Recent directive from President Muhammadu Buhari that all revenue generating agencies such as the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), and several others, must pay all their revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) is indeed a step in the right direction.
Under the new directive, these agencies would henceforth be required to submit budgets for appropriation to meet their annual expenditure needs after their revenue had been remitted to the said account. This implies that the usual practice where these aforementioned agencies would first of all expend funds before remitting whatever is left the Federation Account would no long be tenable. Moreover, this development would invariably scrap the existence of the Excess Crude Account (ECA), which had generated a lot of controversy, especially between the Federal and the state governments over the sharing of the funds therein.
There is no doubt that Buhari’s directive is a step towards his resolve to plug leakages in the system and is in compliance with the relevant sections of the constitution which has been violated over time by successive administrations. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria established and recognises only the Federation Account into which shall be paid all revenues collected by the Government of the Federation, with a few exceptions not relevant to the case in hand. The exceptions include (a) Proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the armed forces of the Federation; (b) The Nigeria Police Force; (c) The Ministry or department of government charged with responsibility for Foreign Affairs; and (d) The residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The truth is that the uncoordinated manner with which Federal Government revenue is being collected and domiciled in different accounts even as funds are withdrawn from these accounts indiscriminately without due process, encourages corruption and leakages in the system. As a matter of fact, the NNPC and other revenue collecting agencies are not supposed to spend government funds that they have collected under any guise and then remit the balance to the CRF. This has overtime encouraged these agencies to overshoot their budgets without proper appropriation and accountability. Earlier this year, the media went viral on an alleged $20 billion missing from the coffers of the NNPC which is yet to be unraveled. This is why this Newspaper applauds the President’s seeming demonstration of his political will to sanitise the system and curtail the level of irregularities in the management of the nation’s funds. Besides, this directive would ensure and engender a clearer assessment of what is being generated in the country.
But beyond this, it is important to stress that the states and Local Government Councils must stop being mere geographical locations and put measures in place to stop going cap in hand everytime to the federal government for assistance whenever they are in trouble. They must begin to jettison this seeming money sharing mentality with the centre and harness other ways of generating revenue for development of their respective states and councils.