This Day (Lagos)

14 February 2013

Nigeria: FG Sets Up Foreign Assets Verification Committee

The Federal Government has set up an inter-ministerial committee to evaluate and appraise the value and worthiness of its key properties belonging to the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) among others, which are scattered overseas with a view to decide on what will be done with them.

This came as the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, Wednesday said an automated staff audit under the aegis of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) of 251 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) under the Federal Government had turned up 45,000 ghost workers.

Briefing journalists at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, who was flanked by his counterparts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Olugbenga Ashiru and the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yarima Ngama, said other outcomes of the meeting were the presentation of performance reports by the ministries of foreign affairs and finance.

Maku said the Federal Government took the step in order to take stock of its property abroad, following a discussion with a committee led by ministry of foreign affairs on the necessity to embark on such exercise.

The committee will have the ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Finance and others on board just as the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) and the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs.

Maku, who explained that the inventory taking of assets abroad was with a view to add value to the economy of the nation, said the committee was mandated to verify and report to the president on the extent of the property and what could be done with them.

The minister stated that the committee would soon be constituted.

Meanwhile, Ashiru, who had earlier briefed the council on the performance of his ministry in the last one and half year, pointed out that in realisation of its Key Performance Indicator (KPI), the ministry was able to intervene successfully in conflict torn countries of Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Mali.

Acknowledging that the foreign policy thrust of the ministry had been given direction by President Jonathan's pronouncement during his inauguration, said: "This became the ministry's concern and was aligned with its constitutional mandate as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution."

"What we did at the outset was to re-organise the ministry. Officers were deployed to missions abroad. New officers were trained in the art of diplomacy to make them perform their duties well and they we moved on to global peace and just economic order," the minister explained.

He added that relative peace being Nigeria's interest primary and with 20 million Nigerians living in Cote d'Ivoire the country needed to provide leadership to ensure that President Alassane Quattara was sworn-in and avoided monumental bloodbath.

In Guinea Bissau, he said, the government was able to stabilise the polity, stressing that today there is an ECOWAS force in place with a road map for stability being pursued. His is also the case in Mali.

Expressing the Federal Government's gratitude to France for its intervention in the Northern part of the country, the minister also enumerated achievements recorded in the country's involvement with the African Union, the United Nations and other global bodies such as the D8.

On his part, Ngama said the IPPIS was initiated to enhance efficiency in personnel cost planning and budgeting so as to peg the cost of such on actual verified number and not estimates, said the exercise it so far carried out has saved the country N100 billion in the last eighteen months.

According to him, the Federal Government has so far undertaken staff audit in 215 MDAs, audited 153,019 staff as at January, 2013 while 321 MDAs are yet to be verified and put on the IPPIS system.

Ngama said in its effort to stabilise the economy and control expenditure, the government has also established the Treasury Single Account as a unified structure of government bank account that gives a consolidated view of the cash position

The ministry is tasked with efficient microeconomic management, mobilisation of fund for the real sector development and introduction of structural reforms that will enhance creation of jobs.

Ngama stated that it also has responsibility for fiscal consolidation, budget composition, increase revenue generation and the building of buffers to take care of financial crises.

He noted that the ministry for the first time broke the jinx surrounding late preparation of budget as the 2013 budget was presented at a record time, in September, 2012 and that there were only few challenges to consider before it will be signed into law.

He hinted that the target in the fiscal responsibility 6.11 per cent reduce to 2.17 in 2013 with the ultimate aim of bringing it down to about 1.7 per cent.

He disclosed that government has plans to increase capital expenditure to 60 per cent and reduce recurrent expenditure to 40 per cent.

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