- Kogi Overhauls Revenue System, to Begin TSA
With recommendations for adoption of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the establishment of a legally sound and operationally efficient post-autonomy process for the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR), Kogi State is set to rejig its revenue system.
The move, which is part of efforts to fight corruption and wastes in public finance management, has already received commendations from the state government as the Adhoc Committee on Fiscal Responsibility submitted its report.
In recent times, the need to engage professional accountants and financial experts in charting a sustainable path in states’ revenue drive, management and plugging of loopholes against corruption has been canvassed at various levels.
A nine-member committee, led by a professor of Public Sector Accounting at Kogi State University, Steven Ocheni, while delivering the report to the state governor, said the members had painstakingly sourced and collated vital information, which led to the various recommendations in the report.
Other members of the Committee are Asiwaju Idris Ashiru, Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development; Oloruntoba Kehinde, Commissioner for Budget and Planning; Momoh Jibrin , State Accountant-General; and Okala Yakubu, State Auditor-General.
The committee still included Alhaji Ahmed Ododo, Auditor-General for Local Government; Alhaji Bako Mohammed, Ag. Permanent Secretary (Administration), Secretary to the State Government’s Office; Mallam Sairu Mohammed, Ag. Permanent Secretary (Establishment), Office of the Head of Service; and Alhaji Yakubu Oseni, Chairman, Kogi State Board of Internal Revenue.
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, while receiving the report, said it was meant to reposition the state’s fiscal policies, enthrone transparency and fight corruption, as the terms of reference include the establishment of a legally sound and operationally efficient TSA; efficient Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS); and autonomous revenue board.
He assured that the sound operational guidelines for prudent management of the state’s revenue and financial discipline with a view to total elimination of wastages, drastic reduction in outgoings and rapid increase in revenue generation during this administration and beyond would be implemented.
Already, the committee has recommended for adoption the approach and methodology of Lagos State Pension Commission.To arrive at this, Ocheni said that the committee constituted three sub-committees, which had interactions with the representatives of Kogi State Pension office, representatives of Pension Commission and Pension Fund Administrators.
Again, it engaged the Organised Labour Union and other stakeholders in a Town-Hall meeting to interact on the implementation of the scheme.“We recommend Kogi State Pensions Commission for both the state and Local government pensioners, adopting the administrative set up of the Lagos State Pension Commission (LASPEC) for convenience and cost effectiveness,” he said.
He however, said the success of the scheme requires a huge investment in ICT to enable state and Local government pensioners’ records to be fully automated and a database maintained for constant update.
Corroborating the need for investment in technology to achieve success in the new drive, the Secretary to the Kogi State Government, Mrs. Ayoade Arike, noted that the implementation of TSA would be be a major issue as it is about online communication.
“I noticed that the internet level in Kogi State is not superb. We need a strong internet facility to aid the TSA,’’ she said.The committee suggested an execution of an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) from the state to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for deduction of pension contributions at source.
“Technocrats experienced in pension and financial matters be appointed to man the State Pension Commission. The state government should establish a Pension Transition Agency to service the Old Pension Liabilities with a reasonable monthly allocation to be determined by the Actuary, sufficient enough to defray the outstanding pension liabilities in five years,’’ he said.
As part of the repositioning, there is need for a new bill for a legal backing for the autonomy of the Board of Internal Revenue Service to be passed by Kogi State House of Assembly.
For effective performance, the state Internal Revenue Service is to have five Directorates, each headed by an Executive Director, who is a professional tax practitioner and member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) experienced in taxation and management.
The Directorates are: Tax Operations; Compliance; Enforcement; Corporate Services; and Secretary to the Internal Revenue Service.While it also recommended the immediate adoption and implementation of the TSA and the contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for Kogi State Public Service, there was a pre-qualification of banks, with eight eligible to be used for the policy.
The banks are Access Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Ecobank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Skye Plc, and United Bank for Africa. By the report, the would now establish a Project Team/Secretariat to be headed by the State Accountant-General, made up of Director Treasury, Director Budget, Staff from Main Accounts in the State Auditor-General’s Office, Inspectorate Unit, Board of Internal Revenue, Director, State Auditor-General’s Office, and the Bursar, Kogi State University representing tertiary institutions.
“The team has a primary responsibility for the coordination of all pre-implementation, implementation and post-implementation programmes required for the successful take-off of the State Government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) scheme.
“The committee recommends that after the first three months of operations, a policy of No-Pin, No-Pay should be applied to ensure all and sundry comply for the success of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS),’’ he said.
Upon implementation of the report, the retirement benefits of certain category of public office holders may be treated in line with the statutory requirements of such benefit schemes, like the Governors and other State Political Office Holders.
Addressing the governor, the Don said the state’s “New Direction Agenda,” which emphasises public accountability, transparency and financial discipline in treasury management, is an affirmation of the administration’s determination to reposition the State Civil Service.
“It is therefore, our belief, that these recommendations, if implemented by your administration, will launch the state on the path aimed at bringing to the door steps the long expected dividends of democratic governance,’’ he said.
Responding, the state Governor, said he was proud of the performance of committee, as well as the work done by the members.“We set up the Adhoc Committee on Fiscal Responsibility to advise us on ways to manage our scarce resources- prioritise and put to use judiciously,” he said.
He pointed out that his administration is much in a hurry to get the committees working because time was against the government, assuring that he was not just setting up the committees, but has the political will to implement to the letter the recommendation of those committees.
“We set up a committee to look into the state’s bloated workforce and uncovered that over N1.3 billion was being paid monthly to ghost workers. We are already implementing certain recommendations that were adhoc in nature.
“We want to stop the menace of armed robbery and kidnapping in the state. We reduced the level of insecurity in the state from what we met it to half. Before this committee comes up with its report, we had implemented 50 per cent of the report,’’ the governor said.
Assuring that the recommendations of a sound committee like this would not be swept under the carpet, he warned that no corrupt official would be harboured and those who want to manipulate the system of TSA and test our might, will face law.
Lagos State Moves to Completely Ban Okada, Keke, Introduces Minibuses
The Lagos State Government on Monday announced plans to completely ban the use of motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (Keke) due to rising crime and lawlessness across the state.
The announcement was made after a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.
In the meeting attended by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; the Chief Judge, Kazeem Alogba; the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, traditional and religious leaders and members of the civil society, among others, the governor said the string of lawlessness daily witnessed from the confrontation between commercial motorcyclists and law enforcement agencies required urgent action.
“Based on all that we have seen and experienced in the past couple of weeks, as well as the increasing threat posed by the activities of commercial motorcycle operators to the safety and security of lives, we will be announcing further changes to the parameters of motorcycle and tricycle operations in the state in the coming days. No society can make progress amid such a haughty display of lawlessness and criminality,” he added.
Sanwo-Olu said from next week, the state would be inaugurating the First and Last Mile buses next week, which would take the routes the motorcycles were plying.
The state Commissioner of Police, Odumosu, raised the alarm over rising security breaches from the menace of okada operations in the state.
He said between January and early this month, 320 commercial motorcycles were impounded in 218 cases of criminal incidents in which 78 suspects were detained and 480 ammunition recovered.
In the same period, the Lagos police boss said Okada accounted for 83 per cent of 385 cases of avoidable fatal vehicular accidents in Lagos.
At the end of the meeting, a 12-point resolution was reached, among which was a ban on Okada “as a means of transportation in the state.”
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
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