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2023 Budget of Fiscal Consolidation and Transition [Full Text]

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I am very pleased to be here today to present the 2023 Budget Proposals at this Joint Session of the National Assembly. This is the last time I will be laying the budget of the Federal Government of Nigeria before the National Assembly.

2. Mr. President; Mr. Speaker: As I address this Joint Session on the Budget for the last time, let me highlight some of the progress that we have made in last seven and half years, in just two important areas of Critical Infrastructure and Good Governance.

3. We have made transformational investments in Infrastructure, notably:

a. Establishing the Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria (‘InfraCorp’), in 2021, seed capital of N1 trillion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (‘CBN’), the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (‘NSIA’) and the Africa Finance Corporation (‘AFC’);

b. Leveraging finance through the NSIA into the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (‘PIDF’) to facilitate the accelerated completion of the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Abuja-Kano Road;

c. Through the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme pursuant to Executive Order #7 of 2019, incentivised responsible companies to invest billions of Naira in constructing over 1,500km critical roads in key economic corridors. Under this Scheme, the Dangote Group has substantially completed the Reconstruction of 34km Apapa-Oworonshoki-Ojota Expressway and the 43km Obajana-Kabba Road. Similarly, Nigeria LNG Limited is on track to complete the 38km Bodo-Bonny Road and Bridges Project by the end of 2023;

d. Under our Sukuk Bonds scheme, since 2017, over N600 billion has been raised and invested in 941km for over 40 critical road projects nationwide, complement the Ministry of Works and Housing’s Highway Development and Management Initiative and other interventions;

e. Investing significantly to restore our national railways, completing and commissioning the 156km Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail (and its 8.72km extension to Lagos Port); the 186km Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge Rail; and 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail. These completed projects complement our ongoing investments in Light Rail, Narrow and Standard Gauge Rail, Ancillary Facilities Yards, Wagon Assembly Plants, E-Ticketing infrastructure as well as the training and development of our rail engineers and other workers;

f. We have completed New Airport Terminals at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, and reconstructed the Abuja Airport Runway in its first overhaul since its construction in the early 1980s.

g. Other investments in airports safety facilities, aeronautical meteorological services delivery complement ongoing development of seaports and ancillary infrastructure at the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Bonny Deep Sea Port, Onitsha River Port, as well as the Kaduna, Kano and Katsina Inland Dry Ports to create a truly multimodal transport system;

h. We have transformed Nigeria’s challenging power sector, through bespoke interventions such as the Siemens Power Program, with the German government under which over 2 billion US Dollars will be invested in the Transmission Grid.

i. We have leveraged over billions of US dollars in concessional and other funds from our partners at the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, African Development Bank, JICA as well as through the Central Bank of Nigeria, working with the Finance Ministry, to support the power sector reforms.

j. The Central Bank has also been impactful in its interventions to roll out over a million meters to on-grid consumers, creating much needed jobs in assembly and installation. Our financing interventions have recently been complemented with the takeover of four electricity distribution companies and the constitution of the Board of the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company.

k. On the generation side, we have made significant investments in and incremental 4,000MW of power generating assets, including Zungeru Hydro, Kashimbila Hydro, Afam III Fast Power, Kudenda Kaduna Power Plant, the Okpai Phase 2 Plant, the Dangote Refinery Power Plant, and others.

l. Our generation efforts are making the transition from a reliance on oil and diesel, to gas as a transitional fuel, as well as environmentally friendly solar and hydro sources. Under the Energising Education Programme, we have commissioned solar and gas power solutions at Federal Universities and Teaching Hospitals at Kano, Ebonyi, Bauchi and Delta States. Similarly, our Energising Economies Programme have taken clean, sustainable power solutions to the Sabon-Gari Market in Kano, Ariaria Market in Aba, and Sura Shopping Complex in Lagos.

4. In terms of Good Governance, one significant challenge this Administration met at our inception was the inability of successive Governments to institutionalise reforms to ensure their sustainability. We inherited an archaic set of corporate, banking and capital markets laws; draft but unenacted Bills to reform the critical petroleum sector; an unimplemented Oronsaye White Paper to reform our civil service, amongst others.

5. I was therefore committed, at the onset of this Administration’s Good Governance and Fighting Corruption Reforms, to focus on the much-neglected area of law reform, to bequeath a better legacy to the succeeding Administration, than the one we met. Our innovative, encompassing and historically significant legislative interventions include:

a. Critical corporate and financial laws to enhance our countries’ global competitiveness, including the repeal and re-enactment of Companies and Allied Matters Act (‘CAMA’) 2020 – the first comprehensive reform since 1990; enacting the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) Bill, the first legislation in Nigeria’s history focused on curbing anti-competition practices; establishing the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission; re-pealing and re-enacting the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2020; enacting the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON (Amendment) Acts of 2019 and 2021; enacting the Credit Reporting Act (CRA) 2017 and Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act (STMAA) 2017, to mention our major legislative interventions;

b. Fundamental anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and financial intelligence laws, such as the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 (being the first comprehensive reform of Police legislation since the Police Act of 1943); the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Act 2017 (which resolved the longstanding impediments to Nigeria’s full participation in the global efforts to combat illicit financing of terrorism and crime under the auspices of the global Egmont Group); the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022; the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022, Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022; Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 2019; Nigerian Correctional Services Act, 2019; Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, 2019; amongst others.

c. Historic reforms to our Constitutional and other public laws, including the first ever amendments to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to support the engagement of young persons in our politics by passing Not Too Young to Run legislation, as well as to improve the funding and independence of States’ Legislatures and Judiciaries; enacting overdue reforms through the Electoral Act, 2022;

d. Finally enacting into law the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 after close to two decades of drafting, debates and delays – leading to the commercialization of NNPC Limited, and other much needed reforms to our energy sector. This important law also complements other landmark legislations such as the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, 1993 (Amendment) Act, 2019, to increase oil and gas revenues accruing to the Federation;

e. Enacting annual Finance Acts of 2019, 2020 and 2021 to support our annual Budgets and respond to emerging tax, fiscal and economic issues, including:

I. reducing headline corporate tax rates for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises;

II. reforming archaic tax legislation in line with global best practices to combat Base Erosion and Transfer Pricing;

III. reforming the taxation of securities lending and real estate investment trusts to spur increased investments on our capital markets;

IV. empowering the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigeria Customs Service to optimize their use of technology to more efficiently collect taxes and levies; and

V. increasing VAT revenues predominantly to support our States and Local Governments’ precious finances during and after the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the economy;

f. Furthermore, we have issued eleven Presidential Executive Orders on a range of important issues, including the Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment, 2017;

I. Promoting Local Procurement by Government Agencies, 2017;

II. the Submission of Annual Budgetary Estimates by all Statutory and non-Statutory Agencies, including Incorporated Companies wholly owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2017;

III. the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme, 2017;

IV. Planning and Execution of Projects, Promotion of Nigerian Content in Contracts, Science, Engineering and Technology, 2018;

V. the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme (VOARS), 2018;

VI. Open Defecation and enhanced sanitation, 2019;

VII. the innovative Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, 2019; and

VIII. the National Public Buildings Maintenance, 2022.

6. We could not have made these historical achievements without the exceptional partnership this Administration has had with the Leadership, and Members of the National Assembly. So may I pause here, to once again, thank the Senate and the House of Representatives for your engagement, support and contribution to these successes, which history will remember us all favourably for.

RECENT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS

7. The 2023 Budget was prepared amidst a very challenging world economy that is weakened by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, high inflation, high crude oil prices resulting in huge cost of PMS Subsidy and negative spill over effects of the Russia-Ukraine war.

8. Many economies around the world are currently contending with fiscal instability, slow growth, food crisis, and high interest rates. Like many other countries, our economy faces headwinds from low revenues, high inflation, exchange rate depreciation and insecurity.

9. However, Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product grew by 3.54 percent in the second quarter of 2022, marking the seventh consecutive quarter of growth. Our interventionist and reflationary measures have been very effective and impactful. We must however continue to work towards achieving much higher levels of growth, especially given our high population growth rate, so that the average Nigerian can truly feel the impact of planned economic growth.

10. Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, despite continuing efforts, unemployment, underemployment, and poverty rates remain high. We are currently implementing several skills development programmes and work opportunity programmes to enhance the employability of our youths and tackle the troubling level of youth unemployment.

11. While it is evident that our economy still faces significant challenges, what could have happened without the implementation of some of the measure we introduced, would have been much worse for the country.

REVIEW OF 2022 BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION

12. Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, the implementation of the 2022 ‘Budget of Economic Growth and Sustainability commenced on the first day of the year. It was, however, necessary to forward an amended budget proposal to address some exigent issues, especially the significant increase in fuel subsidy.

13. The amended 2022 Budget was based on a benchmark oil price of 73 US Dollars per barrel, oil production of 1.60 million barrels per day, and exchange rate of 410.15 Naira to US Dollar.

14. As at 31st July 2022, Federal Government’s retained revenues was 3.66 trillion Naira, excluding the revenue of Government-Owned Enterprises. Thus, revenue collection was only 63 percent of our target, largely due to the underperformance of oil and gas revenue sources.

15. Despite higher oil prices in 2022, oil revenue was below target due to significant oil production shortfalls and high petrol subsidy cost resulting from the significant rise in Crude prices which ultimately increased PMS prices worldwide.

16. Oil output stood at an average of 1.30 million barrels per day as at June 2022, while the sum of 1.59 trillion Naira was spent on fuel subsidy between January and June 2022. The NNPC, working in collaboration with security and other relevant agencies, is putting in place additional measures to curb the incidence of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft in order to meet our crude oil production quota.

17. On the expenditure side, the sum of 8.29 trillion Naira had been spent by July 31 2022 out of the total appropriation of N17.32 trillion. Despite our revenue challenges, we have consistently met our debt service commitments. Staff salaries and statutory transfers have also been paid as and when due.

18. Total non-debt recurrent expenditure in January to July 2002 was 3.24 trillion Naira, of which 2.87 trillion Naira was for Salaries, Pensions and Overheads. A total of 3.09 trillion Naira was spent on debt service obligations during the period.

19. Furthermore, about 1.48 trillion Naira had been released to MDAs for capital expenditure as at the end of July 2022. I am pleased to inform you that we expect to fund MDAs’ capital budget fully by the end of the fiscal year 2022.

20. To further address structural problems in the economy and drive growth, capital releases thus far have been prioritised in favour of critical ongoing projects in the power, roads, rail, agriculture, as well as health and education sectors.

21. As at the end of July 2022, the fiscal operations of the Federal Government resulted in an estimated budget deficit of 4.63 trillion Naira. This represents 63 percent of the estimated deficit for the full year. This is largely attributable to revenue shortfalls and higher debt service obligations resulting from rising debt levels and interest rates.

22. The deficit was mainly financed through domestic borrowing amounting to N4.12 trillion. Hence, total public debt stock increased from 39.6 trillion Naira as at the end of December 2021 to 42.8 trillion Naira as at the end of June, 2022.

23. However, our debt position remains within cautious and acceptable limits compared to peer countries. As at the end of June 2022, total public debt is within our self-imposed limit of 40 percent of GDP, which is significantly below the 55 percent international threshold for comparator countries, and a global average of 99 percent post-COVID-19.

24. Nonetheless, our debt-service-to-revenue ratio needs close attention. The current low revenue performance of government, as reflected in the lowly revenue-to-GDP ratio of just about 8 percent. Our medium-term objective remains to raise this ratio to 15 percent, at which the debt service to revenue ratio will cease to be a concern.

25. Mr. Senate President and Rt. Honourable Speaker, revenue shortfalls remain the greatest threat to Nigeria’s fiscal viability. We have therefore accelerated efforts towards ensuring that all taxable Nigerians declare income from all sources and pay taxes due to the appropriate authorities. We are also monitoring the internally generated revenues of MDAs to ensure they are appropriately accounted for and remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

26. The 50 percent cost-to-income ratio in the Finance Act 2020 has significantly improved operating surplus remittances by Government Owned Enterprises (GOEs). I therefore solicit the continuing cooperation of the National Assembly in enforcing the legal provision and other prudential guidelines imposed on the GOEs during the consideration of the budget proposals of the GOEs.

27. I am happy to report that the revenue collection and expenditure management reforms we are implementing are yielding positive results, with recent significant improvements in non-oil revenue performance. However, while we continue to implement revenue administration reforms and improve our collection efficiency, we urgently need to find new ways of generating revenue.

28. As we seek to grow our government revenues, we must also focus on the efficiency of utilization of our limited resources. Critical steps we are taking include immediate implementation of additional measures towards reducing the cost of governance and the discontinuation of fuel subsidy in 2023 as announced earlier. We are however mindful of the fact that reducing government spending too drastically can be socially destabilizing, and so will continue to implement programmes to support the more vulnerable segments of society.

29. Petrol subsidy has been a recurring and controversial public policy issue in our country since the early eighties. However, its current fiscal impact has clearly shown that the policy is unsustainable. As a country, we must now confront this issue taking cognizance of the need to provide safety nets to cushion the attendant effects on some segments of society.

RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS

30. Over the last year, this Administration has implemented several priority projects. Our focus has been on the completion of key road and rail projects; the effective implementation of power sector projects; the provision of clean water; construction of irrigation infrastructure and dams across the country; and critical health projects such as upgrading Primary Health Care Centres across the six geopolitical zones.

31. We have also gone further on the implementation of several power generation, transmission, and distribution projects, as well as off-grid solutions, all aimed towards achieving the national goal of optimizing power supply by 2025.

32. In the determination to ramp up grid electricity supply to at least 7,000 megawatts by 2024, we have procured purpose-built critical power equipment under the Presidential Power Initiative with Siemens as we promised. These projects will have multiplier effects on the economy.

33. Under the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, we are undertaking the construction and rehabilitation of about two thousand kilometres of roads and bridges, nationwide, to be financed by the grant of tax credits to investing private companies.

34. As I mentioned earlier, we have made appreciable progress in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of key road networks like the Lagos – Ibadan expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressway and East-West Road in Niger Delta. Work has also reached completion stage on the Apapa – Oworonsoki expressway, Loko-Oweto Bridge and the Second Niger Bridge. We hope to commission these projects before the end of our tenure in 2023.

35. Furthermore, we have awarded several contracts to rehabilitate, reconstruct and construct major arterial roads to reduce the hardship to commuters and increase economic activity.

36. Regarding personnel costs, we have extended the coverage of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) to all MDAs to automate personnel records and the process by which salaries are paid and eliminate the incidence of ghost workers. The system is currently being reviewed to enhance its functionality and applicability to MDAs in the different sectors.

37. Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, although we have recorded more achievements over the last year, I will now proceed with an overview of the 2023 Budget proposal.

THEME AND PRIORITIES OF THE 2023 BUDGET

38. The 2023 Budget proposal is the eighth and final budget of this Administration. It reflects the serious challenges currently facing our country, key reforms necessary to address them, and imperatives to achieve higher, more inclusive, diversified and sustainable growth.

39. The expenditure policy of Government in 2023 is designed to achieve the strategic objectives of the National Development Plan 2021 to 2025, including macroeconomic stability; human development; food security; improved business environment; energy sufficiency; improving transport infrastructure; and promoting industrialization focusing on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.

40. Against the backdrop of the challenging global and domestic economic environment, it is imperative that we strengthen our macroeconomic environment and address subsisting challenges as a country. The 2023 Appropriation therefore is a Budget of Fiscal Sustainability and Transition. Our principal objective in 2023 is to maintain fiscal viability and ensure smooth transition to the incoming Administration.

2023 BUDGET PARAMETERS AND FISCAL ASSUMPTIONS

41. Distinguished Members of the National Assembly, the 2023 to 2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper sets out the parameters for the 2023 Budget as follows:

a. Oil price benchmark of 70 US Dollars per barrel;

b. Daily oil production estimate of 1.69 million barrels (inclusive of Condensates of 300,000 to 400,000 barrels per day);

c. Exchange rate of 435.57 Naira per US Dollar; and

d. Projected GDP growth rate of 3.75 percent and 17.16 percent inflation rate.

2023 REVENUE ESTIMATES

42. Based on these fiscal assumptions and parameters, total federally-collectible revenue is estimated at 16.87 trillion Naira in 2023.

43. Total federally distributable revenue is estimated at 11.09 trillion Naira in 2023, while total revenue available to fund the 2023 Federal Budget is estimated at 9.73 trillion Naira. This includes the revenues of 63 Government-Owned Enterprises.

44. Oil revenue is projected at 1.92 trillion Naira, Non-oil taxes are estimated at 2.43 trillion Naira, FGN Independent revenues are projected to be 2.21 trillion Naira. Other revenues total 762 billion Naira, while the retained revenues of the GOEs amount to N2.42 trillion Naira.

45. The 2023 Appropriation Bill aims to maintain the focus of MDAs on the revenue side of the budget and greater attention to internal revenue generation. Sustenance of revenue diversification strategy would further increase the non-oil revenue share of total revenues.

PLANNED 2023 EXPENDITURE

46. A total expenditure of 20.51 trillion Naira is proposed for the Federal Government in 2023. This includes 2.42 trillion Naira spending by Government-Owned Enterprises. The proposed 20.51 trillion Naira 2023 expenditure comprises:

a. Statutory Transfers of N744.11 billion;

b. Non-debt Recurrent Costs of N8.27 trillion;

c. Personnel Costs of N4.99 trillion;

d. Pensions, Gratuities and Retirees’ Benefits of N854.8 billion;

e. Overheads of N1.11 trillion;

f. Capital Expenditure of N5.35 trillion, including the capital component of Statutory Transfers;

g. Debt Service of N6.31 trillion; and

h. Sinking Fund of N247.73 billion to retire certain maturing bonds.

FISCAL BALANCE

47. We expect total fiscal operations of the Federal Government to result in a deficit of 10.78 trillion Naira. This represents 4.78 percent of estimated GDP, above the 3 percent threshold set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.

48. As envisaged by the law, we need to exceed this threshold considering the need to continue to tackle the existential security challenges facing the country.

49. We plan to finance the deficit mainly by new borrowings totalling 8.80 trillion Naira, 206.18 billion Naira from Privatization Proceeds and 1.77 trillion Naira drawdowns on bilateral/multilateral loans secured for specific development projects/programmes.

50. Over time, we have resorted to borrowing to finance our fiscal gaps. We have been using loans to finance critical development projects and programmes aimed at further improving our economic environment and enhance the delivery of public services to our people.

51. As you are aware, we have witnessed two economic recessions within the period of this Administration. A direct result of this is the significant decline in our revenue generating capacity.

52. In both cases, we had to spend our way out of recession, resulting in higher public debt and debt service. It is unlikely that our recovery from each of the two recessions would have been as fast without the sustained government expenditure funded by debt.

FINANCE BILL 2022

53. In line with our plan to accompany annual budgets with Finance Bills, partly to support the realization of fiscal projections, current tax and fiscal laws/regulations are being reviewed to produce a draft Finance Bill 2022.

54. It is our intention that once ongoing consultations are completed, the Finance Bill 2022 would be submitted to the National Assembly to be considered alongside the 2023 Appropriation Bill.

ENSURING FISCAL SUSTAINABILITY

55. To ensure fiscal sustainability, we will further improve our business-enabling environment, accelerate current revenue-based fiscal consolidation efforts and strengthen our expenditure and debt management.

BUDGET OF GOVERNMENT-OWNED ENTERPRISES

56. Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members, you may recall that we earlier integrated the budget of Government-Owned Enterprises into the FGN’s 2019 budget submission. This has helped to enhance the comprehensiveness and transparency of the FGN budget. It has however come to my attention that Government-Owned Enterprises liaise directly with relevant NASS committees to have their budget passed and issued to them directly.

57. I would like to implore the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure that the budget I lay here today, which includes those of the GOEs, be returned to the Presidency when passed. The current practice where some committees of the National Assembly purport to pass budgets for GOEs, which are at variance with the budgets sanctioned by me, and communicate such directly to the MDAs is against the rules and needs to stop.

FINANCING INFRASTRUCTURE GAP

58. Nigeria requires a huge outlay of resources to close current infrastructure gaps and boost its economic performance. Government will develop projects that are good candidates for Public Private Partnership (PPP) by their nature for private sector participation.

BUDGET PROCESS BILL 2022

59. Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members, ladies and gentlemen. Over the course of this Administration, we have embarked on a number of reforms in the Public Finance Management space. These reforms are bearing fruits and we have seen some of the benefits of the return to a predictable January to December fiscal year for the FGN budget.

60. Earlier this year, I was briefed of the impressive performance of Nigeria in the Open Budget Survey, as the third best or most improved country in the world, matching the global average score in budget transparency and exceeding the global average in public participation.

61. I commend the Budget Office of the Federation and the Supervising Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning, the National Assembly Leadership, the relevant Appropriation and Finance Committees as well as non-state actors who have worked tirelessly in pushing for greater transparency and accountability in our budget process.

62. We need to sustain and institutionalize the gains of these reforms. To this end, I have directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately work on mainstreaming these reforms and work with the National Assembly on passing an Organic Budget Law, which I hope to assent to before the end of this Administration.

HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT

63. The Government notes with dismay the crisis that has paralysed activities in the public universities in the country. We expect the staff of these institutions to show a better appreciation of the current state of affairs in the country. In the determined effort to resolve the issue, we have provided a total of 470.0 billion in the 2023 budget from our constrained resources, for revitalization and salary enhancements in the tertiary institutions.

64. Distinguished Senators and Honourable members, it is instructive to note that today Government alone cannot provide the resources required for funding tertiary education.

65. In most countries, the cost of education is jointly shared between the government and the people, especially at the tertiary level. It is imperative therefore that we introduce a more sustainable model of funding tertiary education.

66. The Government remains committed to the implementation of agreements reached with staff unions within available resources. This is why we have remained resolute that we will not sign any agreement that we would be unable to implement. Individual institutions would be encouraged to keep faith with any agreement reached in due course to ensure stability in the educational sector.

67. Government is equally committed to improving the quality of education at other levels. Recently, we implemented various incentives aimed at motivating and enhancing teachers’ development in our schools.

68. In the health sector, the Government intends to focus attention on equipping existing hospitals and rehabilitating infrastructure. Emphasis will also be on local production of basic medicines/vaccines.

69. As human capital is the most critical resource for national development, our overall policy thrust is to expand our investment in education, health and social protection.

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT

70. To harness the potentials of all Nigerian women and enable them to productively contribute to the economy, we will continue to prioritise women’s empowerment programmes across various MDAs in 2023.

FOOD PRICES

71. Government is very concerned about the high food prices in the country. Various measures are being implemented to address structural factors underlying the issue. We will also step-up current efforts aimed at boosting food production and distribution in the country. You will recall our efforts in improving production of fertilizer, rice, maize cassava among other earlier initiatives.

BOOSTING MANUFACTURING PERFORMANCE

72. Government is not unaware of the challenges confronting the manufacturing sector. We will ensure effective implementation of policy measures aimed at positioning the manufacturing sector to generate more foreign exchange in the near future. We are also committed to improving the business environment to stimulate local and foreign investment.

SAFE SCHOOLS INITIATIVE

73. We ratified the Safe Schools Declaration in 2019. We remain committed to the effective implementation of our Safe Schools Policy. A total of 15.2 billion Naira has been specifically provided in the 2023 Budget to scale up current measures to provide safer and conducive learning environment in our schools.

DEFENCE AND INTERNAL SECURITY

74. The Government remains firmly committed to the security of life, property and investment across the country. Accordingly, defence and internal security continue to be accorded top priority in 2023. Current efforts to properly equip and motivate our valiant personnel in the armed forces, police and paramilitary units will be sustained.

75. I assure you, insecurity, especially banditry and kidnapping, will be significantly curtailed before the end of this Administration. We will redouble our efforts to ensure we leave a legacy of a peaceful, prosperous and secured nation.

76. Mr. Senate President, Mr. Speaker, Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, let me conclude my address today by again expressing my deep appreciation for your enormous support, patriotic zeal, and cooperation in our efforts to accelerate the socio-economic development of our country and improve the lives of our people.

77. I appreciate the efforts and commitment of the leadership and staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, especially the Budget Office of the Federation, who have worked hard to achieve early submission of the 2023 Appropriation Bill.

78. The 2023 budget proposal is a product of inter-agency collaboration, extensive stakeholder consultations and productive engagements. I would therefore like to acknowledge the efforts of the media, the organized private sector, civil society organizations and our development partners for their contributions in the process of preparing the Budget.

79. Considering the challenging situation in our country presently, we must continue to cooperate and collaborate to ensure fiscal sustainability, macroeconomic stability and smooth transition to the incoming Administration.

80. This Administration remains resolutely committed to our goals of improving the living standard of our people and effective delivery of public services.

81. Distinguished and honourable members of the National Assembly, although no single government can solve all the problems of a country during its own tenure, I have no doubt that you share our aspiration that the 2023 transition budget is designed to address critical issues and lay a solid foundation for the incoming Administration.

82. It is with great pleasure therefore, that I lay before this distinguished Joint Session of the National Assembly, the 2023 Budget Proposals of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

I thank you most sincerely for your attention. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Editorial

Tackling endemic poverty in Nigeria — THISDAY Editorial

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Few weeks after the World Bank released a report that sluggish growth, low human capital, labour market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are contributing to poverty in our country, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed that no fewer than 133 million Nigerians, representing 63 per cent of the population are currently living in multi-dimensional poverty. The latest report is in tandem with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) requirement of a basket of goods and services needed to live a non-impoverished life valued at the current prices rather than those who live on less than two dollars a day. People who do not have an income sufficient to cover that basket are deemed to be multi-dimensionally poor and that is currently the reality of more than 133 million Nigerians.

Going by the NBS figures, 105.98 million poor Nigerians are located in rural areas compared to 16.97 million in urban areas. A further breakdown of the report indicates that the multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians cook with dung, wood, or charcoal, rather than clean energy. According to the report, the north accounted for 65 per cent or 86 million poor Nigerians while 35 per cent or about 47 million people living in poverty reside in the South. The incidence of multidimensional poverty was high in Sokoto State which accounted for 96 per cent of poor Nigerians while the lowest incidence of 27 per cent was recorded in Ondo State.

On the proportion of poverty and its intensity, the poorest states included Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Kebbi, Gombe, and Yobe. “But we cannot say for sure which of these is the poorest because statistically, their confidence intervals or the range within which the true value falls considering the sample overlap,” the report noted. It also pointed out that the incidence of national monetary poverty stood at 40 per cent in 2018/2019, compared to 63 per cent who are multi-dimensionally poor in 2022.

We are not surprised by the disparity between the north and south in the poverty survey. At the 4th edition of the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit in 2018, Africa’s richest man and President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote spoke about the frightening scope of poverty in the region. “It is instructive to know that the 19 northern states, which account for over 54 per cent of the country’s population and 70 per cent of its landmass, collectively generated only 21 per cent of the total sub-national internally generated revenue in 2017. Northern Nigeria will continue to fall behind if the respective state governments do not move to close this development gap”, Dangote said.

However, it is also clear that poverty is a national problem which requires multi-level support from critical stakeholders to address. Food affordability has long become a major challenge confronting most Nigerian homes. Basic staples have been priced beyond the reach of an average Nigerian. Even the on-season periods when prices of certain items drop, providing a window for consumers to stockpile against off-season periods, no longer count due to the national security situation. In several parts of the country where farming is the main occupation, incessant violence on communities by terrorists have made the profession a serious hazard.

Rising unemployment, inflation and an increasingly vulnerable currency have continued to torment the people and render their lives even more miserable. We therefore call on government, at all levels, to come up with interventionist measures to provide immediate succorS for more than 60 per cent of our population and in the long run put in place sustainable measures aimed at addressing the growing multidimensional poverty in Nigeria. People-friendly programmes must be put in place to inject the much-needed hope in the populace.

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Dilibe Onyeama (1951- 2022) — The Nation Editorial

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• Late Dillibe Onyeama

Dilibe Onyeama, author, publisher and arts enthusiast who was the first black boy to graduate at Eton, the elite British College for boys founded in 1440 by Henry VI  just passed on. He had returned to Nigeria in 1981 and had written about 28 books, some of which have been published in at least four countries.

Dilibe came into global prominence after his first book, “Nigger at Eton” now published under another title, “Black boy at Eton” was published in Britain in 1974. The book was a chronicle of his experiences as a black boy in the elite British boarding school.

His father, Charles Dadi Onyeama, an Oxford graduate who went up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and later became a judge at the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICCJ) at the Hague, had registered him at birth. This action opened the vista for the fame Dilibe went on to achieve in life.

Being a black boy at Eton exposed the young Dilibe to systemic racism and he documented his experiences that a magazine serialised to global attention. Indeed, there were attempts to suppress the publications because the establishment didn’t like the expositions. Eton under then headmaster, Michael McCrum, banned him from the school, an action that in a way gave an adult angle to his experiences.

His books stand as evidence of his literary power, bravery, survivalist instincts, perseverance and sense of black nationalism. His 1976 book, ‘Sex is a Nigger’s Game’ roused further attention. Dilibe was not just a literary giant steeped in journalistic excellence; he used writing and his publishing company to ‘fight’ his Pan-Africanist racial battles. His focus was in proving to racists everywhere that intellectual prowess, entertainment talents and sports ingenuity was not exclusive to any race.  At Eton, he fought racism with everything he had, brain, physical strength and social and emotional intelligence.

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INTERVIEW: Terrorists plan to rule Nigeria, Ex-Army Chief reveals

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…suggests weapons enter nation through over 1, 000 illegal routes

•Says combating insurgents with 200,000 soldiers no easy task

Lt Gen Abdulrahman B. Dambazau (rtd) had a robust service in the Nigerian armed forces culminating in his appointment as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in August 2008. Dambazau disengaged from the military in September 2010.

After his disengagement, he joined the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011 and became its Director, Security for the presidential election same year. In 2014, he joined then mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and was subsequently appointed the APC Director, Security, APC Presidential Campaign Council for the 2015 presidential election. He was also Director of Security of the APC Presidential Campaign Council during the 2019 presidential election.

The former Army chief was Minister of Interior from November 11, 2015 to May 28, 2019.

In this interview, Dambazau speaks on insecurity in Nigeria and the way out.

Excerpts:

What is your general impression on the country’s state of security?

Generally, every country has its own challenges on security and this is all over the world. But, of course, every nation too has its own security concerns. And, certainly, just like President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his feelings severally and many other personalities have done, the issue of insecurity is of concern to us because it has its implications economically, socially and politically.

What do you think was the background to these challenges?

There are many factors. Firstly, the issue of crime and criminalities is part of human nature. Every country experiences and that is why, in the first place, we have laws to govern society. Even God himself, who created us in His infinite mercy, sent prophets and books (Bible for Christians, Quran for Muslims etc) in order to guide our behaviour. Like I said, there are some factors involved…

Elaborate on those factors…

Some of those factors have to do with socio-economic issues, governance, environment (the impact of certain things happening within the environment). So, like I said, they are multi factors. For instance, on the issue of our environment, today, we are talking about climate change, how it has impacted on the environment, leading to land degradation, environmental degradation, resulting in forced migration for our farmers and herders from degraded areas to areas where they can access land and water to farm or herd their cattle. They are doing so because of the effect of what climate change has done which affected land and water resources and which are becoming scarce and smaller in size. In that case, you have conflict over their use or ownership. Also, in terms of socio-economic matters, we have issues of poverty and unemployment. Corruption also has a very serious impact on the environment.

 These are some of the specific factors that I think contribute to some of the security challenges we have in the country. Globalization also has an impact. The world is becoming smaller, things are done faster. It gives a lot of opportunities for people with bad intentions to also take advantage of that. This is coupled with the fact that technology has so much improved. Another thing related to this is population. Our population after independence was about 50 million. Today, we are over 200 million people. Large population is not an issue as long as it is used as human capital to develop the country. So, the resources are scarce while the population has grown exponentially. These are some of factors that do contribute to the insecurity we are facing today.

Let’s expand the discussion to include insecurity generally. It started in 2009 with Boko Haram in the North-East. Today, it has escalated to every part of the North. How did something that started as insurgency in the North-East escalate to existential threat for the entire North?

Well, I want to correct an impression. The issue of insecurity did not start from the North-East. Recall that at one time in our history, what we were dealing with in the 80s and 90s was armed robbery. Remember the famous Oyenusi, particularly within the South-West and Anini & co. Those were the scary issues at that time.

 Then, our prisons were filled with those awaiting trial, alleged armed robbery suspects or convicts of same crime. At a time, government started public execution of convicts. On one occasion, execution was taking place at Bar Beach (Lagos) for armed robbery and somebody was robbing another man of his car. So, the challenges of insecurity have always been there. Specifically, for the North-East, insecurity started way back with those young chaps who grouped and called themselves ‘Talibans’ in reference to what was happening in Afghanistan at that time.

So, this was the same group, I think, grew to become what it is today. But, this issue has gone beyond the North-East, like you rightly pointed out, it has spread to many parts of Nigeria and even beyond; it has become a regional issue in the sense that it has engulfed the entire Lake Chad Basin region. It is an issue that also has connection in the entire region. Recall the issue of countries showing concern about insurgency within, specifically, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic now. So, it is a regional issue and our neighbor, Benin Republic, is getting some touch of it. Initially, Lake Chad Basin countries did not show much concern about it. They thought it was a Nigeria’s problem until it became a reality to them that it was a regional problem and all the countries, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015, refocused attention to Multi-National Joint Task Force which is now based in Chad under the command of a Nigerian officer since it was established. And, of course, even Benin Republic, which is not a member of the Lake Chad Basin Authority, is contributing towards that because it is also a threat to it. It is, indeed, a threat to the whole of West Africa. Among the insurgent groups that are active, Islamic State for the West Africa Province, ISWAP, has the territorial ambition to rule the whole of West Africa. It has gone beyond the North-East, Northern Nigeria and the entire Nigeria. It is a regional issue and, as such, an African problem. It is a challenge which, I think, we should look at from that angle.

To be fair to President Buhari, when he assumed office in 2015, the first thing he did was to visit all the neighboring countries specifically because of insurgency and, following that, he organized a conference of heads of state in the region in Abuja where this issue was discussed. In addition, the Federal Government also gave a lump sum of money for this project. The Multi-National Joint Task Force is heavily funded mostly by Nigeria because we have more interest to protect here. Don’t forget our population, size and interest, particularly managing our borders and reinforcing it with security which we have to do alongside those neighbors. We have extensive land borders, covering about 4, 500km. So, it is a concern to us.

 The fact that we must protect our borders is a major challenge. Even here in Nigeria, there were all types of narratives sponsored here and there, that people were not even taking Boko Haram serious. Part of the problem we have is national ownership of the problem because, even at that time, there are people who felt the issue was not their problem. Some looked at it as a northern problem but today it has become a regional issue, not even Nigeria’s.

 There is a very wide network of insurgency connected with ISIS and others. So, these are issues we need to look deeply into and ensure that we nip them in the bud because insurgency, combined with extremism and terrorism, has seen young people sponsored to throw bombs, kill people and themselves in various places. We don’t even talk about 2009, even during former President Obasanjo’s administration, when there were attacks in Kano, followed by the killing of a popular cleric, Sheikh Adamu, who was murdered, while leading prayers in a mosque in Kano. This group had already established all over. It was not even at that time confined to the North-East. Remember the 2011 bombing of the United Nations, UN, Office in Abuja, the burning of Nyanya and other places. So, these are issues we have been dealing with. I don’t want to continue seeing it as a North-East or Northern Nigerian problem. It is a regional/African problem which we need to wake up and deal with.

You referenced the efforts of President Buhari and, of course, the military and the Multi-National Joint Task Force based in Chad. That brings us to the role of the Nigerian military in tackling these challenges. As one of Nigeria’s military veterans, how would you assess the performance of the military on the security threat the nation is facing, bearing in mind the numerous challenges facing the military, especially the issue of resources, welfare, equipment and an over-stretched military?

Bearing in mind all the challenges you mentioned, it is very glaring that the military is doing as much as they can to deal with the situation. I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate my colleagues in the military, particularly those who gave up their lives for others to live, leaving behind them widows and orphans. No soldier gets out of his house, deployed to fight a battle with the intention that he wants to die. No! He wants to win the war and come back safely. But, unfortunately, that is not always the case. So, we need to give the military standing ovation for what they have been doing as far as fighting insurgency is concerned. It is a big challenge. Americans just got out of Afghanistan after 20 years.

They have been fighting war against terrorism for more than three decades now. So, with all the technological advancements, all the intelligence they have, they are still fighting non-state actors, and the terrorism they are fighting is not home grown, they go outside their country to challenge threats against them, but ours is home grown and to challenge non-state actors who are Nigerians, mostly living within the communities, is not an easy task. Secondly, you mentioned the fact that the military is over-stretched. Yes, the military is over-stretched. What is the total strength of the army, the navy and the air force? Just a little under 200, 000 and not only are they occupied, engaged to fight insurgency, they also deal with issues of routine policing. I think we need to look at our police as an institution and strengthen them in order to be able to handle those tasks which are their primary responsibilities, so that the military can concentrate in defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country.

They have to be very conscious about issues of human rights because those are the issues other people are waiting for them to make mistakes. So, to go into fighting people who are involved in terrorism or insurgency who are living within the country, who are Nigerians, who are within the communities and are irregular non-state actors, is extremely difficult to do. I believe they (military) are doing as much as they can, bearing in mind the circumstances and, of course, when you are talking of weapons and equipment, when Mr President said he needed $1m to buy equipment, people were making all kinds of noise. But when you look at the security challenges facing the country, $1m is not much to cover their needs, to be able to carry out the tasks, their constitutional responsibilities and other challenges. I believe we must be able to appreciate the military. Of course, there are areas that one can say they can do better, but if you look at it generally, I believe they are doing as much as they can to carry out the tasks the Commander-in-Chief has given them. Yes, there are issues that have to do with administrative problems.

This is not unique to the military, it is a general issue which, when you look at it, all the sectors in the country have challenges of accountability and transparency as well as rule of law. These are the key ingredients in any democracy and these challenges are also not unique to the military. We must be able to focus on these challenges, make sure that whatever we do, the process is transparent, accountable and follows the rule of law and, of course, human right. If we do that, it will not give much leverage for anybody to take advantage of the system.

You have been critical about inter- agency collaboration in intelligence gathering and the usage of that intelligence gathered. Sometimes, we hear that intelligence gathered didn’t get to the right people or that it got to the right people but they didn’t get the right order. In the context of what you said about how things could be done better, what is it that we need to do better in this regard, with particular reference to inter-agency collaboration, among security agencies?

As I earlier mentioned, in this business of security, two things are very important. One, security forces must have the capacity not only to monitor what is happening, they must also have the capacity to respond to incidents. That capacity must be quick and sharp for it to be useful to their action. If it is not quick and sharp, it would only lead to escalation. This is why I said, for instance, the train attack, the attack at Kuje Prisons and others whereby those violent criminals would operate, spend a couple of hours in an operation, finish and disappear.

 This is why I said there is need for us to look into the way we respond to emergencies. That is the way security agencies collaborate because this is not a one-man business. This must be based on collective efforts. An agency will not be able to deal with emergency situation alone particularly with the type of security situation we are facing. This is why it is important that security agencies work together. They must share information or intelligence. Their equipment must be inter-operational. They must be able to speak to themselves using their equipment. They must be able to access situations simultaneously so they can know who takes what action at what time. Inter-agency co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration, which I call the 3cs, are very important. If they are not able to achieve that, it becomes a problem.

As a military man and, from the security perspective, there has been creation of regional security outfits, like the Civilian Joint Task Force in the North and the Amotekun in the South-West. Many, including security experts, say equipment, including weaponry, should be slightly enlarged to include the para – military and even vigilantes. What do you make of this?

Well, that has its own advantages and disadvantages but, understandably, it’s more like self – help; communities come together to form vigilante in order to cover the gaps left by officially recognized security forces and that is what is happening. Like I said, it has advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, Zamfara’s case has led to a kind of war between the Fulani herders groups in the forest and the vigilante groups coming from the communities. The Fulani groups accused the vigilante groups of going into their communities, killing their people, rustling their cows and raping their women, among others. I don’t know how far that is true, but they used that as excuse for going into the communities, where they identify vigilantes to carry out banditry attacks as a way of revenging. I think that kind of thing should be looked into. If, for instance, the South-West’s Amotekun is able to cover certain gaps, civilians, in the first place, have a role to play, whether they are formed as vigilante or not. They should be able to provide information to security agencies. They should be able to report whatever they see happening, but what we have today on the other side of it is that we also have civilians who assist violent criminals to do what they are doing. Some go to the extent of supplying them food, drugs, weapons etc in the forests. This should not be the case. This is a problem that is a threat to everyone. Sometimes too, you will find out that some of them do it out of fear, sometime, when a community feels that it is not getting the protection it requires from security forces, they give in to the demands of these criminals to the extent that they threaten and collect tax from them.

 I have seen some unverified pictures where captors use captives to farm for them and whatever they produce belongs to the criminals. On the issue of para-military institutions, the Customs and Correctional Service already carry weapons in line with the Act establishing them. But the issue is that they need more training on the use of weapons. I am afraid to say that, several years ago, this was my experience as Minister of Interior which I made efforts to correct. For several years, I met a situation whereby there was weakness in training personnel in para-military organizations

. This is why we gave a lot of attention to training institutions to ensure that they are functioning. I also made it mandatory that before one is promoted from one rank to the other, he or she is required to undergo certain courses and trainings. I brought my military experience into that. You don’t get promoted without attending those courses/trainings, tested and certified, with good grade which you will now use to compete at the Board with others before you are promoted. Before then, people just got promoted without attending those courses. We have corrected that, at least, while I was there and I believe my successor continued with that. So, these are some of the issues. But, you cannot allow everybody to carry weapons.

 Even Americans are still grappling with the issue of gun control, because you find situations whereby people go into schools and supermarkets and start shooting and killing people. So, to say that everybody should be allowed to carry weapons, I don’t think we have got to that stage, particularly on the issues of assault weapons which, I think, we should be very careful about. But, vigilante has always been there, it is not new. We have had communities organizing them, so it not a new thing. South-West as a region has started to look at it as the window to create Amotekun. We will be able to assist because they do not have constitutional mandate. So, they are doing that to assist law enforcement agencies. I have seen situations whereby when they arrest suspects they hand them over to law enforcement agencies.

A lot of weapons came into Nigeria through our borders, particularly after the death of Col. Gadaffi in Libya in 2011. Some of the people bringing in the weapons are not Nigerians. What can you say about that in terms of the strength of security in being able to control incursions such as this?

Our border security and management has some serious challenges. I mentioned earlier that we have over 5, 000km land borders and, of course, we have borders by the sea. This is a challenge. Then, of course, there is absolutely no way we can physically man all those borders. As at the time I was in office, they were about 84 officially recognized crossing areas and over 1, 000 illegal routes people use (to possibly bring in weapons). There is closeness between countries we have boundaries with. There were some borders I visited while in office where it was only a road that separated a community in Niger from a community in Nigeria. When I visited Benin Republic, upon their invitation on the issues of border, I met my counterpart, their then Minister of Interior, one Mr. Akande. Apparently, he is a Yoruba man.

He told me that they have this close cultural affinity with the Yoruba in one of the states, that none of the traditional rulers will remain on a seat without visiting a particular shrine in Benin Republic. If you look at Chad, we have Niger, we have Fulani and Kanuri speaking people, just like Benin with Yoruba speaking people. You look at Northern Cameroun, we have Fulani and Hausa speaking people. In Southern Cameroon, you cannot differentiate between the people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River states from those of South-West Cameroon, even in terms of name.

They have been sharing similar names. So, there is that strong cultural affinity. That is the second issue aside the expanse nature of the borders. Even if you just look at those two, you will know that we have these challenges. So, in order to deal with these challenges, we must work together with our neighbors. Interestingly, you find out that maybe because of population, some of those neighbors are more organized than us in terms of respect to rules, to laws. For instance, when you leave Nigeria and enter Niger, you will see the way they organized themselves.

They are not as rich as us or as exposed as us. There is need for us to come together. All our neighbors depend on us for survival to a very large extent. There was a time we heard that the Federal Government offered to buy vehicles for one of the neighboring countries and people were making…that is soft power. We also get aids from other countries, and they don’t make noise about them but they know why we do such aids. We also know why we do that.

America has two bases in Niger: the Department of Defence and the CIA. They use those bases to protect their interests. We can’t neglect the fact that we need to move very close with the Americans to be able to leverage on what they do there. They are there for their interest. Also, we have our interest: interests that are mutual. Also, the influence of France and the European Union, EU, in that region, France has been conduction ‘Operation Barkani’ in Mali for years even though they said they were withdrawing some troops. France is a great influence in all our neighboring countries who are Francophone. We cannot distance ourselves from France because we have some interest to protect, just like France. And, France also has interest to protect in Nigeria. We should be able to have a bi-lateral relationship with these countries based on mutual interest. (Vanguard)

•    Interview first aired on Channels TV News

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