Nigerian government has announced plans to use the $322.52 million returned to the country by the Swiss government as part of the fund looted and stashed abroad by late military dictator, General Sani Abacha, to implement its national social safety net programs.
Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, made this known while talking to the press at the end of the 2018 International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC, United States on April 22.
Mrs. Adeosun stated that the recovered fund which had already been lodged in a special account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will be used for the social safety nets projects aimed at providing access to targeted transfers to poor and vulnerable households under an expanded national social safety nets system.
Mrs Adeosun also spoke on the current growth in the country’s economy. She stressed that the current economic growth showed inflation rate slowing down, with foreign reserves rising and that the current outlook contrasted with the situation experienced under previous administration before 2015.
Citing statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), she said inflation dropped from 14.3 per cent in February 2018, to about 13.49 per cent in March 2018.
She also noted that the country’s foreign reserves, which stood at about $23 billion in October 2016, has grown to more than $47.93 billion, from about $47.37 billion as at April 5, 2018.
She said the government was optimistic that the country’s economic growth would be sustained, with current projections for 2019 expected to be far more robust than the present level in 2018.
“Government is confident that if we diligently implement our economic plan, we will continue to grow the economy," she said.
Speaking on the government-owned-enterprises like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the minister said government would continue to efficiently and effectively manage their operational costs, plug leakages and ensure efficiency.
She said, “We must make sure every money earned comes in. We will drive the process of improving good governance and accountability.”
The Minister also said government is currently refinancing inherited debt portfolio from short term Treasury Bills to longer tenured debts and that this has resulted into huge savings and reduction in costs of funds.
She also informed that the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) deadline was extended by three months till June 30, 2018 following appeals from taxpayers for more time to regularize their tax status. She also pointed out that the present administration has raised the taxpayers’ base from 13 million in 2015 to 17 million as at 2018.
Mr. Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who was also at the briefing reassured the country of positive economic growth as he noted that a growth rate of 2.5 per cent projected by the IMF and World Bank for Nigeria was achievable.
Noting the sustained growth in the country’s external reserves, Mr Emefiele stressed the need to continue to grow the reserves to save for the rainy day.
He also guaranteed that concerted efforts were ongoing to realise the 80 per cent target for financial inclusion by 2020.
He said, “If we had enough reserves, we wouldn’t have suffered the recession shocks.”