Desmond Mgboh, Kano
The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II, has cautioned the Federal Government against the regime of subsidy on petroleum products and electricity tariffs, saying the country is already heading to bankruptcy.
The monarch lamented that successive governments in the country had implemented the policy on petroleum subsidy, insisting that now was the right time to discontinue it to save the nation’s economy.
The former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), spoke in Kano at a National Treasury Workshop organised by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF).
His words: “The country is bankrupt and we are heading to bankruptcy. What happened is that the Federal Government pays petroleum subsidy, pays electricity tariff subsidy, and if there is rise in interest rates, the Federal Government pays.
“What is more life threatening than subsidy that we have to sacrifice education, health sector and infrastructure to have cheap petroleum? If truly President Buhari is fighting poverty, he should remove the risk on the national financial sector and stop the subsidy regime, which is fraudulent.”
According to him, “since I have decided to come here, you have to accept what I have said here. And please, if you do not want to hear the truth, never invite me. So let us talk about the state of public finance in Nigeria. We have a number of difficult decisions we must make, and we should face the reality.
“His Excellency, the President, said in his inaugural speech that his government would like to lift 100 million people out of poverty. It was a speech that was well received not only in this country, but worldwide.
“The number of people living in poverty in Nigeria is frightening. By 2050, 85 per cent of those living in extreme poverty in the world will be from the Africa continent. And Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo will take the lead.
“Two days ago, I read that the percentage of government revenue going to debt servicing has risen to 70 per cent. These numbers are not lying. They are public numbers. I read them in the newspapers. When you are spending 70 per cent of your revenue on debt servicing, then you are managing 30 per cent.
“And then, you continue subsidising petroleum products; and spending N1.5 trillion per annum on petroleum subsidy. And then we are subsidising electricity tariff. And maybe, you have to borrow from the capital market or CBN to service the shortfall in electricity tariff. Where is the money to pay salaries? Where is the money for education? Where are other government projects?”
Speaking during the workshop, the AGF, Ahmed Idris, noted that “the overall objective of the workshop was to promote accountability and transparency in all facets of the nation’s public finance management architecture.
“It is expected that participants should appreciate that accountability and transparency remain major watchwords for prudent financial management practices and are therefore, major prerequisite for economic growth and development.” He said