- Holds emergency FEC meeting tomorrow over 2019 budget
Ndubuisi Francis and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has disclosed that the federal government is looking to grow the tax revenue base in the coming years by N900 billion from offshore assets through the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS).
The minister revealed this in Abuja at the third annual conference on financial fraud, electoral fraud and cross-border crime organised by Forensic Insight and the Nigeria Police Force.
Malami, who was represented by the Special Assistant to the President on Financial Crimes, Mr. Abiodun Aikomo, said, “It is also expected that the VOARS will earn significant revenue for the federal government of Nigeria estimated conservatively at 2.5 billion Swiss Francs (approximately over N900 billion), and yield a new expanded tax base from which FGN will earn future tax revenue.”
Although he noted that the federal government was worried by the criticisms that trailed some of its anti-corruption and asset recovery policies, he insisted that most of the backlash was driven by selfish motive.
Speaking particularly on attacks that greeted the issuance of the Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 on the Preservation of Assets Connected with Corruption, Malami said since its issuance in July 2018, the Order had been greeted by series of litigations challenging its constitutionality.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on July 5, 2018, signed Executive Order No.6 directing relevant enforcement agencies to ensure that persons undergoing corruption trial do not have access to their properties suspected to be proceeds of corruption.
With the Order, such assets valued at N50 million and above (subject to investigation or litigation) are protected from dissipation by employing all available lawful or statutory means including appropriate orders of court, pending the final determination of any corruption-related matter.
The minister lamented that the Executive Order 6 has come under serious criticisms even by ordinary Nigerians whose interest the policy seeks to protect, adding that contrary to assumption by critics, the Executive Order No. 6 has the legal backing of the law.
He explained that the Order became necessary to ensure fairness in prosecuting financial fraud cases, stressing: “There are several laws in Nigeria which permit the seizure and forfeiture of assets either temporarily or conclusively depending on the court ruling, unfortunately we observe that these laws have not been effectively implemented.
“The implication is that fraud suspects with huge financial war chest and our level of development coupled with the way the court system works around here, you are almost certain that nothing will come out of it because with limitless access to such funds, the suspects are able to influence the process.”
Despite the challenges, the AGF said the present administration was committed to the recovery of looted funds for the benefit of Nigerians.
Already, he said government has recovered N13.8 billion from tax evaders under its Whistle blowing programme, and another N7.8 billion, US$378 million and £27,800 in recoveries from public officials.
In his remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of Forensic Insight, Mr. Awotunji Aworinde, said the three-day conference will among others, seek to analyse and evaluate anti-corruption measures of the Nigerian government, including the National Anti-Corruption Strategy document and their effectiveness in preventing corruption and corrupt practices.
FG to Hold Special FEC Friday
Meanwhile, a special Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting has been slated to hold Friday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja where the federal government will fine tune the 2019 budget.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told State House correspondents after wednesday’s FEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that the special FEC meeting would look at the draft 2019 appropriation bill before transmitting it to the National Assembly for passage.
According to him, “On Friday, by 10:30a.m. there is going to be a special session of the Federal Executive Council. The intention is to look at the budget, get the proposals approved by the FEC and then it would be transmitted to the National Assembly. That happens on Friday by 10a.m.”
Also at the briefing were the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi; the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN); and the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung.
Fashola, who told journalists that his ministry has put in place comprehensive arrangement to ensure ease of movement during the ember months, said the FEC approved a variation of N1.6bn to facilitate the completion of the Osegudu- Oweto Road.
According to him, “We had only one memorandum and it was just a cost review memorandum really, to approve cost variations on Osegudu- Oweto Road. That road, as you might know, links the Loko-Oweto Road, which is now substantially completed. The Usegudu-Oweto Road links the road to that bridge on the Benue side that helps connect Nasarawa from the Loko side to Benue.”
He said the initial cost of the bridge was about N7.9billion and that with the variation of N1.6billion, it took it to N9.5bilion.
On the level of preparedness for the end of the year, he said, “FERMA is doing its level best. They are part of our end of year team. For us in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, end of year means so many things; it means heavy commuter activities, it means heavy cargo, also, in the ministry of my colleague, Transport and Aviation, passenger movement, goods, so, it is a pressure cooker time. Many people trying to share limited resources.”
On his part, Amaechi said arrangement were on the ground to ensure that cargoes are no longer transported in trucks and heavy duty vehicles along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as a way to preserve it when completed.
“We believe that by next year, we will begin to encourage those who transport by trucks between Lagos and Ibadan to use the rail. We believe that before the end of June, we will start running. But, we may not be able to carry enough cargo; we will be able to do that by June or July,” Amaechi said.
He also said the FEC approved contract for the building of a freight office in Jibia, a border town between Katsina State and Niger Republic.
He said, “We awarded the national freight office in Jibia for the sum of N551,810,060 million and the contract is to last to 36 weeks. You know that the national freight office is usually located at border post, so, the border-post between Katsina and Niger Republic is where it is located.”
Dalung said preparations are in top gear for the 19th edition of the National Sports Festival scheduled to commence on December 6 in Abuja.