THE Federal Government has assured that it would guard against the stealing of funds recovered from looters.
Speaking on Sunday at the end of the 2017 Spring Meetings of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, said the funds would be channeled into funding the 2017 budget.
The minister, who did not give the amount so far recovered, said the government, had opened an account where the recovered funds would be kept to guard against the money being stolen again.
She said, “We have a recovery account where all the recovered money goes, which we reconcile. In the budget, there is a provision that recovered funds would be used to fund some specific projects. Any excess recovery that we have, we have to take a decision on. So far, we have not recovered up to the amount we thought we would recover. What we are trying to do is to make sure that the recovered funds are not misappropriated.
“What we have discovered is that many agencies have recovered funds and we must keep an eye on those recoveries, otherwise there is a risk of re-looting of the funds.
“What happens is that all the agencies that recover are meant to send us a report every month about how much was recovered and the account in which the recovered fund is kept. We have to make sure that the cash recovered goes into the bank because some agencies will be saying the cash is evidence but we say no the cash is money that the government has to use.”
The minister said one of the major issues discussed at the meetings was the issue of raising revenue through taxation.
She said, “Domestic revenue mobilization is critical to the nation’s development,” adding that the country had just 6 per cent tax to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is one of the lowest in the world.
According to her, “Ghana has 15 per cent, South Africa has 30 per cent, most advanced countries have between 30 and 35 per cent.”
She added that the bulk of the 6 per cent tax revenue generated by the country came from petroleum tax “If price of oil goes up, we collect more PPT, if it goes down we collect less. This makes us more vulnerable. The solution is broader taxes that are reflective of entire economy. We have got to deal with the issue of tax. People just have to pay taxes. Societies where people pay taxes are the ones that develop. If everybody pays a little the money is enough to do a lot. The problem is tax evasion and government has to stop that.”
She, however, said the government would not increase taxes or introduce new ones but would work hard to bring every eligible person into the tax net.
“We will make sure it is very difficult to evade tax. We have already started that by gathering data because to tax people you must know how much they have. If you don’t know how much they have, taxing them would be a guess work.
She added that the government would ensure that everyone that had a claim with the government showed evidence of tax payment. “Everything we are doing is driving people into the tax net. That is what happens in every country. Nobody pays tax because they want to; people pay tax because they have to. We will make it much difficult for people to evade taxes. At every point of government, we will be picking up data that we will use to compel tax payment. If you buy a business class ticket, we will find out if you are paying tax. You come to government for a payment, we will find out if you are paying tax. You want something from the government, we will find out if you pay tax. That is how we are going to get better payment.
“We also are hopeful that we will get the support of developed countries in our fight against tax evasion. There is going to be better cooperation from developed countries because a lot of money has left Nigeria. There is a focus on sharing data with advanced countries so that they can help us. We have an understanding with the British government to get the list of every Nigerian that owns a property in the United Kingdom. With that we will able to see how much those with properties abroad are paying as taxes to Nigeria.
“We will name and shame those who do not pay taxes. We only have about 13million tax payers in Nigeria, most of them are PAYE. Many people evade tax in Nigeria and it is really the wealthy that evade tax. We are going to be more aggressive in tax collection, not because we want to witch hunt anybody but because we have to collect the taxes. It is the job of the government to redistribute income.”
The minister also spoke of the readiness of multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and others to collaborate with Nigeria to address the electricity challenge in the country.
“If there is one thing that will really drive growth in Nigeria it is power because the number of jobs it will create, the number of opportunities and wealth that could be created is unimaginable. So, getting power right is not negotiable. The World Bank has said they are going to support us. AfDB, IFC and other have also pledged to support us because they say they like our Power Sector Recovery Plan.
“These multilateral agencies have looked at the plan and they like it. We all agree that it is a big problem which will take some time to solve. But there are milestones of what we expect to see. The multilateral agencies have pledged their support financially but those investments are tied to certain results. They were optimistic that if we implement our plan, we will make progress.”
The minister also added that in the course of the meetings the issue of housing was discussed.
She said, “The World Bank has agreed to work with us on the Family Home project. Affordable housing for us is a tool to fight corruption. If someone works for 35 years and cannot own a home, the system is indirectly promoting corruption. So, we need to have a system like most other countries, whereby you put down 10 per cent and every month you pay a part and by the time you retire you own your home. We need the mortgage market to be redirected. We have come up with the private home fund which will be backed up by the private sector to build houses which would be given to our people and be given to people who pay a deposit and are willing to pay back the balance over a period. We are probably one of the only countries that do not have proper mortgage plans.”