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Oshiomhole to FG: Don’t Use PENCOM Funds to Finance Budget Deficits

APC Chairman, Adam Oshiomohole

  • Urges President to rejig security apparatus
  • We’ll consolidate on our achievements – Buhari 

By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

The National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole on Wednesday, warned against the use of Pension Commission’s(PENCOM) funds to tackle budget deficits, since it was meant to address the critical issues of the masses who contributed the money. 

The APC National Chairman said this in a remark at the first Presidential Policy Retreat organized by the APC administration. 

Oshiomhole, therefore, called for a complete overhaul of the President’s economic policies to address inequalities and tackle poverty.

Oshiomhole who lamented that poverty has continued to ravaged Nigerians despite efforts by the current administration to address the scourge, urged governments to stop the use of PENCOM funds as stop gap measures to fund budget deficits and facility for infrastructure development by both Federal and State governments.

President Muhammadu Buhari had declared the retreat open.

Oshiomhole also called for rejig of security architecture in the country. 

He urged the retreat to brainstorm towards getting practical solutions to the problems facing Nigeria. 

On corruption, he urged the government to effectively plug leakages with all the Ministries Departments and Agencies reviewing ‘how’s to achieve it. 

Oshiomhole also recommended long term national economy plan to replace the current Economic Growth and Recovery Plan. 

Acknowledging that so much progress has been made in the past four years in the fight against corruption, economy and security, he said there were still huge challenges and room for improvement. 

“The logic behind introducing the pension scheme under PENCOM, was that the workers’ social capital that they deducted every month which they would not need to draw on until they retire about 30 years  or 35 years later, provide a basis for long term fund,” he explained.

Oshiomhole while speaking further, said: Happily, PENCOM has generated over five to six trillion naira since it commenced operation. Unfortunately, the money is borrowed by government both federal and state and unfortunately it is not available to address the social purpose of the working people whose contributions the pension fund evolved. 

“I asked our expert to recognize that the primary purpose of the workers social capital is that it would be creatively managed and deployed to workers social needs including housing, education and all the other factors. 

“It wasn’t meant to fund government’s deficit, it wasn’t meant to support federal government deficit it was meant to address the primary social purpose of those who work, so that they are sure that by the time they finished their employment that they are retired, they have a modest home to retire to. 

“I think we must visit these issues, address them because this President if he has opposition he is among the rich, if he has supporters he is among the poor. The poor people’s money must be used to addressed the critical challenges of the poor. 

“May God drive our thoughts, our processes and rejig everything so that at the end of the day, those people would say yes sai Baba! We elected him, we trusted him and he has delivered.” he said 

On the economy, he noted that there is the challenge of high rate of poverty in spite of all the efforts and in spite of coming out of recession.

He also pointed out that the rate of economic growth is still far less than the rate of population growth. 

“If our economic growth rate is still lower than the rate of population growth poverty would remain endemic. On the economy, there is the challenge of high rate of poverty, inequality, access to credit and mortgage. 

“Mr President, I know deep in your heart and assessing the basis of our campaign the issue of inequality is primary. We don’t just want to grow the economy, create more wealth, we are also interested in who is benefiting from this wealth and what policy instruments are required to ensure that inequality is addressed and that the average Nigerian people particularly the masses that constitutes the electorate, benefit from the fruit of growth.”

This, he said, will require a review of access to credit and access to mortgage, unemployment, low level of manufacturing cost and the need for diversification of the economy.

He said there is also need to increase revenue, block leakages and ensure budgets deliver services to the citizens. 

He added “I am happy that the National Assembly is here because part of the challenges we have faced over the past five years, is that even though we had control in terms of membership of the National Assembly but we had our budgets been passed five months into the new year. 

“Even that fact alone by itself explained challenges at the level of execution of budget.”

On anti corruption, Oshiomhole said “I believe that we can commendably beat our chests as to the extent to which we have gone in implementing our anti-corruption war but there is need to ensure that our range of actions covers prevention – that is system, involvement of the Nigerian citizens, the society, and the prosecution of offenders. 

“There are many who have said that we should not just pursue corruption, we should deal with how to even prevent it. Many wondered how can a salary earner who desire to have a house but who is paid in 30 days interval where they are paid regularly and he earns a million a month that is even to put the number generously. How can he own a house, if a house cost as much as 10 million naira?” he queried 

Stressing that the banking system is not delivery to the ordinary people, adding access to credit remained a major issue. 

“Let me share my own ignorance, I am unable to understand for example as a worker why in Europe when they are in economic recession they reduce their interest rate, in Nigeria when we are in recession we increase our interest rate. How do we price money at such level and expect that the ordinary people can borrow to set up businesses? 

“We do need practical solutions beyond theories. We need to re-examining our condition what we saw different from what we see elsewhere in the world. 

“If you want to buy a car Mr President, you must have twenty million to pay cash, to have twenty million to pay cash if you are not a big businessman it cannot possibly come from a legitimate salary given the known salary structure in the Nigerian public sector and even the disclosed portion of the Nigerian private sector. 

“So if people desire to buy a car and the banking system is not open to credit the only way is to steal in order to purchase. But we have all travelled round the world, ten percent is enough to own a car if you have  verifiable job and a banking history and you pay in installment, month by month until you deferred the car. 

“As a worker you know the benefit of that if you don’t work and you are fired that car would be recovered by insurance company or whoever is the lender. 

So we do need to review all of these so that in dealing with corruption, we deal with the preventive part. 

“This retreat should critically review our achievements in the first term and map out strategy for the second term. What we  hope to achieve in this Next Level Agenda is clear – challenges, how it should be done. This is why I want to challenge us to look at the following issues amongst others.” he said 

Oshiomhole went on “The need for a long term national development plan to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which is expected to end in the next few years. 

“The need to improve our revenue through blocking leakages and ensuring that every revenue agency remits to the federation account what is due in a timely manner. 

“Of course, in this we must commend the President for introducing the Treasury Single Account (TSA). But as operators would tell you this policy is there but we must improve our strategy to ensure that leakages that are still there are effectively blocked. 

“So the issue is how? The need for every ministry, departments and agencies to have a strategy plan to review the question of how because to be honest, everybody knows what is wrong. Even more importantly everybody knows what we ought to do, the challenge is one word – how? 

“We know we have a huge number of unemployed people we know there is a need to have them back to work but the question is how?

So the need to put an effective coordinating mechanism to ensure policy coherence and coordination between arms and tiers of government. 

“We need to radically change the budget contents, we need to do everything possible to reduce the recurrent expenditure from the current 70 percent and increase the budgetary allocation to the four sectors that are part of the life of citizens. Namely the health sector, education, agriculture, infrastructure. 

“The more money we spend on recurrent, the less that is available for these critical areas.

It is not acceptable that we spend 80 percent on recurrent and we have some of our children in some states being taught under the tree even during this raining season. 

“There is need for radical decisions to change this so that those millions of poor people who we saw across the states who fanatically believe in the person of our president and through the president, connect with our party, we must put appropriate policies in place to ensure that at the end of the day we can measure how all of the things we have done or we are going to do at the end of the four years has impact on their quality of lives. 

“We need to implement anticorruption strategy in a comprehensive manner that would evolve the system, society and sanction.”

On security architecture, he said “The need to rejig the security apparatus and operational use community policing which is already being discussed but I think we need to go into the specific on the issue of “how.” 

“Because every minute, every second is going as a party founded on the philosophy of social democracy we need to expand programmes that touch on the lives of such as the social housing, social investment programme, access to public healthcare, access to public education and support to small scale industries.” he said.

“The outcomes of this Policy Dialogue will be wholly advisory and implementation will be left to the federal machinery of Government.” he said 

Those at the retreat included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn. 

State governors included those of Kebbi, Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Imo, Bauchi, Ekiti, Edo, Borno and Lagos. 

President Buhari, while declaring the retreated open, noted that his administration came into office in 2015 at a period of economic recession following sharp drop in the global oil price and years of economic and financial mismanagement.

He maintained that his administration would consolidate on the successes achieved in his first term.

The president said his administration restored economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up external reserves through various monetary and fiscal measures.

He said that his administration has witnessed eight quarters of consistent marginal growth of the economy over the past two and a half years.

“We have made progress in the agricultural sector especially in food production and processing through our Food Security and Anchors Borrowers Programmes, which provide concessionary credit facilities to farmers in crop production as well as large-scale investors in food processing and manufacturing.

“To consolidate on these and other successes, we will continue to provide incentives that will facilitate investments and create jobs in key import substitution programmes.

“In line with the “Next Level Strategy” of our party, the All Progressives Congress, which seeks to consolidate on our achievements over the past four years, this policy dialogue session has been conceived to; “Advise the government over the next four years to deliver on our promises in a manner that reflects true changes to the livelihood of the people.

“Discuss and propose for Federal Government’s approval, key strategies and high impact initiatives to stimulate economic growth and development.”

Concerted effort, he said, requires the convergence of various stakeholders cutting across the private sector, developmental partners, industry experts to dialogue and forge a way forward.

He said his administration is committed to consolidating the successes of the first term and creating an avenue where the Nation’s investments and resources are geared towards sustainable development. 

“We will implement structures that will accelerate speedy execution of these initiatives.

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