By Angela Atabo and Esther Mamudu
Some Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria have tasked President Bola Tinubu to formulate policies that would ensure inclusive sustainable economic growth in the country.
Mr Adesina Oke, a member of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and spokesperson for the CSOs stated this at a news conference in Abuja.
Oke said that the conference tagged “the Masses and the Economic Challenges: The Way Forward”, was informed by a joint communique issued at the end of a roundtable organised by the CSOs.
He said that the essence was to call on Nigerians, locally and in Diaspora, as well as well-meaning members of the international community, to lend their voices in charting an economic course for the new government because of the present economic situation.
“Nigeria has a huge debt burden. Currently, the bulk of its retained revenue is devoted to debt servicing.
“In 2021, about 90.0 per cent of Nigeria’s retained revenue amounting to about N4.221 trillion out of N4.64 trillion was spent on servicing its debt.
“It is projected that this might rise further to as much as 101.5 per cent and 121 per cent of its revenue in 2022 and 2023 respectively.
“Public and publicly guaranteed debts are now more than 40 per cent of the GDP and could reach 46 per cent by the end of 2023,” he said.
Oke advised the Federal Government to ensure that there were no new debts, especially foreign debts, except there were exceptional circumstances justifying them.
He also called for the restructuring of Nigeria’s debt to ensure a longer period of amortisation in a bid to reduce the percentage of retained revenue that was committed to debt service.
Oke said to tackle poverty, the organised labour, private sector, professionals, women, and the public should be engaged in good faith for disclosure and negotiations with relevant information.
He said that government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should take urgent steps toward introducing initiatives within their sectors to quickly tackle the increasing poverty across the country.
To tackle oil theft, Oke said there was need to hold accountable, public officers under whose watch industrial scale oil theft occurred in recent years as a strategy for reducing oil theft and possibly recouping lost revenue.
He said there was a need to introduce appropriate technology to ensure that all payments of Value Added Tax, especially at the retail end, were automatically swept into the coffers of the government while reconciliations would come either monthly or quarterly.
Oke added that the tax base should be broadened without increasing the tax rate. Leakages should be blocked, and efforts made to bring in high net worth individuals into the tax net.
He said that the database of taxpayers should be harmonised and called for the removal of the power to grant tax expenditures from the Minister of Finance or the executive and only place a duty on the executive to document the recommendations among others with the approval of the legislature.
“Our applicable tax incentive frameworks should provide for relevant agencies to: carry out a cost-benefit analysis of the potential impact of incentives before granting them.
“Provide established annual milestones on tax expenditure implementation and conduct periodic assessments, measurements and evaluation of tax expenditure milestones and impact on the economy among others.
“Annual budgets are accompanied by a tax expenditure statement that details the above analysis.
“Ensure mandatory use of a Treasury Single Account (TSA) for all Government owned enterprises’ financial transactions,” he said.
Oke called for the amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to strengthen the Fiscal Responsibility Commission with administrative sanctions and enforcement powers.
He added that there was a need to amend the Public Procurement Act to provide for graduated penalties, well drafted and defined in accordance with best practices of legal drafting.
Oke also called for an increased productivity and local value addition leading to economic growth and increased exports to shore up the value of the naira.
He called on the President to constitute the Governing Council of the Board of National Health Insurance Authority to take policy steps to ensure that the mandatory health insurance scheme is activated.
Oke said there was a need to establish a Health Development Bank of Nigeria with a clear mandate of health infrastructure and equipment funding at single digit interest medium- and long-term funding rate. (NAN)
Edited by Ali Baba-Inuwa