By Amaka Ifeakandu
The Chief Executive Officer of BudgiT, Seun Onigbinde, has urged states to stop acquiring more foreign debts, saying that the burden of paying back in foreign currency will impact on their revenues.
Onigbinde also called for a review of the constitution to allow for transparency on the parts of state governments to make public the details of their budget and the implementation.
Speaking in Lagos at the maiden edition of the ‘Meet The Executive’ organised by the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) in Lagos, he said this will enable citizens to hold the government accountable in everything they do.
BudgiT had recently challenged some state governments for not making available their budget for 2017, stressing that the state governments are not bound by law to make public their spending books. “There is no law that says the state government has to give out its budget. So, what we need is continuous advocacy. At the next constitutional review, we should put forward the issue of transparency, and why state governments should publish their budgets. We need to build up a moral issue around it,” he stated.
On foreign debts of states, he said states do not have the luxury of earning foreign exchange to pay off their foreign borrowings and they remain at the mercy of the exchange rate variations. Citing the Lagos- Badagry expressway project as an example Onigbinde said: “When you assume something was packaged by private people and World Bank was involved, you would assume that standard ethics would have followed
He said government needs to diversify its revenue base, and to enable it achieve its developmental objectives. “Many people are looking at this budget to see if there will be actual tangible achievement in it. The budget has to be quickly passed because we have a short period of governance next year. We have a lot of time for politicking. But before the politicking, let’s have the budget quickly passed and implemented,” he said.
He explained that most of the assumptions for the revenue in the budget is bloated and said there is need to build and develop new strategies to attract more revenues. How are they going to build other streams of income opportunities. There are huge assumptions on revenue. How are going to expand revenues from taxes. How are we going to raise Value Added Tax (VAT). Projections today shows that oil prices will continue to rise,” he said.
He also said that all hands must be on the deck when it comes to budget discussion, adding that how public finances are spent should concern everyone, and urged Nigerians to intelligent input into such expenditures.