On the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank annual meetings, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, speaks to some select journalists about some challenges facing the economy and steps being taken to shore up revenue.
The 2020 budget focuses a lot on taxation. With the slow growth the economy is experiencing, how do you hope to achieve your target by taxing people more?
Budgets of countries are supposed to be based on taxes that the country is able to generate and it is an anomaly for us in Nigeria that our budget has not been focusing on revenues. What we are trying to do with the 2020 budget is to harness the full potential of revenue mobilisation within our country.
The only increase in taxes in the 2020 budget is just the Value Added Tax. Every other thing is just on how to maximise the potential of existing tax streams that we have. And we hope that we will be able to do this and boost our tax to Gross Domestic Product ratio from the current seven per cent to 15 per cent. We can only develop in a manner that is sustainable when we are using tax revenues to fund our national and sub-national budget. It is an anomaly that we are depending largely on oil and gas revenue which is a resource that is going to go out of existence before you know it. We have to develop the domestic tax base, then the main focus will be on expanding that tax base, enforcing the existing tax laws and blocking leakages.
What progress has the Federal Government made so far with the proposed 7.5 per cent VAT increase?
We have sent a finance bill to the National Assembly and the bill has several proposals. One of them is the increase in the VAT from five per cent to 7.5 per cent and we believe the National Assembly will do justice to the finance bill. Our target is to ensure that the finance bill is passed within the same period that the budget is passed and we feel it will enhance our capacity to be able to fund the 2020 budget.
The International Monetary Fund has repeatedly called for the development of the non-oil sector and you also have consistently posited that we just have to diversify our sources of revenue. What are the strategies you have to address this problem, especially with the 2020 budget?
In January this year, we launched the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative which was put together by all the revenue generating agencies in the country led by the ministry of finance. Our objective is to be able to harness the existing revenue streams that we have by ensuring that enforcement is effective, to expand the tax base and also to identify new revenue streams that we can add to expand the revenue base.
So in expanding the revenue base, we have proposed an increase in VAT but there are also other revenue streams that we are looking at and some of them include the introduction of excise duties on carbonated drinks but there is a process in doing these things. Any tax that you are introducing will involve a lot of consultations and also amendments of some laws or introduction of new regulations.
We are also working with all the agencies to ensure that collaboration is strengthened and that the agencies are complementing one another as opposed to where everybody is working in isolation. We have also defined how we can improve on the monitoring of the performance of the revenue generating agencies, especially the government-owned enterprises. We have now in place a rigorous monthly reconciliation of revenue and that has ensured that the leakages are minimised. There are several cost cutting measures in the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative.
Is the closure of the border one of the new ways of increasing traffic at the ports and generating revenue?
No, we needed to close the border because we were not getting cooperation with our nneighbouring countries. We have over the years committed to some alliances and bilateral agreements but our neighbours are not respecting that bilateral agreement and at this time when the President has signed Nigeria up to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, it becomes more important for us to make sure everybody complies with the commitments that are made.
The practice our neighbours have engaged in is hurting our economy; it’s hurting our local businesses and we have to make sure that stops. That is the purpose of the border closure and not to generate revenue. So if revenues are generated, it’s a consequence but that’s not the purpose.
The closure of the border seems to be affecting genuine exporters, what is the timeline for reopening of the border?
The timeline will be (determined by) the time the neighbouring countries commit to complying with the commitments they have signed to. We hope that at some point, there will be discussions at the level of Presidents where we will extract strong commitments from our neigbours.
The IMF has warned about the country’s debt and also advised a kind of debt restructuring for Nigeria. What steps will the Federal Government take to effectively manage the country’s debt?
Nigeria does not have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue problem. Our revenue to Gross Domestic Product is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It’s about 19 per cent of GDP and what the World Bank and IMF recommended is about 50 per cent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem.
The underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt and to service government day-to-day recurrent expenditure and that is why all the work we are doing at the ministry of finance is concentrated on driving the increase in revenue.
We’ve seen inflation rising to 11.2 per cent. The IMF also predicted that inflation would rise further to at least 11.7 per cent in the near term. What is the government doing to keep the inflation rate in check?
11.2 per cent is not a high inflation rate. Remember that in January 2017, the inflation rate was 18 per cent. And whenever there is any shock within the economy like the border closure, the market reacts so you have inflation but it will become moderate and stabilise within a short period of time.
You talked about the revenue problem. A lot of people have said our revenue target for 2020 is rather too ambitious. So how do you intend to achieve that as Nigeria has not been meeting revenue targets?
The fact that our revenue is underperforming is not an excuse to bring down our revenue (target) that is required to fund the national budget. In 2018, our revenue performed at the level of 58 per cent. Half year 2019, our performance moved up slightly to 58 per cent.
But that is not an excuse to reduce the revenue. Because it means we are all sanctioning underperformance. So we have to push the agencies. We have to push ourselves to meet those targets. Those targets are not designed by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the agencies proposed those targets. But we sit down with them and interrogate them. For example, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has a production capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day. In 2019, they wanted a target of 2.5 million barrels per day but we insisted on prudence and scaled it down (to) 2.3 million barrels. And the performance is 1.98 (barrels) effectively, including 100,000 (barrels) per day that are used to settle cash call earnings but the capacity is there.
So why should we not be looking at what we have to do to make sure the capacity utilisation is attained. Why do we want to reduce it because we are underperforming? We are lucky that crude oil in 2018 outperformed the budget because we budgeted $60 per barrel and we ended up with an average of $67 per barrel. Otherwise, if we had lower prices, the 55 per cent performance wouldn’t have been achieved. What we have to do collectively as a people is to make sure the agencies that have the responsibility to generate revenue actually generate these revenues.
The agencies proposed those numbers. We interrogate them and ask them to justify them. To be prudent, we even discount what they propose before it goes into the national budget.
Speaking about the NNPC, the IMF said it would be better to look into the governance of the NNPC and other state-owned enterprises to improve revenue generation. What steps are you taking to make sure these agencies are accountable and utilise our revenue streams in the best ways possible?
We agree with the IMF that we need to look at how we can improve governance not just in the NNPC or the other government owned enterprises, but across all of the government because poor governance results in underperformance whether it is revenue or other performance indicators.
What we have done is that we have introduced new measures to enhance the monitoring of our revenue generating agencies, we have also introduced monthly reconciliation exercises where the agencies bring their data and we reconcile the data. We have seen gaps that use to exist close gradually. So what we have to do is continue to push the bar to make sure that our revenue performance is enhanced and Mr President has said that targets will be set even for ministers and heads of agencies. And that when targets are met, there will be commendation and when they are not met, there will be consequences. So what was missing in the past was that there were no consequences.
So if an agency underperformed, there would be consequences. We will be pushing to make sure we provide all the support that the agencies require to make them perform.
The IMF has advised a comprehensive reform on how we will be maximising our potential in the non-oil sectors, going forward, what is the plan for diversified revenue streams?
Let’s give credit to where it is due. Before the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, oil revenue was 60 per cent of the national budget. Now it is down to 32 or 33 per cent in the 2020 budget and that is indicating that non-oil revenue is contributing more than oil revenue.
Also the Gross Domestic Product of oil revenue is now just about eight per cent. So our economy is actually diversified. What we need to do is to enhance the various value chains in different sectors to make sure their contributions to GDP are enhanced and increased significantly.
Should Nigerians be worried about the structure of debts to China considering that we are heavily exposed to China?
It is not true that we are heavily exposed to China in our debts. We have a wide portfolio of debts. Right now our domestic debt is about 57 per cent and foreign debt is the difference. And we will continue to find different instruments to elongate the tenures of our debt.
Our target is to move the total portfolio to an average of 10 years tenure. For the loans that we have from China, they are project-specific loans. So China gives us a loan to build the rail and build major infrastructure such as the renovation of our airports. I think there is also some kind of negative message going out there saying we are tied down to China, we are not. The rail is being built in Nigeria, is China going to take the rail out of Nigeria? The airports that have been renovated, they will soon be concessioned. They have given us soft loans as the rates are very low, and part of their condition is that the projects must be implemented by their companies, and we don’t see anything wrong with that.
All we need to do is to make sure the Chinese companies have the capacity to deliver the projects. We have seen that the rails that are being delivered are high quality projects. So let’s look at what it is in the interest of Nigeria, not just what other people outside of Nigeria are saying.
The NewsCap will bring you up to date with mixed reactions about the border closure, from prominent Nigerians, both anti and pro Buhari. Next.
News Headlines from Nigeria’s Major Newspapers
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*‘Why most SMEs fail in three years’
*NETCO empowers youths
*NALDA farm estate to empower 400 in Abia
*AIB partners NCAT on manpower development
*Notore grows turnover by 43% to N27b
*PZ Cussons pays N992.6m dividend to shareholders
*‘Digital assets can stimulate capital formation’
*Airtel Africa joins FTSE 100
*Sterling Bank holds awards for young tech founders
*Wema Bank gets two new directors
*Threats to Nigeria’s march to digital economy
*Evolving railway connection and emerging opportunities
*Boosting downstream with low-interest loans
*Oyebanji, Kolawole: Who succeeds Fayemi?
*February… A ruling party’s month of decisions
*Ritualists on the prowl
*Fuel subsidy sandstorm
*Ritualists on the prowl
*Fuel subsidy sandstorm
*Nigeria and the hunger hotspots
*Subsidy: triumph of reason
*Abubakar’s stained hands
*Tackling Nigeria’s cumulative leadership failure
*Subsidy suspension; stale logic
*AFCON: Egypt Edge Out Morocco, Face Cameroon In Semi-final
*Terrorists Flee, Abandon Trucks As Troops Clear Enclaves
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*Alleged Defamation: JAMB Spokesman Sues Human Rights Radio, Demands N6bn
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*APC Has A Flawed Reward System – Princewill
*Manchester United Ban Greenwood Indefinitely Over Alleged Assault
*NDLEA Arrests 3 Trans-border Traffickers With 48,000 Tramadol Tabs
*Aborted Zamfara Trip: Presidency Explains Reasons, Blasts PDP
*Employment: KWASU VC Urges Youths To Embrace ICT
*We Want You To Defect To APC, Lawan Tells Akwa Ibom Gov
*I Was Denied My First Job Because Of Hijab – FOMWAN President
*Edo Journalists To Benefit From Govt’s Health Insurance Scheme
*Ekiti Gov’ship: Anger Over Outcomes Of APC, PDP Primaries
*2023 Presidency: Age Not On Atiku’s Side – Bala Mohammed
*I Joined PDP Because Of Political Mess In Kano – Suspended Anti-Graft Boss
*2023: Tricky Storms Before Atiku
*Transforming Skills Development In Nigeria
*Professor Zulum And His ‘Empty Seat Of Power’
*Health Insurance: HMO Must Pay Hospitals
*Witnessing The Remorse Of A Secessionist
*Gender Inclusion For Uneducated Nigerian Woman Voter?
*281 Nigerians Crypto Account Restricted On Security Concern
*5G Rollout: NCAA Allays Fears On Flight Operations
*How Navy Recovered N67bn Worth Of Crude, AGO In 2021
*Emefiele Flag Off 100 For 100 Policy On Production And Productivity Today
*Fidelity Bank Rewards Customers In GAIM 5 Promo
*NIMASA Paid N37.7bn To Federation Account In 2021 – Jamoh
*Entrepreneurship Success: Contract Negotiations (II)
*‘Nigeria Will Never Go Into Recession If Real Estate Sector Is Stabilised’
*Appeal Court Dismisses Case Against Owners Of Abuja Estate
*Land Prices In Lekki, Ikoyi, Others Grow By 63% In 2 Years – Report
*Royal Choice Inn Builds N1b Hotel For Visitors, Sabbatical Lecturers In UniJos
*3-Year-Old Girl Abducted From Home In Kwara
*Report Sexual Harassment By Staff, Students, Unijos VC Urges
*Amosun Donates Food Items To Prisons, Orphanages
*The merits in power shift to Southern Nigeria
*The plight of Nigerian workers [opinion]
*Presidential election campaign researchers look at 2015 and 2019
*Obaseki’s former Chief of Staff declares for House of Representatives
*If Nigeria were a democracy
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*Group educates Nigeria startup ecosystem on Nigeria startup bill
*We ‘re committed to making Niger Delta region better-Tunji-Ojo
*Law barring littering of polythene underway in Nasarawa — Commissioner
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*2023: Utomi, Na’Abba, Agbakoba’s mega party issues APC, PDP quit notice
*Why LASTMA personnel are hated by many
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*Yobe govt debunks report of crisis, churches burning
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*Gunmen burn 10 sleeping locals in Southern Kaduna
*Sorrowful letter to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (1)
*Senate invites 62 revenue-generating agencies over low remittances
*Refineries rehabilitation gulped N100bn in 2021, says NNPC
*Ekiti APC primary didn’t hold, we’ll challenge outcome – Bamidele
*Transport fares jump by 283% amid rising fuel subsidy – NBS report
*Presidency: APC in dilemma over zoning, may throw race open
*FG must justify fresh N3tn vote, others for fuel subsidy – Senate
*Motorist seeks Lagos task force officers’ prosecution for perjury
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*Ogun police arrest three for vandalising telecoms mast
*Ugwuanyi Reiterates Continuous Support for Security Agencies
*NDLEA Arrests Nigeria-Cameroon Trans-border Drug Traffickers
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*SMEDAN Boss Laments Poor Reading Culture among Students
*Ex-Bayelsa Commissioner Urges Kinsmen to Shun Criminality
*Osinbajo: Masses, Not Legal Profession Own Nigeria’s Justice System
*2023: Obaseki’s Ex-Chief of Staff, Akerele, to Contest for House’s Seat
*Kogi Gov Restates Commitment to Education
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*Electoral Bill Pegs Presidential Campaign Spending at N5bn
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*PANDEMIC ENVIRONMENT AND SMALL BUSINESSES
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*Cyber Future Academy Partners NAS on ICT Week
*Dana Air Reintroduces Early Flights from Abuja Feb 1 Chinedu Eze
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*Private Sector Stakeholders to Launch N62.1bn HIV Trust Fund
*ANLCA Urges FG to Set-aside 3% Compensation for Licensed Agents
*Majiyagbe: Nigerian Custodial Services in Conformity With Global Best Practice
*NACCIMA Urges CBN to Postpone Implementation of e-Invoicing
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*Insecurity, Forex Illiquidity Poses Threat to Nigeria’s Short-Term Growth IoD Warns
*‘Insurance Will Grow When Government Shows Responsibility to Sector’
*Banks, Others Borrowing from CBN Drops by 26.5% in January on…
*Sustained growth in revenue
*FG: No Jetty Should Operate Without Authorisation
*NIMASA Introduces Zero Import Duty on Brand New Vessels, Contributes N37bn…
*10 Customers Win N10m In Fidelity Bank’s GAIM 5 Promo
*Stephen Akintayo Foundation organises Upgrade Conference
*FG to Save N120bn from Human Resources Data on IPPIS
*Notore Sustains Growth Trajectory, Grow Revenue by 43% to N27bn
*TROM Foundation Holds Inaugural Annual Lecture, launches Maiden Science Teachers Award
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*Ikpeazu commended on urban renewal programme
*Mbadiwe hails Buhari over suspension of fuel subsidy removal
*… President greets Onwenu at 70
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*Ekiti guber: APC primary was hijacked, compromised -Bamidele
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*N450m rice factory commences operation in Imo
- General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Lawrence Fejokwu,
*Bayelsa to commission over 20 projects on Diri’s 2nd anniversary
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*EBSU students reject N250,000 levy
*Uzodimma promises traders of reconstructed Owerri market compensation
*… Commiserates with Nnadi, Editor Sunday Sun, on wife’s death
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*Alleged contempt: Finance minister, others face committal trial today
*Movement demands information on N3tr fuel subsidy
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*Concerns as cybercriminals unleash SMS-based Android malware on Nigerians
*Lagos Police Command begins screening exercise for applicants
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*As the Senate debates Abuja Monthly Rent Payment Bill
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*JUST IN: Emmanuel settles on Pastor Umo Enoh for 2023
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*Kano battling exports’ rejection, says Nasiru, Deputy Gov
*2023: South-East in strong push for power
*Bamidele vows to challenge Ekiti APC Gov Primary
Akwa Ibom Corps Member Slaughters Boyfriend
A corps member identified as Princess Odume, was on Monday arrested by the Akwa Ibom police command for the murder of a yet-to-be-identified man.
The young woman, who is said to be a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, was stripped naked by neighbours of the victim who caught her trying to skip the fence with a machete.
The Akwa Ibom Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Ogbeche-Macdon confirmed the victim was the alleged murderer’s lover.
He also said, “The police are investigating. The police have her in custody, she committed the act, but as I speak, an investigation is ongoing as to how and why she did it.”
COVID-19 Claims the Life of a House on the Rock Pastor
A House On The Rock pastor, Adeyinka Akinbami(61), lost his life to COVID-19 on Friday, the 8th of January, 2021.
The Senior Pastor, of the church, Paul Adefarasin, urged Nigerians to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.
“Yesterday (Friday), I received the rude and shocking news of someone deeply dear to me and all of the HOTR family. The passing of Pastor Yinka Akinbami has become most painful because if there truly were good men, he was certainly one. To my brother, sleep well till we meet to part no more.
“Family, kindly allow me to solicit your intercession for his dear wife of over 30 years; Pastor Tolu, his children, his children-in-law, and grandchildren. We can only at best imagine how much pain they are feeling. We share the pain of his loss but they will feel it a lot more.
“It’s important to remind the community about the deadly nature of the COVID-19 and its mutant virus strains. Please do your part by following all the recommended precautions. That way, you are able to protect yourself and others who become proximal to you. God bless and keep us all”, Adefarasin Tweeted.
Pius and Dr, Ifenyiwa Angbo: The sad story of everyday Nigerian hardworking women.
The Channels news staffer Pius Angbo-seen in this picture battered his wife, who went public with the beating. In her own words, the woman had these to say:-
”Hello people, my name is Ifeyinwa. I am a doctor. I have been married to Pius Angbo of Channels TV for six years, and for six years, I have not known peace in this marriage. It’s been from one woman to another.
I just had baby. It was a Caesarian section just about 4 weeks ago. Just because I told him to spend wisely and not on women so recklessly considering we have four children, that is why I got this beating. He tried to strangle me and all that, sat on my incision, the children were crying.
When I was pregnant with this child, when the pregnancy was three months, it was the same thing. He would sit on my stomach. hit me, try to strangle me and all that”
As the outcry over the beating gathered momentum, a sitting State Governor called for a truce between husband and wife. Now, you can see husband and wife hugging it out.
Pius Angbo should be arrested and face the full wrath of the law for causing his wife such bodily harm. As shown in those pictures, the beating went too far, and because Ifeaniyiwa had a cesarian operation four weeks ago, the man almost killed her. The matter should not be swept under the carpet.
The next time around, the woman may not be alive to tell her story. Her case represents a tiny fraction of what everyday Nigerian woman is facing. I spoke with the Lagos State Police PRO and waits to talk with the Commissioner of Police very shortly, concerning this matter. More updates will be made public.
AGU is Nigerian-American International award wining musician, song writer and Producer/ publisher.
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