Reps to engage CBN governor, ministers on economy today

CBN governor

The House of Representatives will today hold the second edition of its sectoral debates/dialogue as part of its periodic policy brief series.

The second edition, according to a statement issued late Monday by House spokesman, Akin Rotimi, is “billed for the financial sector and is scheduled to feature key stakeholders in the sector such as the Minister of Finance, Minister of Budget and Planning, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue.”

Rotimi stated that the Clerk of the House, Yahaya Danzaria, confirmed this on Monday, in a communication titled ‘Notice of Sectoral Debates with Financial Sector Stakeholders.’ stressing that “the communication notified Honourable Members of the Dialogue while encouraging them to prepare contributions that will enrich the quality of the debates.”

The House commenced work on the sectoral debate series in November 2023 with security agencies.

As outlined in agenda one – ‘Strengthening Good Governance’ of the House Legislative Agenda, the series forms part of initiatives by the Tajudeen Abbas-led House to promote transparency and accountability in governmental operations.

The Debates Series also has “strengthening of legislative oversight of key Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government,” as well as the “promotion of smooth legislative-executive relationships for good governance” as its objectives.

Upon resumption of plenary for the year, Abbas noted that the state of the economy is of grave concern to the House while stressing that the country is grappling with numerous hurdles impeding growth.

“I am pleased to announce that the House sectoral briefs with MDAs will resume immediately. Accordingly, we shall engage with MDAs and principal actors in the finance sector on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.

“This engagement will assess the nation’s readiness to mobilise the necessary financial resources for implementing the budget,” the Speaker remarked.

Senate to increase Customs revenue target

Meanwhile, the Senate has alerted the Nigeria Customs Service that the N5.079trn 2024 revenue target of the agency will be reviewed upwards from the second half of the year to save the country from further borrowings.

Last Wednesday, the Comptroller General of the NCS, Adewale Adeniyi, told members of the House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise that the service generated a total sum of N3.21trn in the year 2023,

He added that though the service targeted the sum of N3.67trn in the outgone year, it was only able to generate N3.21trn owing to a combination of factors.

However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Isah Jibrin during a crucial meeting with Adeniyi, and top management of the revenue agency on Monday stated the committee expected the service to play a major role in reducing the country’s debt burden hence their revenue review.

He said, “First of all, Nigeria is saddled with a lot of debt obligations and we need to wriggle ourselves out of that trap and one of the ways to do that is internally generated revenue. Customs is one of the major providers of internally generated revenue and as it is today, we expect them to play one of the major roles in this drive to reduce our debt burden.

“We need to pay off what we owe now and minimize additional loans we are going to take. Customs is in a very good position, if they are able to block all perceived leakages, they should be able to generate a significant amount of income that will enable Nigeria to get out of debt, at least partially.”

On concessions given to some sectors of the economy, for example, agriculture, the Kogi East senator said it is for those who are into agricultural services, those who are into solid minerals, and those whose services have a direct impact on the economy.

“If somebody is bringing agricultural equipment into the economy and you try to take something out of that person in a way of import duty, that will discourage the person and that is what we are saying. It is not that anybody took that money or custom compromised in the course of their services.

“Concessions were in the interest of Nigeria to encourage importers who are going into specific areas in the economy. There is a trade-off here between importers and the country, particularly the things you think you are generating.

Talking about the rate of unemployment in Nigeria, which he described as “very high”, Senator Jibrin said “Customs is not the only employer of Labour. They can only employ the number they believe they can adequately take care of and we are putting them under pressure to exceed the 1,600 benchmark.

“We may not get beyond 2000, but for sure, we will get 1,6000 and like we all know, there are so many unemployed Nigerians out there, I will always say, it is difficult for the Nigeria Customs Service to absorb all unemployed Nigerians, but they can only employ those they can.”

Answering questions from the lawmakers, the CG, NCS also disclosed that the service is seeking approval from the government to allow them to give waivers to owners of smuggled cars to allow them to regularise their payment of Customs duties.

He said the approval is given. They could say that within a window, say within three months, if you are in possession of vehicles that were illegally imported into the country or that have not paid duties, you have this opportunity to go to Customs House for assessment and payment of duties.

This he said will be done after adequate publicity so that those who find themselves in such a situation can get their vehicles regularised through payment of duties.

On the naira exchange rate, Adeniyi said he is equally pained by the volatility in the exchange rate regime.

“In fact, even if it stays high and people can predict that this is what it will take me to clear, perhaps it is not particularly too bad, but when it is so volatile, today it is X, tomorrow it is X+10, X+20, it does not make for adequate planning and things like that.

“Correctly, it 8s the mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to fix the rate, either the one we use during the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF or the one we use for importation or the one used for payment of Customs duties. I have been in discussions with my minister. Perhaps, what you are going to advocate is that there would be a meeting point between authorities of government that are in charge of monetary policy and those in charge of fiscal policies.

“Personally, what I think we can do is to get a spot rate for some time. We can agree that for Q, Y 2024 this will be the spot rate for payment of Customs duties; we could say for the first half of the year,” he said.