Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How Not To End Recession In Nigeria

By Fred Nwaozor
The last time I checked, people had abruptly become fond of attributing silly jokes, even the ones cracked by a day-old child, to Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president. Currently, a day won’t pass without experiencing a certain comic utterance trending on the social media, and when one scrolls down, he would observe the comment is credited to no other person than the man who has ruled Zimbabwe for 36 years.
*Buhari 
This can be related to what is making the rounds in Nigeria at the moment. Right now, any misfortune in the country, be it personal or corporate, is wholly attributed to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government owing to the obvious minuses the administration is characterised by.
It is needless to reiterate that Nigeria is at present undergoing recession. I’m afraid, if the needful is not done as quickly as possible, depression might set in soonest. Hence, sound thinkers cannot fold their arms as the painful and pathetic situation lingers. It is their duty to proffer the needed remedy as well as tender constructive criticism when and where necessary to ensure that the embattled giant of Africa regains its strength.
The Federal Government (FG) has promised that the 2017 budget, estimated at N7.298 trillion, would pull Nigeria out of recession. This pledge does not augur well for the country since the implementation of the 2016 budget of N6.08 trillion is still ongoing, and indeed, over 60 per cent of the budget is yet to be implemented.
Besides, do not forget in haste that Nigerians were equally promised a while ago that 2016 budget would end the recession. Intriguingly, the focus has suddenly been shifted to the yet-to-come 2017 budget. This confliction of promises significantly indicates that the actual disease ravaging the country’s economy is yet to be discovered by those entrusted with the task. I would say the 2016 budget can end this monstrous era once and for all, if the appropriate things are done. The 2016 budget is conspicuously bedevilled by limited funds, hence, the prime problem is not its implementation but how to find the required funds. We need to concentrate on realistic issues rather than empty ones. This is the only way we can make progress.
If we fail to implement the 2016 budget as expected, we will arguably still encounter similar hurdles when the awaited 2017 budget is eventually approved by the National Assembly (NASS). Moreover, a deficit of N2.269 trillion in the 2017 appropriation bill is enough reason to worry. This implies that Nigeria would continue to live on mere promises whilst thousands of Nigerians are dying with countless firms running out of business, on a daily basis. Since the NASS is yet to approve the Presidency’s request to borrow $29.9 billion externally, which is in line with the people’s wish, I suggest we look inwards toward sourcing for funds internally. Several citizens would be willing to lend, or even donate, to the government.

Though the FG has worked relentlessly towards curtailing excesses through the ongoing anti-graft war, a lot still needs to be done. We need to tackle tax evasion headlong by deploying forensic mechanisms. Instead of causing the masses more pains by overtaxing them, let’s shift attention to those corporate bodies that have been dodging payment of taxes. Some incentives such as wardrobe allowance and so on, for most public office holders ought to be put on hold for now till further notice. These measures would enable us to generate huge funds.
The FG has often times told Nigerians that the funds returned by the looters are not meant to be utilised since their cases are still in the law court. I beg to differ from this position. So, court proceedings have absolutely nothing to do with monies that were willingly returned by these enemies of the people. In fact, the refund is a clear evidence that they are guilty of the crime accused of. Thus, let’s use the monies to fund the 2016 budget.
Above all, we must tackle the ongoing Niger Delta militancy without further ado. I advocate that the FG should deal directly with the militants, instead of calling the so-called elders to a meeting; hear from the horses’ mouth and stop beating about the bush. We also need to revisit the various existing policies towards making amends. For instance, the oil subsidy has been totally removed from the country’s budgets, hence, there’s a compelling need for a sound alternative policy in this regard. Similarly, President Buhari needs to reshuffle his cabinet having observed that most of his allies aren’t currently serving where they are meant to.
I want to solicit that governments at all levels should, henceforth, start taking Nigeria’s fiscal year seriously to enable them plan ahead. The country’s fiscal year is between January and December of each calendar year. An appropriation bill ought to be ready before August of every year, so that before the end of November, it would be passed as budget by the legislature for the incoming year. Let’s focus on realistic issues, and jettison frivolous ones.
*Nwaozor is a civil rights activist


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