The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has warned that the continued menace of crude oil theft and the falling global oil prices are diminishing the amount, which could be saved in the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
Nigeria’s 2013 budget was benchmarked on $79 per barrel.
Okonjo-Iweala said this in Abuja during a visit to the headquarters of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), where she met members of staff and management of the agency on the need for a renewed revenue drive.
Okonjo-Iweala said the development had necessitated the need for revenue generating agencies to step up their revenue drive.
Established in 2004, the ECA is used to save oil revenues above a defined benchmark price and is meant to insulate the Nigerian economy from external shocks resulting from volatile crude oil prices which could alter implementation of planned budgets.
But funds are repeatedly withdrawn from the ECA by the federal and state governments. The ECA stood at $9.6 billion in December 2012 but had reduced to about $5.8 billion as it was mainly to shore up shortfalls from monthly statutory revenues.
The minister also said the lingering controversy over the appointment of a substantive chairman for the agency would soon be laid to rest, saying that President Goodluck Jonathan was working on a list of possible successor of its former chairman, Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru.
The minister said: “We have a list of possible people. But he (Mr. President) also has to work with the National Assembly. He is working on it. The decision is now in his hands and I will come back to you when it is time. I just want to share this with you openly.”
She noted that the president was keen on filling senior positions in government, while also observing balance and excellence. According to her, that was a clear reason why the positions had been advertised, using Phillip Consulting for the recruitment exercise.
Meanwhile, the minister also commended FIRS for its immense improvement in tax collections in recent times.
She said: “The first thing that I want to say to you is that I’m really proud of the institution. And I want you to be better. You’ve done a great job bearing in mind where we were in 2003. You’ve done a great job up until now in 2013.
“What you’ve done in terms of results and collections has been quite amazing… especially in terms of the way you’ve tripled collection across the various tax classes.”
Continuing, she said: “The message I’m here to give you is that the feedback we give to the president about you is very favourable. And he has a very good impression of the service. And that is why I don’t want this to slip.”
She commended the acting Chairman of FIRS, Alhaji Kabiru Mashi, for sustaining the legacy of his predecessor even in his acting capacity.