In the latest twist of events, President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to ensure that all those involved in the arms procurement graft are duly prosecuted and jailed according to the laws of the country.
Speaking with the BBC Hausa Service, President Buhari said it is one of the ways he intends to fund the 2016 budget, which is the biggest in the nation’s history and anchored on non-oil revenue.
That is why those who stole monies meant for arms procurement and shared it among themselves are being arrested and are being shown documents so that they would be asked to refund the money or face prosecution; we would use those documents to prove what they stole, collect all the assets acquired from the proceeds and then jail them” he stated.
He explained that the Customs, Ports and direct taxes on goods and services can fund the N6.08trn budget besides his determination to block leakages in how oil revenue is managed.
“We have also shown the changes we have made in the Customs; for instance, how much we are making from the Customs service; how much from petroleum, that is NNPC; how much we are making from the ports. There have been lots of leakages in these sectors. If we block these leakages, we would make much more money to run the country despite the fall in the price of oil.”
Over the weekend, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that crude oil prices may fall to as low as $20 per barrel in 2016.
Report by the IMF Executive Board, made it clear that the price of crude oil could drop to between $5 and $15 in 2016.
However, while presenting the 2016 budget to the National Assembly last week, Buhari had said that “oil-related revenues are expected to contribute N820 billion while non-oil revenue, comprising Company Income Tax (CIT), Value Added Tax (VAT), Customs and Excise duties, and Federation Account levies will contribute N1.45 trillion.
Finally, by enforcing strict compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 and public expenditure reforms in all MDAs, we have projected up to N1.51 trillion from independent revenues.
The Presidency also said the budget will rely heavily on the recovery of looted public funds and savings from the newly introduced Efficiency Units in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) by the new minister of finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun.
Buhari went on to tell BBC that he is optimistic about the “Budget of Change” submitted to the National Assembly, which is the nation’s biggest budget estimate in history and at a time the price of oil had drastically gone down in world market, saying it was at the country needed now.
“As a government, we inherited N1.5 trillion domestic debts, and when foreign debt is added, we have about N2.2 trillion. Everybody knows Nigeria is not a poor country. We are rich, and we have human resources; the problem had been that leadership did not take curbing corrupt tendencies seriously,” he said.
The minister of petroleum noted that blocking the leakages will be achieved because the leaders of these agencies had been bought into his administration’s change mantra.
It is generally believed that a fish begins to rot from the head; once the head is rotten, the whole body is also rotten. We have tried to remove all the heads of the organisations, and most of the lieutenants have been changed.
A lot is happening in this government that people do not appear to understand: many permanent secretaries of ministries have been changed; we used to have 42 ministers, now we have 36 because the constitution requires that each state of the federation must have a minister; we used to have 42 ministries, now we have 24.
President Buhari further explained that his government allocated 30 per cent of the budget to capital projects because during the campaigns, he promised Nigerians he would tackle three major issues to pull the economy out of the doldrums: unemployment, security and corruption.
Remember the campaigns, we said Nigeria is facing three major things and nobody disputed that assertion. Firstly, there was widespread insecurity – war in the north-east while the country’s oil was being stolen at random in the south.
Secondly; there was massive unemployment – 62 per cent of the nation’s population are youths from the age of 35 years downward, most of them are unemployed, including those who went to school and those who did not; that is a serious problem. Therefore, it has become necessary to restore peace and create employment. That is why we are returning to agriculture and mineral resources.
Thirdly, bribery and corruption was basically suffocating the country. If we don’t kill these monsters, this country would go down.”
He stated that the programme initiated to assist the poor and vulnerable Nigerians by paying them N5,000 monthly would commence as soon as the budget is passed. He, however, added a caveat.
It is not possible for everyone needing it to get it, but the federal government has said it would collaborate with the states and local governments. At the local government level, almost everyone knows each other.
It would be easy to identify those to give who would go into trading, and how to get it back. It would be like a cooperative and we all know how it operates. Also, state governments would identify those who have capacity to employ more people and all we need to do is to empower them. Our people already know how to go about implementing these modalities to create employment for the citizens,” he said.
On the promise that he would end Boko Haram insurgency by December, the President said the war had raged on because of the corruption inherent in the prosecution of the fight since 2009.
I want people to understand that after I settled down and got good grasp of what the country was going through, we removed all the service chiefs and appointed new ones. We also undertook an investigation and found out how the monies meant for arms procurement were diverted and shared by officials in the last administration. They sent the boys to the warfront without arms and ammunition, leading some of them to mutiny after which they were arrested and detained.”
Buhari said that, by his own assessment, the military had largely achieved the December target to end the war.
We have been able to raise money and fund the war. Go and ask the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa how many of their local governments were under the control of insurgents and how many are currently still under the insurgents.
Maybe we would not win the war completely by the end of the month, but the insurgents have now resorted to putting on explosive vests on young children, mostly girls aged 15 and below and then sending them to markets, mosques and churches to detonate. Boko Haram themselves know that the era of them taking over communities and local governments are over.
If people would be fair to us, they would know that the Nigerian Army has basically met the deadline and are winning the war. You cannot find any significant number of Boko Haram members in Adamawa, and Yobe; only may be in about three local governments of Borno, in the area around our borders with Chad Republic. They are not in a position to threaten Nigeria now.