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Profiles - May 25, 2018

Nigeria’s Vice-President cautions states against overambitious IGR targets

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo

Nigeria’s Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, has cautioned state governments against setting overambitious targets in their bid to jerk up Internally Generated Revenue.
He said this in his address at the Leadership Newspapers Awards and Conference 2017, which was themed, ‘Towards financially viable state governments’.
According to him, if such was done in a way that will stifle entrepreneurs and investors, there will be a great price to pay later.
He cited access to broadband issue as an example of how states could take decisions that could make or mar their economic future.
He said the argument at meetings of the National Economic Council, which he chairs, was that states should not charge prohibitive prices for installing fibre optic cables, and that the goal should be covering the entire country with broadband as an investment in the future.
This, he argued, would be a short-term gain at the expense of the future potential and profit.
The Vice President stated, “In the future, and that future is right here on our doorsteps, our states will thrive or suffer on the strength of things like how fast and cheap the Internet is.
“Thankfully, NEC resolved in favour of low standard fees, but this will not include the cost of damage to roads. But the states also agreed to ensure that roads being built must have ducts to prevent costly damage to roads when cables for various types of infrastructure and services are being laid.
“This conversation about creating financially viable states should therefore be viewed through the lens of the medium to the long-term.”
He added, “There will always be the temptation to prioritise raising Internally Generated Revenue at all costs. If this is done in a manner that stifles today’s entrepreneurs and investors, then clearly, there will be a great price to pay down the line.
“So, it is clear that governors have to think beyond four or eight-year cycles. There must be a commitment to laying a foundation that our successors will build on, and for successors to be ready to build on foundations laid.”
Osinbajo identified one of the challenges with governance in Nigeria today as the penchant for dismantling or dismissing everything inherited.
“Our problem, of course, in our country is not in new ideas or starting projects, it is the lack of rigour and discipline to complete projects and to maintain them,” he added.
He cited the example of Lagos State, which he said was possibly the most successful subnational economy because of the continuity in the implementation of a plan.
He said each successive governor in the state had followed the plan in financial and land reforms as well as infrastructure development laid out by the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s administration.
The Vice President stated, “Even though the Treasury Single Account was not our idea, we recognised its value and realised that the real challenge was the lacklustre implementation that it had suffered over the years.

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