that was a good strategy.”
In his contribution remarks, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen Udoma Udo Udoma, assured that the funding of the two critical sectors of education and health had increased significantly under the present administration.
He said, “Where we are is not where we want to be but it is as a result of the neglect of a long period of time. But one of the objects of the ERGP is to invest in our people and we are doing so but it takes times.
“By way of illustration for education, the capital allocation in 2015 was N22. 52 billion. By 2018 we raised it to N102.9 b. In health , capital allocation was N22.6 in 2015 by 2018 we took the allocation N86.49 billion.
“In addition, in this year’s budget, we are setting aside N55.1billion under the provisions of the National Health Act, as N3.5 billion counterpart funding for GAVI Immunisation- that is a Servicewide Vote.
“What I want to say is that it has been in focus in the ERGP. We have increased funding to those areas because we are conscious of the need to invest in our people but it takes time for the increased allocations to manifest.”