Our economy is still oil-dependent and that is why some of us are saying look, let us build our economy beyond oil. Of course, we know that we have started building Delta State beyond oil. We are almost getting there, at least, with our Internally Generated Revenue, we can pay our salaries. That is our charter; grow beyond oil whether the FAAC is coming or not, we should be able to pay salaries based on our IGR.
Because most states depend on this allocation to be able to pay salaries — don’t forget that even the Federal Government is an arm in this revenue sharing issue — they all have challenges of paying salaries. I am not sure the Federal Government has paid salaries for this month (September) now, because no sharing has been done. Many states have been unable to pay salaries because for the past three months, what is being given to them is not enough. That is where the challenge of paying salaries is coming from as far as the states are concerned.
The Governor Rotimi-led Nigerian Governors’ Forum recently asked that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, should resign. Do you share this opinion?
Yes, there was a call by some of my colleagues for the resignation of the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, if she cannot implement the Appropriation Act and manage the economy. I was very careful in listening to and reading the communiqué. If you read the communiqué, it talked about projection and what projection simply means is that you are not sure of what is on the ground. What that means is that you are making an estimate and your projection may be correct or wrong. What has happened is that, I think the Federal Government is saying that our projection, although is an Act, is not quite adding up and so we cannot run it exactly the way it has been projected.
Again, the budget is a statement of intention and there are two parts of a budget. You have the revenue and the expenditure. We are talking about expenditure and that expenditure includes giving some money to the states. As regards the position today, the Federation Account Allocation Committee meeting, especially for this month is suspended indefinitely. At least no meeting has been fixed. Why and what is the problem? The problem is that there is not enough money available on the table to be shared.
Will it be right to say that the NNPC and not the Minister of Finance should be held liable for this problem?
I think the pressure should be on the agencies that are collecting money on behalf of the federating states; the NNPC being one of them that is collecting revenue. Of course, we have others like the Federal Inland Revenue Services, the customs and the rest. So, Nigerians should be asking that these monies that are being collected by these various organs, where are they? They should speak out. Pressure should be put on the right quarters so that we don’t unnecessarily sacrifice the very wrong person.
The Amaechi-led NGF also suggested that the nation’s economy should be managed by National Economic Council and not the Economic Management Team. What is your take on this?
There is no doubt that everyone has a role to play in the management of the economy. The Economic Management Team that was put in place by our President as of today has some of the best and brightest Nigerians in terms of economic activities. The Dangotes, the Otudekos and the Jim Ovias of this world, among others. I mean, you can’t fault those people in terms of their pedigrees. I think the President has been wise enough to put those people together, mainly as an advisory body. I don’t see why we should have issues with them.
The National Economic Council is still meeting regularly; that is where you have the Vice-President and the governors, who are coming out with economic policies. So, I am not sure it is correct to say that the Economic Management Team is the issue with the Nigerian economy.