In view of the precarious global economic situation and Nigeria’s growing debt burden, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze has declared that in the face of the rising debt, it is important that “public debt will be sustainable over time so as to avoid a debt crisis and it is expedient that government shows that their debt service is low”.
This is necessary to leave sufficient resources for programmes that are development enhancing, the faculty submitted just as it urged the government to remove the oil subsidy and avoid drainers.
The DG made this submission when he led the discussion on ‘The National Debt Burden: Causes, effects and realistic economic solutions’, the theme for the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria, (ICSAN) 46th Annual Conference last week in Lagos.
Speaking through his representative, the DG who was not averse to borrowing, noted that under the prevailing global economic crisis, the investment required to bridge the infrastructural gap and provide public sector services to the people far exceeds available resources most times, in different countries. In view of this, there is a need for governments to borrow to finance the fiscal gap.
Essentially, he said, it’s expected that such funds that are borrowed, “will be used for critical development projects that will eventually enhance the revenue generation capacity of the economy and improve the business environment; while also enhancing the living standards of the people”.
The ICSAN President, Mr. Gbenga Owokalade earlier in his welcome address noted that against the background of the weakening power of the Naira, the Government Debt in Nigeria has increased to 100069.89 USD Million in the first quarter of 2022 from 95779.64 USD Million in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“At present, Nigeria is struggling to service the interest on debt, not to talk of repayment of the principal. With this kind of grim statistics portraying such huge fiscal deficits, there is no gainsaying the fact that matter has really come to a head”, Owokalade warned as he set the tone for the conversation.
Underscoring the present cause for worry, the ICSAN President said, “stakeholders are very concerned because our current debt profile prognosticates an inauspicious omen for national progress, development, and sustainability. We cannot talk of national sustainability if we cannot survive except by taxing the resources that should be available for the future”.
For the Budget office DG, it’s not all blurred and gloom, the bleak situation can be reversed if certain steps are taken. Some of his recommendations include:
The government should remove the N4trillion oil subsidy and utilize the same for other relevant purposes adding that if the issue of pipeline vandalism and oil theft are frontally addressed, government revenue will increase.
Mr. Akabueze urged that the nation’s revenue base is diversified from oil to non-oil sources to meet the need to grow revenue and remove drainers. The government has not been able to adequately fund capital projects such as the health sector, education, roads, and housing infrastructure; even security wants more allocation, he pointed out. “Government has been constrained in providing needed services”, hence, we are confronted with low growth and abysmally poor infrastructure.
To reduce the incidence of continuous external borrowing, the DG noted that the government is maximizing domestic borrowing, employing domestic sources of financing fiscal deficits while also emphasising the refinancing of existing treasury bills. He also noted that if the revenue collection is improved, the seemingly intractable budget deficit will reduce significantly.
In his presentation tagged: “Beyond Governance: The Role of Dedicated Followership in Participatory Democracy”, Sylvester Akhaine, PhD, a Professor of Political Science, Lagos State University, speaking on the need for followers to elect good leaders, accepts that the Nigerian followership is often blamed for inept leadership. The Don, however, opined that “there is a dominant strain of blame but misapplied”.
To put the blame for the problems of Nigeria on the followers is to equate them with causality. The followers, in my opinion, are in a Rousseauan dilemma, Akhaine said.
“The people have willed into existence the general will and still wish to retain their will once there is a mission creep on the part of the state. That was solved by the constitutional provision of recall in liberal democracy.”
However, this has been impossible in Nigeria because of the coup against the people. “The state has become roguish without respect for the rule of law. The charges against the followers are the objective manifestations of the struggle against the strictures imposed by the rogue state”, he claimed.
While noting that their docility and lethargy to reclaim their destiny in dramatic ways is a function of their repression by the ruling elite, the Professor added that the unity of the subjective and objective factors will lead to the restoration of popular power and fulfillment of the social needs of society under a democracy that is truly participatory.
In her paper titled: Public Administration: Entrenching Sound Governance Principles for Macro-Economic Growth, Dr. (Mrs) Folashade Yemi-Esan, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation holds that governance refers to the basic institutional and market-oriented framework in which firms and official bodies operate.
According to Head of Civil Service, sound governance principles cover issues such as ethical conduct, rule of law, efficiency and effectiveness, transparency, sound financial management and accountability, participation, responsiveness, openness/ transparency, innovation, sustainability and a long-term orientation, and human right.
While highlighting the – Economic Recovery and 2017 – 2020 Growth Plan; Economic Sustainability Plan June 2020 N2.3 Trillion; National Social Investment Programme; and the Anchor Borrowers Programme as some of the developmental efforts of the Government, Esan claimed there is a “sense of responsibility to enhance macroeconomic development” by the government. Citing the National Bureau of Statistics, she affirmed that Nigeria’s economy grew by 3.54 percent in real terms in the second quarter of 2022, “It will also grow further for the betterment of Nigerians through sustainable developmental policies being deployed by the Government, supported by a motivated and efficient public service”, she claimed.
Other highlights of the two-day conference include the dinner and awards night that featured Prince Yemi Adefulu as Chairman.
Prince Adefulu in his opening remarks while praising the association and its leaders for having stood out over the years said, “It takes people of valour and purpose to keep it going”.
Lending his voice to the theme of the conference: “The National Debt Burden: Causes, effects and realistic economic solutions”, The Chairman said, “the solution is not only economic but attitudinal”.
According to him, as Nigerians, we must eat our own food, use our own cars, wear clothes and shoes made in Nigeria etc. That is what motivated India as a philosophy, he declared.
Her Excellency, deputy governor of State Engr. Noimot Salako along with five Commissioners represented the state governor, Hi Excellency, Otunba Dapo Abiodun, who was awarded for “Good corporate Governance”. In her goodwill message, the Deputy Governor said “the focus is on qualitative governance in Ogun State”
“Appropriately managing the resources that you have puts you above your challenges. It helps you create an enabling environment to attract people and investments to the state adding that infrastructure projects are also given priority in the State.
She promised that the state will maintain her collaboration with ICSAN to continue to drive its focus on corporate governance.
Also speaking on behalf of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as Guest of Honour, Fuad Laguda who represented the Hon. Speaker congratulated the Institute on its 46th conference and its laudable achievements in instituting good corporate governance across board. He also charged the new fellows saying “to whom much is given, much is expected. Your responsibility is to equip and show the next generation the way forward”.
Other highlights include the formal unveiling of the ICSAN Magazine which the President described as a needed learning tool for all members of the learning institute. According to the Chairman, membership committee ICSAN, 40 deserving members were upgraded to the status of Fellows, the highest grade of membership of the institute.
As is customary with the institute, it is expected to follow up the 2022 conference with a communique on the submissions on the theme and circulate it to the presidency and all relevant government agencies, and parastatals for consideration and possible implementation.