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Find ways to increase IGR, watch debt profile, Okonjo-Iweala tells governors

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), has asked Nigerian governors to embrace reforms that lead to economic growth in their respective states.

Okonjo-Iweala spoke at the induction programme of governors-elect by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), held in Abuja on Monday.

The former Nigerian minister said the country faces challenges on the fiscal, debt, and monetary policy fronts.

On the revenue side, the WTO DG said states have a substantial responsibility, adding that “too few states” are raising internally generated revenue (IGR) of any significance.

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Okonjo-Iweala, citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and state-audited financial statements by BudgIT, a civic-tech group, said “33 states relied on federal transfers for the majority of their revenue”.

“For 13 of these states, monthly FAAC allocations accounted for over 70 percent of revenue,” she said.

“While I commend those states that have made additional efforts, governors need to do much more. States must figure out ways to increase IGR. This goes hand in hand with using your 48 percent share of federal allocations more transparently, efficiently and effectively.

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“You must share with your state citizens how much FAAC allocation you receive each month, how much IGR you collect, and how you spend it.

“We used to publish this information routinely during my time as finance minister under presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan. We must resume this practice so your citizens can hold you accountable.

“Excellencies, please watch your debt profiles, and keep careful control of expenditures, even as you invest in infrastructure, education, and basic health systems. Please endeavour to pay teachers, health workers, and others their salaries, and retirees their pensions.”

Referencing her book, titled, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous’, Okonjo-Iweala said several Nigerian states have economies bigger than entire African countries.

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She added that the “FAAC allocation received by some states is bigger than the budgets of several African countries — and if those countries can grow at 4 or 5 or 6 percent, your states can do better!”

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