HURIWA to Finance minister: Tell Nigerians why you can’t stop borrowing

Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has challenged the Minister of Finance, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, to explain to Nigerians why the Muhammdu Buhari-led administration can’t stop frivolous borrowing.

HURIWA handed the charge in a press statement by it’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwuboko and

Director, National Media Affairs, Miss. Zainab Yusuf, Monday in Abuja, on juxtaposing the revenues claimed to have been generated officially by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS ) and the Budgets of the federation on Infrastructure of  Roads, Water, Education and Health Vis-à-vis the rationale for the continuous borrowings by the federal government.

“We demand that the federal ministers in charge of finance should explain the rationale for the continuous borrowings and where these Revenues officially generated by the FIRS in the last five years went to and what they were used for? Nigerians need to know.”

According to the statement, “Since 2016, Nigeria has continued to provide expansionist budgets, with its budget having risen from the N4 trillion mark in early 2010s to above 6tn since 2016.

“While there have been significant improvements in the Company Income Tax, Value Added Tax, Customs and other revenue lines, the federal government of Nigeria has resorted to large unfunded deficit through large borrowings, which has raised its debt on a continuous trajectory.

“A statement from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) revealed that in the first quarter 2020, the agency recorded N1.12 trillion revenue up from N1.04 trillion recorded in the first quarter of 2019 as a show of commitment towards achieving its 8.5 trillion Naira revenue target for the year, in spite of turbulence in the global economic system, especially the sharp fall in the price of Nigeria’s major export and top earner crude oil.

“A breakdown of collections for period under review shows that Capital Gains Tax soared 568 percent from N96, 408,740.90 in the first quarter of 2019 to N643, 935,849.06 in the first quarter of 2020.”

HURIWA further stated that, “A study conducted by experts on Nigeria’s infrastructure requirement revealed that for the country to bridge the wide infrastructure gap, approximately N11.25 trillion ($31 billion) has to be invested annually over a period of 10 years.”

The association, which noted that key sectors such as industry, trade and investment, education, healthcare, labour and employment, power, works and housing, and transportation were catalysts for growth, however, queried that with the budgetary allocation of political officials and some low impact sectors almost four times that of key sectors, is Nigeria growth inclined?

HURIWA further stated that, “Federal government of Nigeria has said that it would finance the N5.36 trillion budget deficits through domestic, foreign loans and proceeds from privatisations.  It is not good to keep on borrowing on a yearly basis to finance deficit budget when a lot of very valuable national assets are lying fallow and moribund.

“Proceeds from outright privatisation or concession of the moribund assets should serve as the best alternative in funding yearly budget deficits since the assets are more or less becoming national liabilities. There are about 600 state-owned enterprises in the country which gulp not less than $3 billion on a yearly basis with little or no returns into the public purpose.

“Furthermore, it is important to ensure that we do not waste the awareness and opportunities created by this pandemic crisis. We advocate here that Nigeria must declare a medical emergency immediately.

“We must invest heavily in healthcare, for the sake of everybody, whether rich or poor. We are also of the firm belief that we should use the opportunity provided by this crisis to renegotiate our debts. In fact, we should be asking our creditors for outright cancellation and debt forgiveness.

“We are already in a debt crisis and from every indication; we cannot meet our debt obligations and still provide basic resources for our people. We cannot afford to devote close to 60 per cent of our revenue to service debt. There is no better time than now to declare that we cannot pay.”

The association said, “Closely related to that is that the time has come for us to reduce the size and change the structure of government to reflect our current realities. We should discourage anything that puts money in a few hands as that will further weaken the economy. This may sound harsh, but we cannot afford to live in what is clearly a fool’s paradise.”

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