Federal govt releases balance of Paris Club refund to 27 states By Bello Shittu – December 17, 2017

The federal government has made good its promise to release the balance of the Paris Club refund to states, as 27 states of the federation have so far benefitted from the latest refunds.

The Director, Home Finance of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Olubunmi Siyanbola, disclosed this in Abuja saturday while briefing journalists on the outcome of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting for the month of November.

Siyanbola noted that 27 states had so far benefited from the new tranche of refunds, with nine others yet to receive their share of the Paris Club refund.

She explained that the delay in releasing the refund to the nine states was only “a matter of process,” assuring Nigerians that they (remaining states) would get theirs as soon as the processes were completed.

Siyanbola stated that one of the issues also discussed at the FAAC meeting was the accruals into the Excess Crude Account (ECA), which now stands at $2.317 billion as against $2.308 billion last month.

On the development, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, attributed the marginal increase in the ECA “to interests that have to continue accruing for keeping the money for the future.”

Also on the question of whether or not the $1billion, which the state governors approved from the ECA to fight Boko Haram had been deducted, Idris stated that, “it is one thing for requests to be made, but there is a process for money to be taken out of an account.”

He pointed out that the state governors as part owners of the ECA were perfectly in order to request that part of the money be used to secure the country, adding that “as part owners, there will be no objections and we will go with the directive.”

Reacting to Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose’s objection to the withdrawal of $1 billion from the ECA, Idris said Fayose should have made his objection known to the Governors’ Forum instead of the press.

On why the FAAC meeting had to hold on Saturday, Idris stated that because of Christmas activities, it was decided to hold the meeting mid-month (December) as against between 20th and 25th of the month so that money would be available for workers to celebrate Christmas.

Due to the change in date, Idris noted that “institutions found themselves inundated with reconciling figures at short notices and some FAAC officials were at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) till 9pm and the documents needed got to stakeholders this morning thus prompting today’s meeting so that Nigerians can have better Christmas and New Year celebrations.”

For the month of November, 2017, the total sum of N609.959 billion was distributed to the three tiers of governments.

Under the statutory disbursements, the federal government got N248.227 billion, states received N125.904 billion, local governments were given N97.067 billion, the oil producing states got an additional N43.215 billion as 13 per cent derivation requirement, while the balance of N15.120 billion went for cost of collection and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) refund.

On Value Added Tax (VAT) disbursement, Idris revealed that the total sum of N80.426 billion was shared, with the federal government receiving N11.581 billion, state governments N38.605 billion, local governments N27.023 billion, and the balance of N3.217 billion went as cost of collection and FIRS refund.

In his remarks, the Chairman of Commissioners Forum, Alhaji Mahmoud Yunusa, said “Saturday’s figures were higher now but they can be better off. The states are happy that workers will be paid before Christmas.”

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has said Nigeria could save between $5 billion (N1.525 trillion) and $9 billion (N2.745 trillion) if it migrates its payment system to digital from cash. In the fund’s estimates, the saving represents about 1.7 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, who disclosed this in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), explained that its analysis had revealed that, by updating their payment systems to digital from cash, governments of developing countries could save about 1 per cent of GDP, which may even be higher in some parts of Africa.

According to Lagarde, “IMF analysis in our recently published book, ‘Digital Revolutions in Public Finance’, shows that across the developing world, countries could save around one percent of GDP by updating their government payment systems from cash to digital. In some places in Africa the potential is even higher.

“In Nigeria, for example, we estimate that a government move to digital payments could save between 5 to 9 billion U.S. dollars, or about 1.7 percent of GDP.”

The IMF chief executive believed when governments put technology into practice millions of people could be helped. “Think of Sierra Leone. During the Ebola outbreak, some emergency responders had to leave their patients for days to go and collect payments from a regional office. By introducing a mobile wallet system, the government was able to save lives and better allocate resources where they were needed the most.”

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