Friday, August 21, 2015 10:35 am
Yahaya Bello, a transporter and former staff of Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, is one of the aspirants for the gubernatorial ticket of All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview with AYORINDE OLUOKUN, he spoke about his ambition as well as the problems of revenue generation and sharing in Nigeria.
Q: There are already fears that the Buhari administration may find it difficult meeting the expectations of the people because of the situation of the economy. As somebody who has worked in RMFAC, what is your advice to the President?
A: I will plead with Nigerians to be patient and allow the President to settle down. He is much aware of the problems. I will first of all advise him to block all the loopholes, the leakages and the wastages in the economy as much as possible. He should have a very lean cabinet, appoints more technocrats, then the resources we are having now, let’s look how we can maximize it. We have enough mineral resources, various ways we can generate revenue, let’s look inwards. From my experience in Revenue Mobilisation- remember, we don’t just share revenue, but we also determine the indices and formular for sharing as well as advising government from time to time of the economic realities. So, putting this into consideration, over a period of time, we discover that we are not tapping up to 10 per cent of the resources we have in this country. We must deemphasize the attention we are paying to oil and look towards agriculture and solid minerals. We must look into tourism seriously. We must be sure that there is security in the country and once we are able to tackle the problems of security, foreign investors will come in, jobs will be created- these people will pay tax and there will be enough funds to run the government.
Based on your experience in RMFAC, what is your reactions to the allegations that most of the revenue agencies are not living up to expectations and are even holding back much of the revenue they generated without remitting them to the Consolidated Revenue Fund?
Let me first take it from the angle of the various revenue generating agencies. First, NNPC, the corruption and wastages going on in that corporation is of monumental proportion. That has to be checked. Two, let me take Customs- our sea and airports where goods comes and leaves the country can be done in such a way that it can be monitored electronically and with effective management, no single revenue will be lost. FIRS is also not maximizing its potentials. There are many companies in Nigeria that are not paying taxes. Buhari must also look into that.
What is your opinion on the delay in the amendment of the revenue sharing formular?
When you talk of the various tiers of government and the revenues they take, let me put it this way: today, you can have one naira, but how do you share the N1? Because somebody that has N1 can use it even more judiciously that somebody that has N10. As it is today, the Federal Government is taking the chunk of the money because it has more responsibilities. If there is true of true fiscal federalism and the responsibilities of the Federal Government are reduced proportionally, the revenue going to the Federal government will be reduced. But if reverse is the case, then you can do very little. Then, even the revenue accruing to states and local governments now, how well are they using it? Monumental corruption is going on there and by the time it is checked, you will discover that even the meager resources going to them will be used judiciously for the development of the State. Local government funds are disbursed from the federation accounts and its goes into state/local government joint account – this is an account where local government funds are expected to reside. Then, States are expected to add their own 10 per cent development funds to it, and then shared proportionally to the local governments. But you will discover that there will be so many illegal deductions from the joint account and whatever is now left is given to the local governments. But there is a serious abuse of that account. So, to check it, I would recommend that every local government funds should independently go to the local governments from the federation account. This will give the Local Governments financial autonomy, but the States should have power to supervise how they utilize the funds. Sometimes, around 2002/2003, there was this policy of Revenue Mobilisation of supervising and monitoring states/ local governments joint accounts. But the Supreme Court stop it that the federal government cannot be interfering in it. But within that period, there was little sanity. So, I will suggest that the federal government should come out with a legislation whereby certain agencies of federal government will have the powers of monitoring the operations of the joint accounts.
As an aspirant for the Kogi State governorship election, will you implement this if you are elected?
Let me tell you that it is not all cases and not in all states that there is abuse of the joint account. It depends on the leadership- that is who is the governor of the State. In Kogi State, it has been abused over a period of time and it is part of the reasons why we have been so underdeveloped. I am seeking to be governor of the State in order that things will work well. One, we would ensure that local government funds go straight to them. We would monitor all the projects that are being carried out or are supposed to be carried out in all the local governments. We would ensure that they render monthly accounts and those accounts will be published, just like I will do at the State level.
The RMFAC is trying to cut the allowances it stipulated for political office holders. What would be your advice in this regard?
First of all, I will tell you that what Revenue Mobilisation recommended for political office holders is far less than what they are taking home now after they have build several other allowances that was never recommended. Secondly, even what we recommended at the Commission was the economic reality at that time, but the economic reality now cannot support it. The reality is that the revenue coming to government purse now is dwindling. So, currently, we must run a lean government and every salary and allowances of political office holders must drop as well by at least, not less than 40 per cent.
You are a young man at just about 40 years. Why do you want to govern Kogi State?
We felt that change must happen now. I have friends across the state- from the Igalas, Okuns and so on and we sat and in the 2015 general elections, we said for us to be able to support Buhari effectively; we must have a pressure group and that is how we came about the issue of Kogi Youths Arise Group. Kogi Youths Arise Group supported General Buhari and, today we have him today as the President. Change has come to Nigeria. Meanwhile, our own state deserves this change even more than the nation. So, among us after a lot of considerations, I was asked to champion this cause of rescuing our state, hence the need for me to retire from the Service and then jump into the murky waters of politics to rescue our state. Looking then at our state, Kogi with its vast mineral resources, with its very good and sound human resources, with every enabling environment, but now in a sorry state, we believe we can put our creativity, our knowledge, the energy in us together and rescue the state. That’s why we are in this politics.
But how strong are you because 27 other aspirants are contesting for the ticket?
I am very strong. Why I am very strong is that because, one, I belong to the masses. I belong to the youths. I and my people belonged to the disadvantaged. The youths, the disadvantaged, the masses are in the majority and they desire change and what we are jostling for is change and if you compare myself and the others seeking for this position, you will discover that some have either served in government before either as chief executives or aides of chief executives. The question is ‘how have they added value in that period?’ Then, you look into my records as a civil servant, a creative man who has been able to rise up from grass to grace, who has been able to turn around the little coins he has and has been able to invest and multitude of my people are benefitting from it. So, putting this and other into considerations, I know and I am very confident that the people of the East, of the West and of the Central will deem it fit to elect me as governor.
The fact that the governors of Kogi have been coming from a section of the State, Kogi East, does not scare you?
That is even an encouragement for me. Let the people look at how better they are today with these people that have ruled from that section of the state. They are even worse off. And I know that they are the ones even agitating for power to leave their own side because they have seen it happen in other places. That is one. Then, these other sections of the State- Central and West have been agitating for this power shift as well and I happen to come from the Central and that is a big advantage for me. If you look at the youths which constitute more than 50 per cent of the population- the jobless and remember, I recruited many of them to my transport outfit and they were employed and they know that by the time I become the governor of the state, there will be jobs, the state will be turned around and they will be better for it. They are the ones that are more pressed that I should come on board to govern them.