Policing Our Budget(s)

by Chinedu Vincent Akuta

The Abdulmutallab (Flight 253 Jet Bomber) effects and President Yar’Adua’s sickness have the tendency to dominate discussion(s) among Nigerians. This is due to the negative consequences (criminalization of Nigerians etc) Mutallab has caused for innocent Nigerians. In the case of Yar’Adua, his sickness has caused serious political tension and near constitutional crisis. It is because of the above and many more that Nigerians marched under freezing cold to protest on the streets of London on January 15th. For our folks back home, the cold here in like living inside deep freezer. This is no longer global warming, it is global warning.

On the Save Nigeria Protest March; I wish to make a special appeal to Obama (United States President) to reconsider and remove Nigeria from the list of axis of fourteen evil nations. Rather what the United States authorities need to do is to search and scrutinize every dollar coming from Nigeria either through the passengers or through the banks. President Obama should encourage the European Union to do same for every euros or pounds that comes from Nigeria. This will be the best outcome of the Mutallab incident.

Before proceeding, I want to comment on the statement (warning) from Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to some government officials etc. It appears the house (Federal Executive Council) is divided or crack has began to emerge on loyalty or otherwise of some Yar’Adua’s cabinet members. May be the Vice President has started to act as the president with full executive powers since our President is sick? If so, did he follow due process, if not? Then why not? Or the Vice President has decided to learn from Guinea experience, where their leader Moussa Dadis Camara has agreed to let the second in command led the country. Whichever, what we need is good governance in Nigeria.

However, let me remind Nigerians not to get too distracted by Farouk Abdulmutallab’s incident and President Yar’Adua’s sickness. Let us keep one eye on the yearly budgets which various states in Nigeria are announcing. Ebonyi State announced a budget proposal of N72.6 billion; Ogun State announced a budget of N100.7 billion. Kano proposed N110bn for their budget, Kaduna proposed N196.7bn for 2010 budget, Yobe planned N62.42b for 2010 budget, and Anambra proposed N67 billion for 2010 budget. Proper implementation of all these budgets can actually have positive impact on our economy.

We need to police these budgets so as to trap all the money within the system. Moreover, the revelation by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) should be a recipe for policing our budgets. FAAC reveled that, a total of N4.174 trillion was taken from Federation Account in 2009 and shared amongst the three tiers of government (Federal, state, and local) as allocations. FAAC also revealed that a total of $5.5 billion was withdrawn from the foreign excess crude account in the same year and shared by the three tiers of government. If there are no leakages in the system, the amounts budgeted by various state governments and the federal government can stimulate the economy. We can try our best to block leakages in our system.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian banks, bankers, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigerian Customs, and Nigerians will need to work in harmony to achieve this. We will also need the assistance of our foreign partners. The Central Bank should monitor the operations of the commercial banks very well. I will suggest That Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should post at least 2 staffs each at the foreign remittance department of every commercial bank in Nigeria. Their duties amongst others should be to verify every remittances leaving Nigeria.

I will also recommend that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission post at least one staff to all finance and treasury departments of all federal, state and local government departments. I will suggest that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), State Security Services (SSS), and The Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to create a covert unit mainly to infiltrate all financial institutions in Nigeria to prevent financial crimes. Proactive measures should be encouraged rather than reactive approaches. Let us remember that prevention is better than cure. Furthermore, I will suggest intense pressure on our law makers to pass the freedom of information bill this year (2010). It will aid the law enforcement agents to do their work and it will empower Nigerians to ask questions about government transactions. It will abolish the official secret act used to commit all sorts of government frauds.

Nigerian banks and bankers have a serious role to play to prevent capital flight. They are in a better position to assist in monitoring movement of states monthly allocations and by extension monitor our budgets. However the recent revelations about activities of some top bank executives (Mrs Ibru, Akingbola etc) does not encourage anyone to even entrust his money with these smart men and women who call themselves bankers. On this note, I will support Sanusi (Central Bank Governor) to introduce tough measures to regulate the banks and restore investors’ confidence.

I also want to ask the bankers (both junior and senior staffs) not to hesitate to alert the authorities whenever there is a suspicious movement of funds. I know it sounds odd or unethical, but that might be a saving grace. I will buttress my point using 2 examples. Recently a total of over 7,000 staffs were, sacked, retrenched, removed or dropped from various banks. But if some of these sacked bankers had alerted the authorities (EFCC, etc) as their bosses were misusing funds, may be things might have taken a different shape. When you keep quiet, be sure to be the next victim. Another example is, had the passengers on the same flight with our own under wear bomber (Farouk Mutallab) not prevented him; all of them would have died.

Henceforth, we should all shine our eyes and not let few people remove food from our table or cause us hardship. It will not be a bad idea if our bankers can volunteer useful information to our authorities. It will be better for the economy and our country if banks can sack one or two people for alerting the authorities than sacking over 7,000 staffs who kept quiet. I just hope we still have patriotic bankers.

The Nigerian Customs need to be awake to their responsibilities, especially with the Farouk incident. I hope the new airport scanners to be introduced should be able to spot those taking the government money overseas. Nigerians need to keep an eye on the Customs. We need to beam our search light on them to be sure they are effectively policing our borders. I also believe there will be patriotic Custom officers who will discharge their duties without fear or favour. Every little thing we do count for or against us as a people.

My concern is for the Nigerian system to trap all the money budgeted this year. My call to police our budget(s) is because our politicians can be clever with our money. Watch it, each time the monthly allocation comes, money/capital starts to fly up and down, in and out of the country and naira will start changing into euros, dollars, pounds, rand, etc.

Nigerians should not hesitate to volunteer information that will prevent capital flights. This is for the interest of the economy and our people. We can gather intelligence or become intelligent agents. There is nothing wrong to spy or do enhanced surveillance.

Finally, let me use this medium to commiserate with the people of Haiti and Nigerians living there over the devastating earthquake. Please let us contribute our quota towards the relief efforts to assist the people of Haiti. The world has become a global village, what happens in one part, affects the rest of the global village. I wish also to appeal to Nigerians to participate and join the fight against global warming. Turn off your electrical appliances/lights when not in use. Plant a tree or sponsor one to p

lant on your behalf. Government and companies should send less paper work and do more email, telephone, and sms. May God bless Nigeria.

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