President-elect Muhammadu Buhari needs N1 trillion naira on May 29, 2015 or within his first 90 days in office.
Clearly, nobody is pretending anymore that Nigeria is not broke. President Jonathan’s finance minister/the coordinating minister of the economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has given up any pretense that she has a clue as to how to rescue Nigeria’s economy from total collapse. Recently, she confessed that sourcing where to borrow money has been more than a nightmare. In her own words, it has been causing her hypertension.
And borrowing, she had been doing with alacrity. The Central Bank of Nigeria recently announced that the federal government has over-spent by N365.3bn between July-Dec 2014. The minister herself announced that, “We’ve borrowed N473bn out of the N882bn we are allowed to borrow this year.” So there is no room to borrow a lot more. And borrowing to pay workers’ salaries and pay oil marketers for oil subsidy is as dumb as throwing bags of money into River Niger.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s debt profile has risen to N12 trillion, which is about three times our annual budget.
Despite the staggering debt ratio to the size of Nigeria’s economy, Nigeria still needs to pay workers. And since President Jonathan and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala decided to include only about N150 billion in the 2015 budget for oil subsidy, when in the last four years they have spent an average of N800 billion a year, there is an urgent need for money to keep the basic elements of the economy going as the new government settles in.
The Nigerian workers cannot go for another three months without pay. The consequences of that for the new government will be dire. And the Nigerian consumers of petrol cannot go for another three months of long lines at gas stations and live with fuel sold at exorbitant prices. And that will continue until oil marketers are paid the outstanding debt owed them or someone figured out how to stop them from holding Nigeria hostage.
In the last 16 years of the People’s Democratic Party rule, the political class squandered an equivalent of $500 billion US dollars. To go back to find the books, including those already reduced to ashes, open them, separate the scratched off figures from the original figures and prosecute those whose fingerprints were on the record books would be a difficult task. An easier way would be a mixture of plea-bargains, fees, surcharges, amnesties and luxury taxes imposed on these categories of past and present officials, all aimed at recovering a fraction of our commonwealth fleeced over the last 16 years.
So here are the top ten places President Jonathan can get N1 trillion naira.
1.) Go to the 36 governors that served with Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 – 2007. Offer them immunity from prosecution if they will all return N2.5 billion naira each for every four years in power. Those who spent eight years in office should return N5 billion each. After all, most of them were facing charges totaling over N100 billion before their files disappeared from the EFCC. That will give President Buhari N180 billion naira.
2.) Go to the 36 governors that served with Umaru Ya’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan from 2007 – 2015. Offer them immunity from prosecution if they will all return N5 billion naira each for every four years in power. Those who spent eight years in office should return N10 billion each. After all, most of them collected over N2.5 bn each year as security votes. That will give President Buhari N360 billion naira.
3.) President Buhari should cancel all import waivers given to religious leaders in Nigeria for 2015. Nigeria lost billions of naira just on the waivers given to Pastors Adeboye, Oyedepo, Oritsejafor and their likes under the Obasanjo-Jonathan administration – waivers they used to import expensive cars and luxury goods. Who knows what the big Imams get in waivers? Right there, another N50 billion will be readily available.
4.) A 50% cut in the salaries and allowances of members of the Nigerian House of Representative. At $1.4 million each for 360 members, Buhari can easily get $252 million dollars, which is over N40 billion. In the senate, with 109 senators each making $1.7 million, a 50% cut in their pay package will give President Buhari over N14.8 billion naira.
5.) President Buhari should audit the record books of the government with oil importers. A good auditing firm will easily unearth stolen wealth of the nation. Past audits have shown substantial stealing on their part. In a 2012 audit conducted by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede of the subsidy claims of 2011, discovered that the Federal Government had overpaid importers and marketers of petrol by a whopping N430 billion naira. Of this amount, less than N30 billion was ever recovered. Since these so-called cabals are friends of every government in power, the president should just ask them to refund N300 billion and we will let bygones be bygone.
6.) The president should, as a matter of urgency, investigate and evaluate all workers associated with the importation of fuel into Nigeria. Those found wanting should be prosecuted and fired. A good investigation of their assets and accounts will recover at least N10 billion. The same thing should be done with staff of the NNPC, both those serving and the retired staff. A good investigation will net over N10 billion.
7.) Go to all the ministers who served from 1999-2015. Depending on the ministry they manned, how long they manned the ministry and the budget of each ministry, each minister would be assessed. A special surcharge of each minister could net the government another N50 billion.
8.) The security votes of all state governors should be cut by 50%. At an average of N300 million a month, it runs up to N3.6 billion for a year each. For the 36 state governors, that amount is N129.6 billion naira. A 50% cut will give President Buhari N64.8 billion a year.
9.) The president should close half of Nigerian missions abroad in a major scale back and find other countries to manage Nigeria’s consular affairs. That will save at least N10 billion.
10.) Along with that, the government will impose a significant luxury tax on people who own private jets, luxury boats and those who own houses worth over N0.5 billion naira. If you may, just call it one-time tax to help feed Nigerian public school children. Let us see the billionaire that will grumble about giving a little back to help educate the disadvantaged. That will bring in another N100 billion.
Putting the savings together, we have N1.19 trillion for the President. That will be enough seed money to give the incoming government a breathing room to assess the damage done to the economy in the last 16 years.
Alternatively, President Buhari could move in security forces to the Niger Delta and stop crude oil theft. Since 2009, crude oil thieves have been increasing the amount of Nigeria’s oil that they steal. According to the 2012 Ribadu Report, crude oil thieves steal over 100,000 barrels a day. That is over $3.6 billion dollars a year. Some foreign sources put the figure of oil theft at 250,000 barrels a day. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala in 2013 told the Vanguard newspaper that the loss to oil theft could be up to $12 billion.
Now, that is over a trillion naira. QED!
By Rudolf Okonkwo