The security agencies are prioritised in the allocation of the nation’s limited revenues, in line with the fact that the present administration has demonstrated its strong commitment to sustainable development, governance and security, according to Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
Speaking at the recently held Executive Intelligence Management Course 14 of the National Institute for Security Studies (NISS), Bwari, Abuja, themed: ‘Governance, Security and Sustainable Development in Africa: Nexus, Challenges and Prospects’, she stated that the demonstration is not only through global commitments and statements by President Muhammadu Buhari but also through the allocation of financial resources.
“As an example, about 86 percent of the 2021 Supplementary Budget was dedicated to the capital and recurrent expenditure needs of the security agencies to supplement the allocations in the 2021 Amended Budget,” she said.
Focusing on some key governance and security initiatives spearheaded by the Ministry and its agencies, Mrs. Ahmed said that through Project Lighthouse the federal government has been able to aggregate N5.2 trillion worth of debts owed to government by third parties, of which N49.7 billion of this amount has been recovered.
The second phase of implementation of Project Lighthouse has been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).“Project Lighthouse is a data driven artificial intelligence engine that provides the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning with an intelligence and profiling platform to aid in policy formulation, implementation and impact assessment. It enables the aggregation of data from a variety of sources to give us the capability to develop an intelligent data-driven revenue mobilisation model.
Another initiative is Treasury Single Account (TSA), a unified structure of government bank accounts which enables consolidation and optimum utilisation of government cash resources. It gives the Ministry oversight of all government cash flows, improving budget control and monitoring. “The implementation of the TSA has generated enormous savings for government and significantly improved our cash management capabilities.
One of the initiatives is Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), an IT-based system for budget management and accounting being implemented to improve public financial management processes and enhance accountability and transparency across all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government. It has the capability to cover the entire financial management cycle, end-to-end and additional modules are being activated on an ongoing basis.
“The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), as part of its efforts at modernising tax administration in Nigeria, introduced TaxPro Max, an online platform to ease tax administration and compliance. It is designed to ease registration, filing and payment by tax payers and its implementation is ongoing.
Another of the initiatives is the e-Customs Project meant to fully automate administrative processes of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) by introducing innovative measures that eliminate paper-based functions. Its implementation will enhance accurate tax and duties collection for the government and facilitate the transfer of goods and shipments through ultra-modern clearance processes.
There is Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (RITCS), launched by President Buhari through Executive Order Number 7 signed on the 25th of January 2019. “It is designed to leverage private sector capital, efficiency and expertise to construct, repair and maintain critical road infrastructure in key economic corridors and industrial clusters in Nigeria. The scheme relieves government of the burden of funding significant outlays for road projects through the annual budget.
“Essentially, the RITCS utilises tax expenditures, by way of tax credits, to finance the construction of critical road and bridge infrastructure through an innovative public private partnership (PPP) mechanism that incentivises private sector participation. Since inception, Mr. President has approved a total of 33 road projects, totalling 1,564.95 km being undertaken in 19 States across the six geo-political zones of the country. Construction has commenced on four road projects undertaken by three corporate investors with more underway for construction in the near term.
The Honourable Minister also highlighted the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international multi-stakeholder initiative focused on improving transparency, accountability, citizen participation and government responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation. “Since joining the partnership in July 2016, Nigeria has made progress in deepening transparency, accountability and openness in the management of public resources, especially in terms of the budget process. Nigeria is currently implementing 16 commitments from its 2019-2022 Action Plan. These commitments relate to fiscal transparency, anti-corruption, extractive transparency, inclusiveness and public service delivery.
There is also Open Treasury Portal under the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) launched in December 2019. The portal is a platform that aims to enhance the accountability of government by detailing and tracking federal government spending data through the publishing of monthly fiscal accounts, as well as daily treasury and payment reports amongst others by MDAs.
Among is The Safe Schools Initiative in the sense that education is critical to sustainable development and for this reason, efforts have been renewed to galvanise financing support across stakeholders, which include donor communities, the private sector and federal and state governments to ensure safety in schools across Nigeria.
“The Safe Schools Initiative was launched in response to the abduction of the Chibok Girls in 2014 to ensure the safety of children in and out of school. This administration has restated its commitment to creating safe learning communities across the country. I chaired a high-level forum in May 2021 where stakeholders from the private sector, donor community and government committed to the development of a roadmap for the design and implementation of the ‘Abuja Financing Safe Schools Compact’. Once finalised, the roadmap will be swiftly financed and implemented as the safety of our children is a top priority.
In her reference, Mrs. Ahmed said: “The most recent gross domestic product (GDP) data which reports real GDP growth of 5.01 percent in the second quarter of 2021 is very encouraging news as it indicates the Nigerian economy is on a solid path to recovery. It is important to note that much of the growth was driven by the expansion of the non-oil sector of the economy where most Nigerians are employed.
Giving a brief overview of the intersection of the work of the Ministry with the theme of the course, she started her presentation by providing an exposition of the identified subject areas, namely; governance, security and sustainable development and the ways in which they intersect.
Mrs. Ahmed noted that sustainable development is the goal and that at the core of the programs and projects under implementation by this administration is the attainment of sustainable development.
“By sustainable development, I mean development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, a definition adopted by the United Nations (UN). This definition is in the same spirit as the Addis Ababa action agenda, the global framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which defines three dimensions of sustainable development: the promotion of inclusive economic growth, protection of the environment, and promotion of social inclusion.
She noted that goals 16 and 17 of the SDGs specifically address the goal of sustainable development. The former, according to her, seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels while the latter recognises the need for a strong implementation framework and global partnerships to achieve this goal.
“The goal of attaining sustainable development across the African continent is further distilled in Agenda 2063, the African Union (AU)’s masterplan for the transformation of the continent. The first aspiration of the agenda is a prosperous Africa marked by inclusive growth and sustainable development with the second and third aspirations referencing a desire for good governance, peace and security,” she also noted.
Mrs. Ahmed further noted: “These continental and global commitments to which Nigeria is a signatory, prioritise the main ideas captured in the theme of the Executive Intelligence Management Course 14 but also align with this administration’s short to medium-term development plans which centre on economic, social and environmental sustainability issues.
She stressed that with sustainable development as the goal, several underlying conditions in domestic environment must be established and maintained. As recognised by the NISS, governance, specifically good governance, and security are critical enabling factors for sustainable development.
The Honourable Minister also discussed the mechanisms by which the essential conditions support sustainable development, looking at good governance and security as precursors to sustainable development. According to her, governance is a ubiquitous phrase in development circles and its definition varies across development organisations.
Apart from considering the UN Development Program definition of governance, Mrs Ahmed also highlighted the ones by European Commission, the World Bank, and in relation to stating the importance of governance in sustainable development as underscored by its selection as a special theme for the IDA 18 and 19 replenishment cycles of the World Bank Group.