In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president and maritime lawyer, Dr Olisa Agbakoba Thursday urged the federal government to consider pardon from criminal prosecution as a way of generating revenue.
Agbakoba who commended the president for presenting the 2020 appropriation bill on time, said the government can generate as much as $100 billion in revenue by providing legislation that will see criminals get pardoned from criminal prosecution. He said this will likely result in a massive inflow of public funds stashed in foreign bank accounts.
“…controversial as it may appear, revenue can be derived from new legislation on immunity from criminal prosecution.
“Government must consider legislation on criminal immunity to those who have plundered us, and we will likely see massive inflows of our money in foreign banks back to us.
“At present, the money is out of our reach anyway! I estimate $100 billion will flow back if we grant immunity from criminal prosecutions but with civil sanctions”, Agbakoba said.
He also faulted government proposed spending in the 2020 appropriation bills of N10.33 trillion, saying “the budget reflects many missing fundamentals,” arguing that it will plunge the nation into abysmal poverty.
He further held that the budget did not, in any way, reflect the realities of Nigeria, arguing that Nigeria’s annual budget should be between N20 trillion to N30 trillion, based on a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $400 billion (N122 trillion).
“On the basis of a GDP of 400 billion Dollars, the baseline annual budget should be 20% which approximates 20-30 trillion annual spend rather than the miserly 10 trillion budget.
“Our annual spend is anaemic and we have to infuse large money,” he said.
Float the Naira and end fuel subsidy
On the exchange rate, Agbakoba wants the government to float the naira, so as to get it true value of N360 to a dollar instead of N305. He also urged the government to remove subsidy on fuel.
He said Nigeria will save at least N3 trillion by float the naira alone. What this means is that the naira will exchange for the dollar, based on the forces of demand and supply.
“Public revenue will be enhanced by at least 3 trillion Naira if we rebase foreign exchange rates from N305 to N360 and remove fuel subsidy at once.”
The former NBA president asked the government to consider downsizing the government by implementing the Stephen Oronsaye report of 2014 on ‘Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies’. He said there is a need to reduce the revenue to debt ratio to less than 30%.
“We must review public expenditure. Far too much money is consumed by recurrent receipts. Downsizing government is a task that needs immediate attention by the implementation of the Oronsaye report. Our public sector borrowing requirement needs review so that our revenue to debt ratio is less than 30%.”
Look beyond oil
Agbakoba advised the government to look beyond traditional revenue streams like tax and oil receipts. He tasked the government to consider exploring the maritime sector – laden with cash, agriculture, and trade – real sector, the 34 soft and hard by-products of crude oil.
“Traditionally, public revenue has depended on tax and oil receipts but there are far too many other sources- the Maritime sector is laden with cash, agriculture and the blue ocean, trade, the real sector,” he said.
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