Economy Politics

People, not oil, are Nigeria’s greatest asset — Ex Finance Minister

People, not oil, are Nigeria’s greatest asset — Ex Finance Minister
Written by Maritime First

…As ICPC uncovers N18.62bn padding scam by MDAs***

The Vice- President, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Former Minister of Finance, Dr Mansur Muhtar has advised that the greatest potential Nigeria should explore is its people and not just its oil.

Muhtar said this while unveiling the Book “Pathways to Political and Economic Development of Africa” at the 7th Anniversary Lecture and Investiture into the Realnews Hall of Fame in Lagos, just as the ICPC says it has uncovered gross abuse of personnel budget and inflation, as well as padding of nominal role by some Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), amounting to N18.62 billion.

The former minister spoke on “Beyond Oil: Whither the Nigeria Economy”, noting that with about 196 million people and projected at 401 million by 2050, Nigeria was the most populous country on the African continent, making it the largest after India and China.

“Nigeria has large numbers of young people, presenting opportunity for deepening human capital base for a sizable domestic and home market – growing size and strength of consumer class,” Muhtar said, stressing that “beyond figures, trends from the Economic Intelligence Unit database of November 2019 shows that Nigeria oil production was below potential and could be optimised by increasing investment.”

He said the government must also address security issue which had created supply disruption.

“Meanwhile, Nigeria is still a big player in the international market, largest oil producer in Africa, ranked 12th in the world, second largest amount of proved crude oil reserve in Africa, largest natural reserves on the continent,” Muhtar said.

The former minister, however, made case for economic diversification through broadening of sources of growth with greater domestic linkages.

He said this would shield the economy from price and output volatility, reduce vulnerabilities and allow sustainability of growth against natural resources depletion.

Muhtar said this would also enhance employment prospect by providing expanded and wider job opportunities, thereby facilitating a more geographically-balanced equitable growth.

The former minister noted that the advantageous geographical location of the country in West Africa was also its key asset that would facilitate its trade relations with neighbouring countries as well as easy access to European, North and South African markets.

Muhtar urged the government to create an enabling environment in human capital through investment in health, education, enhanced security, law and order.

Also read:  Larger portion of Nigeria’s oil, gas wealth yet untapped — Total boss

“Leadership is not one person’s endeavour, a strong team that shares common ideals is needed; a critical mass of credible leaders and tough decision which demand end to business as usual,” he said .

Mr Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra, in his goodwill message, said that oil would not serve Nigeria or any county in the world.

Obi said the world was moving out of oil and Nigeria must follow suit and diversify and also invest in education.

“Oil has not serve Venezuela which has three times the oil reserve of Nigeria and it will not serve Nigeria or any other country either,” he said.

The dignitaries at the event included Mr John Mahama, Former President of Ghana, Mrs Margaret Olele, Chief Executive Officer, American Business Council, Mr Alex Okoh, Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprise, Mr Dele Momodu, Publisher ,Ovation magazine, among others.

In the meantime, the Independent Corrupt Practices  and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says it has uncovered gross abuse of personnel budget and inflation as well as padding of nominal role by some Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) amounting to N18.62 billion.

The Chairman of the ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, made the disclosure at the National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector and presentation of integrity awards, organized by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in collaboration with ICPC, in Abuja on Tuesday.

According to him, the discovery of the scam followed the launching of the commission System Study and Review of MDA Practices, involving over 300 MDAs.

He said: “As at the time we went to press we had covered about 300 MDAs and the amount inflated was about N12billion.

“As at today your Excellency we have discovered additional N6b making a total of N18.624b restrained by ICPC.

“The exercise is still ongoing but we can confidently report that culprit MDAs are mostly academic and health institutions. For example preliminary findings show the following –

“University of Benin Teaching Hospital N1.1billion; Federal Medical Center, Bayelsa N915million; Nnamdi Azikwe University N907million; University of Jos N896million; University College Hospital Ibadan N701million; Usman Dan Fodio University N636million and University of Ibadan N558million.

“These institutions and all those implicated will be given the opportunity to explain themselves however, while investigations are on to confirm any credible explanations they may have, we have alerted the Minister of Finance of our findings and appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that implicated MDAs will not be able to spend the excess built into their personnel budget.

“Let me note with regret sir that in the 2017-2018 fiscal year the balances recorded for personnel were wrongfully utilized by MDAs for other purposes due to lack of pro activity by late enforcement and related agencies. That sum amounted to N18.39b.’’

In light of these findings, the ICPC Chairman stressed the need for full implementation of the presidential directive that MDAs not on IPPIS should not be paid as the commission’s review had shown that most of the guilty MDAS were not on IPPIS.

He added: “In a similar vein, we found that some MDAs spent N9.2billion of capital funds on overhead related items contrary to extant financial regulations.

“We found to our surprise that some MDAs fail to remit tax and divert pension and NHIS deductions for unrelated payments thus aggravating the sufferings of other Nigerians.

“Some MDAs abused the e-payment policy of government thus making payments through staff accounts instead of to actual beneficiaries. Most egregious in the current cycle of review is the Federal Ministry of Water Resources where N3.3billion was paid out in about a month through the accounts of staff.

“ICPC arrested 59 directors from the ministry and investigation is ongoing.’’

The chairman expressed the hope that the conversation at the two-day summit would lead to concrete suggestions towards reducing these “anomalous practices and processes that fuel corruption and undermine the development aspirations of the country’’.

He pledged that the ICPC would take enforcement actions including recovery of diverted funds, name and shame and prosecution of the most egregious cases of infractions while putting some MDAs on a watch list due to their vulnerability and propensity to corruption.

“We recommend that diversion or non-payment or remittance of tax, pension, health insurance or any statutory deduction should attract dismissal of head of the agency and immediate prosecution.

“Should government accept this recommendation ICPC will furnish government with list of defaulting MDAs,’’ he said.

 

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Maritime First