ABUJA (National Conference Report) – The Committee on Public Finance and Revenue of the on-going National Conference has onFriday May 2, 2014 met with the Director-General in the Budget Office, Bright Okogwu to get insights into the management of Federal Government fiscal operations as well as acquaint with issues and challenges alongside. During the meeting, Bright Okogwu informed the delegates that the office has been re-orienting the mindsets of Ministries, Departments and Agencies on budgeting processes. Adding, the re-alignment of the budget carried out in 2012 has made it possible to increase capital expenditure by 29.5%, whilst that of 2013 has been increased to 37.5%. The Director-General further stated that the increase in wages as a result of incessant strikes by workers has also increased the nation’s salary bill from N857 billion in 2009 to N1.7 trillion in 2011. He intensified that the use of benchmark price in budgeting will help in saving money for unforeseen expenditures. Okongwu explained that the plummeting of oil price to about $10 per barrel in 2006 caused economic crises in the country because the country did not save money for such moments during the oil boom of the 1970s. He noted that an economy of the size of Nigeria needs to have at least $50 billion in its foreign reserve and opined that an independent panel of experts is required to determine the benchmark for oil as exists in Chile. “The Value – Added Tax (VAT) which is currently put at 5% should be increased to 10%. The money which accrued from the partial removal of subsidy was N462 billion and the Committee should therefore speedy pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB),” he observed. In their presentations, the delegates from Cross River State appealed for support to their demand for the creation of another state from Cross River State. In a statement signed by eight of the ten delegates and addressed to the Chairman of the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, they noted that the National Conference represents an opportunity for all sections of Nigeria to acquire justice. They further pointed out that a memorandum for the creation of Ogoja State was submitted to the National Assembly in February 2009. ‘That memorandum, they explained has also been submitted to the Committee.’ According to them, apart from Ogoja and Ijebu all the other 22 old provinces and their headquarters have become States and State Capitals.
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