By Jacob Ajakaiye, in Kano
Former Nigerian central bank governor, now the traditional ruler of one of the country’s ancient cities, Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, has urged the Buhari administration to muscle the courage by discontinuing unfavourable government economic policies such as subsidising petroleum products and electricity tariffs, and invest in more critical sectors, such as education, health, and infrastructural development.
According to the emir, discontinuing the culture of subsidising petroleum products and electricity will go a long way in assisting the government to meet critical needs of the citizenry.
He made the call while addressing the ongoing 3rd National Treasury Workshop organized by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation holding in Kano.
Sanusi advised that cancelling the culture of subsidy in the country is one of the important steps that the current administration must take if it is serious about re-positioning the economy of the country.
“At the moment indicators are showing that the country is heading towards bankruptcy. What happened is that the Federal Government pays petroleum subsidy, pays electricity tariff subsidy, and if there is rise in interest rates, Federal Government pays.
“What is more life-threatening than subsidy that we have to sacrifice education, health sector and infrastructure for us to have cheap petroleum, and if truly President Buhari is fighting poverty, he should remove the risk on the national financial sector and stop the subsidy regime which is fraudulent,” Sanusi said.
The traditional monarch wants the government to tell Nigerians the truth about the facts concerning the state of the economy of the country, and the need to act quickly on it because the nation is already bankrupt.
“Since I have decided to come here, you have to accept what I have said here. And please, if you do not want to hear the truth, never invite me.
“So let us talk about the state of public finance in Nigeria. We have a number of very difficult decisions that we must make, and we should face the reality. His Excellency, the President, said in his inaugural speech that his government would like to lift 100 million people out of poverty, it was a speech that was well received not only in this country, but world-wide.
“The number of people living with poverty in Nigeria are frightening. By 2050, 85 percent of those living in extreme poverty in the world will be from the African continent. And Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo will take the lead.
“Two days ago, I read that the percentage of government revenue going to debt services has risen to 70 percent. These numbers are not lying. They are public numbers. I read them in the newspapers. When you are spending 70 percent of your revenue on debt services, then you are managing 30
“And then, you continue subsidising petroleum products; and spending N1.5 trillion per annum on petroleum subsidy! And then we are subsidising electricity tariff. And maybe, you have to borrow from the capital market or the Central Bank of Nigeria to service the shortfall in the electricity tariff, where is the money to pay salaries, where is the money for education, where [are] other government projects?” He
The royal father lamented that for 30 years, successive governments have had this project called petroleum subsidy, insisting that this is the right time to stop it so as to save the nation’s economy.
In his address at the workshop, Ahmed Idris, Accountant-General of the Federation, noted that, “the overall objective of the workshop is to promote accountability and transparency in all facets of the nation’s public finance and management architecture.
“It is expected that participants should appreciate that accountability and transparency remain major watchwords for prudent financial management practices and are, therefore, major prerequisite for economic growth and development,” he said.
Idris charged participants to strive towards identifying the challenges to accountability and transparency in the management of public funds, improving independent revenue base and profile of government, as well as
proffering revenue diversification for governments at all levels so as
to cut down the cost of governance.