By Iheanacho Nwosu and Chuks Akunna, Abuja
Cental Bank of Nigeria Governor (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi yesterday stopped short of labelling Nigeria a corrupt nation, saying there are large scale leakages in the system. Though, he did not name those behind the leakages and how they are perpetrated, the CBN boss spoke when he appeared before the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Finance,
Legislative Budget and Research, National Planning and Economic Development as well as Aids and Debt, Wednesday said there was need to block such leakages if Nigeria must grow. The Director General of the Debt Management Office(DMO) had on Tuesday appeared before the committee disclosed that the Federal Government was planning to borrow $25billion between this year and 2015. Lamenting the huge leakages in the system, however,
Sanusi said so much revenue was being are lost to either vandals or through other questionable means and kicked against proposals by members of the House of Representatives that the proposed crude oil benchmark of $75 dollars a barrel be reviewed upward in the 2013 budget. Giving example of how bad the situation was Sanusi said “Does NNPC have a metering system? How do they know how much we produce? What access does the minister of finance have to validate the figures emanating from the primary source of revenue.”
He stressed “We have NEITTI, we need to strenghten it because all these arguments of benchmarks will disappear if we can know exactly how much we earn and we are sure that all revenues will go into government’s pockets. The apex bank boss advised against the focusing on bench mark of oil prices recommending that instead the concentration should be “production of more oil which will bring more money into the Federation Account.” “Benchmark does not bring money into our account but more production of oil, so the issue of benchmark is a non-issue,”
Sanusi stated. He urged the federal government to crackdown on owners of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta if the nation’s revenues must be improved. On some of the things militating against the budget from the federal Civil Service, Sanusi noted that over 80 percent of the recurrent expenditure was going to payment of salaries by ministries and agencies. He recommended mass retrenchment of workers but said that such was not feasible on account of political expediency. He said “Over 80percent of our recurrent expenditure is spent on personnel and the only option is to retrench but this political system does not have that kind of stomach to retrench.
“ Sanusi noted that “2010 and 2011 were very bad years and we were very critical of how things were being managed but the managers there now are really doing their best at the ministry.” Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint committee on Finance, Aids, Loans and Debts management Hon Jibril Abdumuminin had at the session, debunked reports making the round that Reps had submitted a report that indicated an upward review of the current benchmark to $82 per barrel.
After the opening prayer, the chairman displayed a newspaper saying “this is not the opinion of this Committee or House but the opinion of this newspaper we therefore advise all Nigerians at home and abroad to discountenance it. “ “What the newspaper reported is not true because the committee is still working and we are yet to conclude not to talk of writing our report. So there is no way we will have come to the decision to rise the oil bench mark”,
The MTEF framework forwarded to the House on the September 20, by President Goodluck Jonathan, preparatory to the transmission of the 2013 Appropriation Bill proposed a crude price benchmark of 75 dollars per barrel in the 2013 fiscal year. Sanusi who arrived 45minutes ahead of the committee members waited for over 30 minutes for a meeting scheduled for 10am but started at 10.30am.
The CBN Governor who appeared before the House of Representatives’ Joint Committee on Finance, Legislative Budget and Research, National Planning and Aids, Loans and Debt Management over the 2013-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) declared that such increment would not translate to more revenue accrual to the government.
According to the apex bank’s boss, what should be looked at was how to increase crude oil production, and exploring other alternatives, adding that “even if you increase the benchmark to 200 dollar per barrel and the price is 75 dollar, it would not amount to increase in revenue.” On the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, Sanusi said”the re-negotiation of the bill is a very good development we sdhould do anything that would attract investment into that sector of our economy.
Lead chairman of the panel, and Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Abdulmumin Jibril had sought the opinion of the Governor on what would be the problem with increasing the benchmark and tying the expected surpluses to specific areas of development, but Sanusi warned that since the Federal Ministry of Finance was committed to fiscal prudence, all that was needed was to support it. He however denied having any rift with the National Assembly, as according to him, as two national institutions, all that was needed between them was “mutual respect.”
He also described himself as the most summoned head of the CBN. “I don’t think there has been any CBN Governor that has been brought here (The National Assembly) as much as me. I have even offered to be moved, or open my annex office here. Nobody ask me how my itinary are before inviting me,” Sanusi was arguing when.quickly the Chairman interrupted saying that”the issue in question is not within the purview of the joint committee instead the Governor should concentrate on necessary matters before him.
“ A member of the panel, and Chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Budget and Research, Opeyemi Bamidele had asked Sanusi to explain why he often turn down invitations from the National Assembly. After the caution from the Chairman the CBN Governor stopped complaining.