In October 1994, the pump price of fuel was increased to ₦11 from ₦3.25k by the former military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, which caused restiveness across all sectors of our socio-economic existence. Following the hues and cries generated by the hike, the General promulgated Decree 25 establishing the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund. A retired Major-General and a former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated the Executive Chairman of the Board on March 21, 1995. An initial ₦60 billion was made available to the Board to commence operations. The fund was worth ₦115.1 billion as at December 31, 1997. The only mandate given to him at the time was to ensure distribution “….of the gains from the (petrol price) increase on social and infrastructural projects.”
On accepting to serve as Chair, he said to the PTF contractors “If you perform well, you get a handshake. If you perform badly, you get a handcuff.” That quote became very famous. The PTF went ahead at inception to award contracts for the rehabilitation of 12,000 km of federal highways. It impacted our health care, education, water, and the agricultural sectors. The successes of the PTF are numerous and, was unarguably the only Agency to achieve a very high success level within the period it existed. He exhibited transparency and accountability as, for the first time, a government agency produced and published audited accounts two consecutive years.
Notwithstanding the controversies surrounding the appointment of a consortium of professional consultants that managed the fund, the overall achievements recorded by the PTF are incontrovertible. The records of its successes and mistakes provide an adaptive template that can be refined with acquired experiences and modern technologies.
From reports, we know the EFFC has so far recovered stolen assets worth about $3.1 billion. Mopped up funds on the TSA have also been announced. Several sources have been identified in fantastically unscrupulous nations that harbor stolen assets taken from this country and efforts have been intensified for their repatriation. The President has promised to reveal more on 29th May 2016 when he addresses the nation on Democracy Day. Planning for efficient utilization of these resources for national good is equally as important as recovering them.
In an earlier post, NO PAIN, NO GAIN (you can read it here https://m.facebook.com/SaniGarba.Gusau/posts/10205720891373857), I suggested the creation of a Trust Fund to manage the recovered assets. I called it the National Asset Recovery and Reconstruction Trust Fund (NARRTFUND); replicating a success template developed from the PTF era. Several administrative structures are available, but one where an Executive Vice-Chairman reports to the President or his Vice may present the ideal framework, giving the Presidency a grip on policy oversight. An appropriate legislation is therefore desired, both as a critical legal support and as an essential component of our laws to serve all generations. The NARRTFUND can serve this purpose.
In a military regime, policies desired by the junta were easily decreed into law, but never so in a democracy. The National Assembly is the only body empowered to appropriate federally owned funds before they are expended, and the recovered assets were once federal resources that had been shared inappropriately. Legislation that created the Sovereign Wealth Fund under the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority presents the right framework to be emulated. The encouragement here is to get the Presidency to romance the NASS to legislate for the establishment of the NARRTFUND. The politics that will dominate debate on the legislation would very much border on not just who to appoint, but majorly a battle of who appoints who as members on the Board of Trustees. The National Assembly, uncertain as some of us are regarding its efficacy, will serve to check and balance any excessive discharge of duties. Most importantly, the social media and the civil societies in cohort with the conventional media have consolidated into a dominant force in the cyber world that can even bring a government down to its knees. There are more than enough formal instruments and informal authorities to watch over the Fund.
Let’s consider a few of the benefits.
Annual Budgets in the past have failed to impact on the economy mainly because of their short lifespan. Like the 2016 Budgets, its predecessors have never been passed and made operational by January, the beginning of every financial. The budgets were often signed into law halfway into the year. With the rigors of procurement processes eating more into the year, hardly are three cohesive months available for implementation to achieve meaningful outcomes regarding real projects by the end of the financial year. The result has often been abandoned and cost overrun projects. This circle of waste can be stemmed by upgrading priority capital projects to a greater budget cycle of three years. The accounting year needs not change, but the project and programme budget period can extend beyond a conventional twelve months’ cycle.
The legacy of the Change Government must be felt, seen and labeled. Here, I’d like you to visualize an insignia inscribed on milestone projects, say, a modern bullet train that travels on schedule from Lagos to Sokoto bearing the “NARRFUND” label. A truly and well dredged River Niger to allow large ships to move goods and people to and from the hinterland. A Nuclear station to power up one-third of the country. All these monumental projects built from the proceeds of the fund would surely be a legacy to bequeath Nigerians by this administration.
It is my hope and that of all Nigerians that, as he unfolds his plans on Democracy Day, President Buhari would present policies, programmes, and projects to grow and develop our economy and to honestly claim the title “Giant of Africa” and a regional economic superpower. An end that more than justifies the means.
I close with the following quote, and most of you will nod in agreement.
An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep – Alexander the Great
He Needs to Succeed. He Has the Will; He Has our Support!