President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday vowed to go after those who looted the country dry and recover all the funds they stole from the nation’s coffers, no matter where the monies are being stashed or how long it would take to do so.
“We have demonstrated a strong will to fight corruption. I am sure you will agree that the sheer scale of corruption and impunity of the past explains, in part, the economic challenges we now face. On these initiatives, and the many more to come, we shall not be deterred. We will pursue the recovery of everything that belongs to the people of Nigeria, no matter where it is hidden, no matter how long it will take,” the president declared.
Speaking when he presented a budget proposal of N6 trillion for 2016 to a joint session of the National Assembly, Buhari also apologized for the lingering fuel crisis that has crippled socio-economic activities in the country.
He promised that in spite of the challenges, his administration will secure the country, rebuild the economy and make the Federal Republic of Nigeria stronger than it had ever been.
The president said, “The answers to our problems are not beyond us. They exist on our farmlands, our corporations, in the universities in the hearts and minds of our entrepreneurs, through the gallantry of our Armed Forces, and the resolute spirit of Nigerians, especially the youth who have refused to give up despite all the obstacles confronting them.
“This budget proposal, the first by our government, seeks to stimulate the economy, making it more competitive by focusing on infrastructural development, delivering inclusive growth; and prioritizing the welfare of Nigerians.
“We believe that this budget, while helping industry, commerce and investment to pick up, will as a matter of urgency, address the immediate problems of youth unemployment and the terrible living conditions of the extremely poor and vulnerable Nigerians.”
He added that, in the medium to longer term, we remain committed to economic diversification through import substitution and export promotion. This will build resilience in our economy. It will guarantee that the problems we have today, will not confront our children and their children. This shall be our legacy for generations to come.”
…Apologises to Nigerians over fuel scarcity
President Buhari also apologised for the lingering fuel crisis that has crippled socio-economic activities in the country.
The president lamented that the current fuel scarcity was causing social dislocation, and described the situation as unfortunate.
Buhari said, “Government profoundly apologizes to Nigerians for this prolonged hardship and misery. It is as a result of market speculators and resistance to change by some stakeholders. Government is working very hard to end these shortages and bring fuel to the pumps all over the country.
“I have also directed the NNPC to explore alternate funding models that will enable us to honour our obligations in Joint Ventures (JVs) and deep offshore fields. We are confident that these measures can be achieved and will lower the burden that the traditional cash calls have imposed on our budget and cash flows as well as contribute towards shoring up our national reserves.”
The president also refuted reports suggesting that his administration was planning to increase petroleum prices, saying that, contrary to widespread reports, his government was not nursing any plan to increase the pump price of petrol from the current N87 per litre.
Apparently in a veiled reference to the subsidy regime, President Buhari stated that the oil and gas sector had been marred by corruption and plagued with inefficiencies.
He said, “Although we are working to diversify our economy, we will not lose sight of the need to restructure the oil and gas sector which has been marred by corruption and plagued with inefficiencies.
“Accordingly, I have directed the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to adjust its pricing template to reflect competitive and market driven components. We believe this can lower input costs and attain efficiency savings that will enable PPPRA to keep the selling price for all marketers of petrol at N87 per litre for now.”
On the current ban by the CBN on ATMs for international transaction, he said: I am aware of the problems many Nigerians currently have in accessing foreign exchange for their various purposes – from our traders and business operators who rely on imported inputs, to manufacturers needing to import sophisticated equipment and spare parts, to our airline operators who need foreign exchange to meet their international regulatory obligations, to the financial services sector and capital markets who are key actors in the global arena.
“These are clearly due to the current inadequacies in the supply of foreign exchange to Nigerians who need it. I am however assured by the Governor of Central Bank that the Bank is currently fine-tuning its foreign exchange management to introduce some flexibility and encourage additional inflow of foreign currency to help ease the pressure.”
Corruption, insecurity responsible for poor state of economy
President Buhari also blamed the poor state of the economy on corruption and insurgency ravaging some parts of the country.
He also expressed dismay that the fall in the price of crude oil in the international market had a painful effect on the economy of the country.
Acknowledging that the parlous state of the economy was a source of concern for many, he lamented that the situation had been further worsened by the unbridled corruption and security challenges the country had been facing in the last few years.
He said, “From those who have lost their jobs to those young people who have never had a job, to the people in the North East whose families and businesses were destroyed by insurgents, this has been a difficult period in our nation’s history, lessons that we must not forget or ignore, as we plan for the future.”
“By June 2014, oil prices averaged $112 per barrel. But as at today, the price is under $39 per barrel. This huge decline is having a painful effect on our economy. Consumption has declined at all levels. In both the private and public sectors, employers have struggled to meet their salary and other employee-related obligations. The small business owners and traders have been particularly hard-hit by this state of affairs.”
The president recalled that his administration had brought in new persons at the helm revenue generating agencies including the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in order to revitalize the agencies for optimum performance.
“We implemented the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which, so far, has provided greater visibility of government revenues and cash flows. We intervened to support states to navigate their fiscal challenges by restructuring their commercial bank loans and by providing facilities to enable them to pay salary arrears,” he noted.
FG to focus on non- oil revenues in 2016 – PMB
President Muhammadu Buhari also said that based on fall in crude oil price, the federal government will focus on non- oil revenues by broadening the tax base and improving the effectiveness of revenue collecting agencies.
He expressed confidence that with the full implementation of the Treasury Single Account, he expects significant improvements in the “After reviewing the trends in the global oil industry, we have set a benchmark price of $38 per barrel and a production estimate of 2.2 million barrels per day for 2016. We have focused on non-oil revenues by broadening our tax base and improving the effectiveness of our revenue collecting agencies.
“To further support the drive for increased remittances, we will ensure that all MDAs present their budgets in advance, and remit their operating surpluses as required by section 22 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
“In 2016, oil-related revenues are expected to contribute N820 billion. Non-oil revenues, comprising Company Income Tax (CIT), Value Added Tax (VAT), Customs and Excise duty and Federation Account levies will contribute N1.45 trillion.
“Finally, by enforcing strict compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 and public expenditure reforms in all MDAs, we have projected up to N1.51 trillion from independent revenues.”
The president also stressed that his administration was determined to ensure that resources are managed prudently and utilised solely for the public good.
“To set the proper tone, one of our early decisions was the adoption of a zero based budgeting approach, which ensures that resources are aligned with government’s priorities and allocated efficiently. “This budgeting method, a clear departure from previous budgeting activities, will optimise the impact of public expenditure.
“In addition to the proper linkage of budgeting to strategic planning, we are enhancing the utilization of the Government Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (GIFMIS) to improve financial management.
“The recently established Efficiency Unit is working across MDAs to identify and eliminate wasteful spending, duplication and other inefficiencies. We engaged costing experts to scrutinize the 2016 budget proposals. They have already identified certain cost areas that can be centralized for economies to be made.
“We have directed the extension of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) to all MDAs to reap its full benefits. We will also strengthen the controls over our personnel and pension costs with the imminent introduction of the Continuous Audit Process (CAP).
“These initiatives will ensure personnel costs are reduced. Our commitment to a lean and cost effective government remains a priority, and the initiatives we are introducing will signal a fundamental change in how government spends public revenue. -Leadership