Uche Usim and Marcus Nkire, Abuja
Cheery news came the way of state governments on Thursday as the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, revealed that the Federal Government was warming up to disburse N649.434 billion being the outstanding balance of the Paris Club debts refund.
The Minister also disclosed that the country’s external reserve, as at May 13, 2019, stood at $44.69 billion as against $28.3 billion it was in 2015.
The Minister made the disclosures in Abuja at a press contference, said year-on-year inflation rates continued to improve from a high of 18.7 per cent in January 2017 to 11.37 per cent in April 2019.
On the Paris Club refund, she said; “For the final phase of the Paris Club debts refunds, the total sum of N649.434 billion was verified by the Ministry as the outstanding balance to be refunded to state governments.
“The payments made by the CBN as at March 2019, is N691.560 billion. The increase in CBN payments partly arose from exchange rate differential at the point of payment. Although, some States still have outstanding balances, which will be refunded in due course.” She said
Ahmed noted that through the implementation of policies in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which the current administration developed in 2017 led to the economy’s exit from recession and move upwards on the path of sustainable, inclusive and diversified growth.
She further argued that it was the resolve of her Ministry to address the long standing issue of “unsatisfactory revenue performance” in Nigeria, particularly in the non-oil sector, in order to ensure appropriate financing for critical sectors such as health, education, and infrastructure, and ultimately of co-creating a new Nigeria where no one is left behind.
The Minister said; “Our external reserves on the other hand, grew from $28.3 billion in 2015 to US $44.69 billion as of May 13, 2019 representing 3. 74 per cent improvement that has helped stabilise the economy, including our currency exchange rates. Our FX market remained relatively stable from 2017 with the convergence of the NIFEX and NAFEX windows witnessed by November 2018.
“Let me first underscore the vital role of domestic revenue mobilisation for continued economic success and inclusive growth in Nigeria. Indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari underscored the urgent need for improved revenue performance during his 2019 Budget Speech, when he directed the acceleration of all revenue initiatives.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday declared its whistle-blower policy netted N605 billion since it was launched on December 21, 2016.
It also announced that the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), saw the federation save up to N603.7 billion from 2016 till date. The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, who made the disclosures in Abuja at a press briefing, said PICA was already making rigorous preparations towards successfully implementing the new minimum wage and as such has invested massively in staff training and acquisition of adequate technological tools needed to achieve high productivity among public officers.
She stated that the present administration has shown commitment in implementing the whistleblower policy, as an anti-corruption programme launched in December 2016, to tackle cases of financial mismanagement or stolen funds by individuals or organisations.
According to her, the whistleblower policy was a huge success hence its retention as a key programme of the administration.
“The whistleblower policy of government subsists and it is still being implemented. The total amount of collection that has been made through various efforts in the whistleblower policy is about N605 billion,” she said.