The coming of Buhari’s change agents



SINCE he took on the mantle of change, President Muhammadu Buhari has been restructuring the foundations of the Nigerian government, which have disintegrated over decades of mismanagement. He has been busy cleaning out debris and plugging loopholes, before laying new and fresh blocks. When he spoke at the three-day retreat welcoming his cabinet, the President told the new ministers that “we have already taken deliberate measures to plug leakages of government revenue and resources.”

The Treasury Single Account (TSA) is one example. Under this new system, all government revenue, income and payments are being handled via one single account which will be maintained by the Central Bank. This way, the government will have direct supervision of inflow and outflow. Cases such as that of Nigerian Maritime and Security Agency, NIMASA (currently under investigation by the EFFC) where billions of dollars were channelled for questionable purposes will be a thing of the past. Nigerians can expect more transparency and less misappropriation of funds by agencies of government. The government will begin to realise her revenue in full measure and agencies will be able to spend only within their budgets.

Still on the issue of government revenue, the prospect of the Nigerian government generating more money through the Nigeria Customs Service is set to increase with the change of management that was effected recently by the Buhari administration. With accountability and integrity at the top, Nigerians can expect that revenue from that agency will double or triple.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has also begun to implement a programme of increased awareness among Nigerians regarding the payment of taxes. This is being followed by a strict programme of persuasion and enforcement. Within a short while, the Nigerian government will begin to realise a marked increase in revenue from VAT.

These measures represent a major push by the President to increase internally generated revenue, reduce over-dependence on crude oil earnings in a way that will bring stability and predictability in the financing of government programmes.

The situation of the economy is not an ordinary one. It is a crisis, a crisis itself inherited by the Buhari administration, and one that cannot be ignored. Two weeks ago, the International Monetary Fund, IMF predicted that the GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa would fall to 3.75 percent in 2015 which is the lowest in the last six years.

Nigeria along with Angola, the leading oil economies on the continent have been hit hard by oil prices which have gone down by more than 50 per cent in the last 12 months.

It is on account of this that the President warned the new ministers of what to expect: “The work of restoration and renewal is urgent and immense. The expectations of Nigerians are high. Our determination to succeed and change the fortunes of our country must be equal to the challenge.”

With the inauguration of ministers taking place today (Wednesday), it is now time for Nigerians to watch the edifice of change begin to rise out of a new and strong foundation.

As President Buhari said in the opening address during the retreat that took place last week: “So much has been said about the state of our economy. It is expected that we make the running of Government at all levels as lean as possible, avoid waste and conserve resources. As ministers, you must be the vehicle that will administer the change.”

The new ministers will do well to pay heed to the President’s call for prudence, austerity through the avoidance of the type of extravagance that had weighed down the finances of government in the past. Under the past administration, some ministers had as many as 15 special assistants and so many policemen in tow.

Let the new ministers learn from the President who gave a recent directive that he didn’t want to have more than eight vehicles in his convoy.

Nigerians should get set to see and experience more of the CHANGE for which they voted overwhelmingly for the Buhari administration if the cabinet avoids micromanaging specifics and kowtowing to God-father interests to join the President in putting policies in place to make the country a favoured destination for investors both global and local.

There is light at the end of the tunnel although it will take much hard work to make it a new dawn.

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