From Uche Usim, Abuja
For better management, accountability and probity, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), yesterday, called on the Federal Government to immediately transfer the $95 million currently in the Stabilisation Fund and the $2.3 billion in the Excess Crude Account (totalling $2.395 billion) into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) domiciled with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), as investment savings.
It also renewed its advice to the government to ensure constant savings whether oil prices were high or low in order to fortify the country to withstand unforseen adverse economic climate in future.
NEITI’s Executive Secretary, Waziri Adio gave the advice in Abuja in an occasional paper titled ‘‘the case for a robust oil savings fund for Nigeria”, adding that its position was informed by the transparency rating of the NSIA by the global Sovereign Wealth Institute. Adio who was represented by the director of Communications, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya.
Orji said NSIA had scored 9 out of 10 on the Sovereign Wealth Institute’s transparency index, the highest score by any African Sovereign Wealth Fund.
According to him, the government needs to delink its expenditure (budget) from oil revenues and pursue prudent macro-economic policies capable of shifting attention to the non-oil sectors in like with global trends.
The NEITI boss also urged the federal and state governments to speedily resolve the litigation on remittances before the Supreme Court to ensure that transfers are made into the fund without further hiccups.
Adio underlined the need for regular payouts from the investments proceeds, as stipulated in the NSIA Act, to compensate beneficiaries especially the three tiers of government for their sacrifice in saving for the rainy day.
The NEITI boss noted that while the NSIA made N192billion return on its investments, the Excess Crude Account and the 0.5% Stablisation Fund recorded zero returns on investment.
He expressed concerns that unlike the SWF, the Excess Crude Account and the Stabilisation Funds have suffered all kinds of abuses over the years thus undermining the objectives for which they were set up.
“The NEITI Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement Audit report released in 2013 had revealed that while N109.7 billion was transferred into the Excess Crude Account for the period 2007 to 2011, the sum of N152.4 billion was withdrawn from the account. As at May 31, 2017, the account had an outstanding sum of N29.02 billion”.