Senior Partner OAL and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba has reiterated the urgent need for the federal government to embrace fiscal responsibility by reducing its cost of governance.
He also advised the government to sell off some of its assets that have not been generated revenue for the country.
Agbakoba, gave the advice at a forum organised by the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) in Lagos, recently, where he deliberated on the 2021 Appropriation Bill and the economy.
He argued that the federal government had continuously intervened in businesses it shouldn’t, saying that by privatising most of its dwindling assets, over N30 trillion could be raised to fund essential infrastructure, thereby reducing governments borrowing to fund its budget.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria explained: “It is one of the principles of fiscal responsibility for the government to say, ‘we are shrinking out of business.’ Look at the four refineries, they are just there doing nothing when they can be sold. “Just as a result of the pressure government is feeling it suddenly have put up Afam power station, Omotosho power station and it is going to bring about N500 billion.
“So, you can just see if they think deeper, Ajaokuta for instance, government is still borrowing to put money into Ajaokuta, whereas all they need do is to sell it and the number of businesses that government has across Nigeria can fetch it about N20 trillion to N30 trillion. The government is not in the business of doing business.”
Furthermore, he said at the country’s present debt level which has remained on an upward trajectory, it was pertinent to implement the Oransanye report urgently.
He added: “The government needs to examine its revenue and if the government is now spending N80 out of every N100 for loan, that means the government only has N20 for the public service, health education and all of us. Government has to have a massive fiscal expansion intervention in the economy. It has to look for the money, if it looks for it, it will find it if they shrink.”
“There are some government agencies such as the Ministry of Information which has no place in government. The president has three advisers on media, so it has enough hands. So, you can see the waste in the country? So, the government needs to implement the Oransanye report so it can shrink the workforce and when the workforce is shrunk then the vital statistics can begin to be relevant. The first thing is that there will be money to put into the appropriate sectors.”
He further added: “The problem with politics is that it beclouds economic judgment so I don’t know how far our political leaders are focusing on our economy. I see a distraction and that distraction might be very costly. Nigeria is like a cracked building and the problem with fixing a cracked building is that you are not quite sure what to do.
“On the economic side, the problem I have with Nigeria is that the government has not defined its economic ideology and it is very important that you do that. What is Nigeria’s economic ideology, which is part of the question that the artists will have to answer?”