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Nigeria's Economy On The Red Alert – Representatives

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ABUJA, Oct 14, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives today raised alarm on the imminent collapse of the nation's economy submitting that the growing debt profile and the failure of the Federal Government to fully implement the 2010 budget was a bad omen.

Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Honourable John Enoh who made the disclosure at a press briefing said the recent depletion in national revenue coupled with the drastic reduction in the excess crude account of the federation are potent signs of collapse of the Nigerian economy.

According to the chairman, the 45 percent drop in national revenue in 2009 was a bad omen for the country, alerting that most revenue generating agencies of government have been short-changing government by remitting only fractions of their collections into the national treasury.

He disclosed that in the past three years, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) had failed to remit over N3 trillion into National Treasury.

Speaking further on the rising profile, the chairman explained that the country’s domestic debt was now close to $20 billion, while the foreign debt has shot up to almost $ 5 billion.

Enoh who was accompanied to the briefing by other members of the committee noted that the rising debt profile has rubbished the debt repudiation gains by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who he said took Nigeria out of the firm grip of Paris Club of Debtors through debt forgiveness he secured for the country.

He expressed worry about reports that there has been an annual 15 percent drop in national revenue since the past three years and the leakages that have characterized the national economy, stating that the anomalies would continue if something immediate is not done to rescue the economy of Nigeria.

Eno said the poor state of National economy has now jerked the House out of lethargy, such that it has resolved to put its feet on the ground to challenge the complacence of the government in the management of the national economy.

On the non-implementation of budget, the chairman said the budget performance has been woeful, noting that with less than 40 percent level of implementation, ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) of government could not have done much in running the national economy.

He said the government has been making releases to ministries and agencies, lamenting rather than most of the releases were not utilized or cash backed.

Citing examples, the committee said the Ministry of Water Resources which it said got close to N161 billion in national budget where as it has up till now not got more than 30 percent of the fund, as well as the Ministry of Education which had N97 billion in the budget and has not been able to assess up to N20 billion, same with the Ministry of Health which got N67 billion and had not been able to obtain more than N16 billion of the lump sum.

He said the Committee had resolved to convene a Stakeholders Forum on Internally Generated Revenue for the House to determine the next way forward, as according to him, the Forum would make recommendations on how to rescue the national economy.

The new drive by the House according to Finance Committee Chairman would involve members engaging government officials on one-on one during which pointed questions would be asked on reasons behind the near collapse of national economy.

According to him, the House would be more interested in knowing the state of the excess crude account, the specific figure of Nigeria’s external reserve, the debt profile of Nigeria and how much Nigeria has been generating internally in the past few years.

Eno also hinted that the House would engage the Ministry of Finance on need for early preparation of the 2011 national budget as a way of avoiding usual delays in passage by the National Assembly.

He said so far, his Committee had sent memo to the Ministry to submit to the House medium term Expenditure frame work for the next fiscal year in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, as according to him, the frame work would form the basis for preparation of next year’s budget.

The House, he noted, had resolved to fast track the process of early passage of 2011 national budget, if only to put the economy on track through and make it more responsive to the yearnings of the teeming masses of Nigeria.