By Festus Fifen.
The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission(RMAFC) is a federal agency constitutionally empowered to monitor the accruals and disbursement of revenue from the federation account.
With the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in May 2015, there has been lots of reforms in the fiscal policies of government, some of which has seen the implementation of the Treasury Single Account(TSA) and the Bank Verification Number, a unique identity for all holders of bank accounts. In this interview with FESTUS FIFEN, the Acting Chairman of the Commission,Shettima Gana reveals how banks involved in revenue collection for the government kept for themselves over N400billion, from excess charges and other remittances. Excepts…
Ques: We are said to be getting out of the recession as has been quoted by the Minister of Finance and other stakeholders,can you confirm that recession will soon be over?
Gana: Yes, I would say that the statement made by the Minister of Finance is correct. Anytime we have a marginal growth in a quarter and maybe two or three subsequent quarters with positive growth it means the recession has bottled down and has began to turn up,ofcourse people will not see the effects of the recovery immediately because there is always a lag time for when the economy picks up and when the benefits trickles down to all the tiers or segments of the economy.
So there would be some delays but once growth figures are seen to be positive then its a sign that recession has come to an end and the economy is about to pick up but ofcourse there will be lag time, economies always have a lag time. If you take an action, it takes sometime before that action manifests itself in the market place or the wider society.
Ques: what factors play the role in getting the economy out of recession?
Gana: Quite a lot of factors,some people could easily say the slight improvement in crude oil price, revenue improvement and so on, but I would add that the discipline the present government brought to governance to block leakages everywhere, such as removal of subsidy,leakages have been blocked,revenues come into government and the disciplined approach of government is that these revenues which used to leak out is now spent wisely. So you will have a positive effect on the economy.
Ques: when you say leakages being blocked,one will wonder, because the National Assembly have complained that we don’t see the budget from some agencies.
Gana: When you say revenue leakages are being blocked,its going to be difficult to say every leakage is being blocked,majority are being blocked and the agencies that are monitoring these things, even the revenue commission are also going around monitoring some agencies, we are only monitoring about five or six,NNPC,DPR and FIRS and Customs.
We just recently finished auditing the banks that are collecting different revenues for government and we finished a report although we are still going to negotiate with the banks,we found that the banks have kept back over N400billion from over charges or remittances not passed on time.
So we are also doing our own, not only monitoring the revenue agencies but also monitoring the banks that are collecting the revenue on behalf of FIRS and Customs. From this N400billion that we have noted so far, when we go into negotiations with them,it might come down because they may explain and we do a lot of auditing on the figures and come down with something that they might have to pay.
This is the second phase, the first phase was in 2009 – 2011 we have settled the 2012-2015 that is the phase we are talking about.
Ques: recently the government launched the ERGP 2017-2021 how realistic is this growth plan considering the fact that we are getting out of recession?
Gana: Depending on the positive actions being taken you have got a very aggressive pursuit of blocking leakages, very disciplined management in all tiers right now,you have got government plans to use recovered funds and also borrow to stimulate the economy.
If you take that into consideration, the fact that there are some actions being taken to improve the crude oil production,there has been increase in funding for the amnesty programme to curtail vandalisation. The ministry of petroleum has come up with a new funding arrangement for the joint venture operations all of them stimulating increase in production in an era where OPEC has resolved to work with Russia and other countries to improve on price stability.
We have got greater production coming from better funding of the joint ventures including. Better funding of the amnesty programme and negotiations with the Niger Delta people to increase production, the entire scenario points out that this programme is going to be achievable. In addition the other components of using looted funds going back into the system and three targeted borrowing for infrastructural development, these are all positive signs of achieving the ERGP.
Ques: the government has been talking about economic diversification,how far has this impacted on the revenue of the nation in the past two years?
Gana: We have been talking of diversification for the past 20 years. We did a programme 2004 in the Revenue commission countrywide, we did another programme on diversification, 2012-2014 and we called all the local governments and states to look at ways of diversifying the economy. We now came back with some conclusions, that the two best approaches for impact on diversification would be agriculture and solid minerals, both of them are important because they are easily doable and they are in every state and local government and these two areas mentioned have some minerals or agricultural products they can produce.
In our recent forum I have mentioned the fact that agriculture programmes are going on well in the ministry of agriculture and we recommend the creation of marketing boards in other to help the export of agriculture.
The reason why we are talking of marketing board is the Nigerian farmers are mostly small holders and small scale, they wouldn’t have the ability to go and source for export markets abroad and them arrange for producing the same standard quality variety required abroad, whether you are talking about cotton,groundnut,cocoa,palm oil or whatever crops that are going to be exportable.
You now have to have a marketing board that can go abroad,get the price abroad before the season,come back to Nigeria,convert that to our local currency tell the farmers at the beginning of the planting season, this crop if you produce so much,its going to be bought for so so price per tonne, the farmer now knows his economics, he knows how much he is going to sell the products, he knows how much he is going to buy the seeds