…Buhari under pressure to appoint new Finance Minister as experts react
…Gov Amosun, other stakeholders meet over eligible candidate
Following the resignation of former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, The Daily Times can authoritatively report that moves to replace her is currently in top gear as intense lobby from likely candidates has begun in earnest.
It was further gathered that the development has led to flurry of activities in Ogun State, the home state of the ex-finance minister while Governor Ibikunle Amosun and other stakeholders from the state were said to be holding marathon meetings in order to produce an eligible replacement candidate for Adeosun.
Adeosun, who assumed duties as the Minister of Finance in November, 2015, eventually bowed out due to the findings of the investigation into the allegation made by an online medium that the Certificate of Exemption from National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) that she presented was not genuine.
But due to the importance of Ministry of Finance to the nation’s economy, pressure has begun to mount on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint new Finance Minister without further delay.
The development, The Daily Times gathered, might not be unconnected to the backlog of international and local economic engagements, coupled with pending MOUs and various other decisions that require a substantive Minister of Finance minister as an acting minister is restricted from taken certain critical economic decisions on behalf of the country.
For instance, the next International Monetary Fund (IMF/ World Bank meeting is coming up in early next month and there are other critical decisions and engagements that has been lined up for the former Minister of Finance before her eventual resignation.
In view of these developments, concerned stakeholders in Ogun State have started approaching the power that be in the state as findings by The Daily Times showed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Ibikunle Amosun and other few stakeholders have been receiving Curriculum Vitae (CVs) of likely replacement candidates for Adeosun.
It is instructive to note that after accepting Adeosun’s resignation, Buhari directed the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, to oversee the Ministry of Finance with effect from Friday 14, September, 2018.
But economists and finance experts believe that the Ministry is critical to the implementation of financial reforms and the current administration’s anti-corruption fight. Therefore, for any measure of success to be recorded, the occupant of the Ministry of Finance office must be free from moral burden.
According to Uche Joe Uwaleke, an Associate Professor, Nasarawa State University, the resignation of Mrs. Kemi Adeosun over allegations of NYSC certificate forgery bodes well for the image of the country and so will be positive for the Nigerian economy.
He said, “Coming shortly before the period President Buhari is expected to address the UN General Assembly, her decision to step aside will send the right signals to the International community.
It goes without saying that the Ministry over which she superintends is critical to the implementation of financial reforms and this administration’s anti-corruption fight.
“Therefore, for any measure of success to be recorded, the occupant of that office must be free from moral burden. In this regard, I commend her decision.
I do not see the President appointing a new person to that position given the few months left to the end of his first term in office.
I foresee a situation where the Minister of Budget and National Planning is asked to oversee the Finance Ministry for the rest of the period”.
For Professor Leo Ukpong, Dean, School of Business, University of Uyo, Adeosun’s resignation would be the honourable thing to do, but he stated that her resignation would not have either positive or negative effects on the Nigeria’s economy and its financial markets.
“In my opinion, she was not a major force in shaping the direction of Nigeria financial economy. Possibly, some state governors with excessive debts might feel a bit relieved. She was not very supportive of states running high debt levels.
“I believe the financial markets might have already internalised her possible exit as the Finance Minister. However, markets might be more interested in who emerges as her replacement”, he added.
In its own reaction, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the resignation of Adeosun as Minister of Finance and acceptance of same by President Buhari is an action of honour, strength, character and integrity.
The APC acting National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, stated this in a statement made available to The Daily Times on Sunday in Abuja.
Reacting to the development, Nabena said that like all responsive and responsible governments concerned about the truth and due process, the APC-led Federal Government undertook diligent investigation of the allegation.
He said, “Now that the report of the investigation is out, the right thing has been done, the honourable Minister has taken the path of honour and resigned.”
Nabena also congratulated Adeosun for her action and wished her success in her future endeavours, and joined the president in appreciating her immense contributions to the stability of the economy.
Adeosun had in her resignation letter to President Buhari, said it has been an exceptional privilege to have served the nation under the the President’s leadership and to have played a role in steering Nigeria’s our economy at a very challenging time.
She said, “I am proud that Nigeria has brought discipline into its finances, has identified and is pursuing a path to long term sustainable growth that will unlock the potential in this great economy.
“Under your leadership, Nigeria was able to exit recession and has now started to lay the foundations for lasting growth and wealth creation.
“Repositioning this huge economy is not a short term task and there are no short cuts, indeed there are tough decisions still to be made but I have no doubt that your focus on infrastructural investment, revenue mobilisation and value for money in public expenditure will deliver growth, wealth and opportunity for all Nigerians”.
Meanwhile, it is worthy of note that since the ex-minister of Finance assumed office in November, 2015, she had focused her attention on the initiation, development and aggressive implementation of innovative fiscal operations management policies and initiatives aimed at redressing the economic fortunes of the country.
She also facilitated the realisation of the Administration’s cardinal principles of transparency and accountability, curtailed wastages in governance and reduced fiscal leakages, thereby achieving savings for the federal government.
In keeping with that focus, the former Minister played leading roles in the development of various cost cutting initiatives through the pursuit of carefully thought out policies aimed at promoting transparency in the payment process, drastic reviews of the procurement process, the sanitisation of the public-sector payroll system, leading to the elimination of huge number of ghost workers, amongst other objectives.
She played a leading role in the setting up of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), which has since become the key platform for ensuring controls and effective oversight over the utilisation of public funds under the present Administration.
Through PICA, Adeosun placed stringent checks on the expenditure of government revenue to ensure cost-effectiveness and accountability.
Through the work of the PICA Team, several recoveries have been made in fake subsidy claims, discoveries of financial misconduct in the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), recovery of salaries paid to ex-Diplomats, among many others.
The former Minister also introduced a landmark Whistle–blower Policy, as a way of encouraging public participation in the fight against corruption, which was launched in December, 2016.
Working through PICA, the Ministry had received 8,373 communications as a result of the Whistleblower Policy on contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitment and misappropriation of funds.
Out of the total communications, 1,231 are whistleblowing tips. The Ministry has undertaken 791 investigations and completed 534 of those investigations. Ten are presently under prosecution and four convictions have been secured.
Under the Whistleblower Policy, the Federal Government has recovered directly, as a result of tips received from whistleblowers, the sum of N7.8 billion, US$378 million and GBP27, 800. In May 2018, the Government paid N439, 276,099.86 to about 14 whistleblowers who gave specific tips on tax evasion.
From the specific information provided on companies which underpaid their taxes, the Government was able to recover the sum of N13.8 billion as a result of those specific tips. The Whistle–blower policy has helped tremendously in facilitating recoveries of ill-gotten funds and assets.
Similarly, the Federal Government on June 29, 2017 launched a revolutionary and bold reform initiative – the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), through which citizens (tax payers) are offered a window of opportunity to regularise their tax status relating to previous tax periods, without incurring penalties.
Prior to the introduction of the policy, Nigeria’s tax compliance record was very poor with only about 14 million out of an estimated 70 million economically active Nigerians paying their taxes.
This has become more compelling, given Nigeria’s TaxRevenue-to–GDP ratio of 6 per cent, which has remained one of the lowest in the world in comparison with countries in Nigeria’s peer group.
During her time as Finance minister, Adeosun remained innovative in churning out reform policies and initiatives that have helped, in no small measure, to stabilising the Nigerian economy, and putting it on the path of sustained growth.
Such innovations include: Creation of Efficiency Unit; Clearing of Inherited Pension Arrears; Completion of the Establishment of Development Bank of Nigeria;
Addressing the Huge cost of Government’s Borrowing; Asset Tracking and Management Project; Fiscal Sustainability Plans and Budget Support Facility for States of the Federation; Establishment of Road Trust Fund (RTF), among other achievements.