SGF Boss Mustapha Cautions on LG Funds, Seeks Support for NFIU

By Emeka Nwankpa on June 5, 2019

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SGF, Boss Mustapha

Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, has said that the increasing threats to the nation’s economy and public safety arising from lack of information on how local government funds are moved across the country has created fresh need for increased public support to the anti-money laundering and anti- financial terrorism mandate of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

He told a select team of editors in an interview recently in Abuja that the state of insecurity and its effects on the national economy and general public safety were sufficient reasons to engage all genuine stakeholders towards resolving current disagreements on the NFIU’s mandate.

‘’It is important that we understand the positions of all stakeholders and avoid unnecessary rancor on this matter. During ex-President Obasanjo’s tenure this matter came up and even got to the Supreme Court. You all know the story. We want a clear understanding of what the law says and its applicability…We need to manage it very well. The NFIU Act 2018 gives it powers to monitor the movement of money, withdrawals of money, etc within the nation. We have to keep a watch on the movements of funds as it happens all over the world.

It will be recalled that NFIU’s new guidelines which were released on May 6, 2019 to take effect on June 1, 2019 to reduce vulnerabilities arising from cash withdrawals from local government funds throughout the country issued on May 6, 2019 to take effect on June 1, 2019 have been resisted by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, a development that has raised concerns over threats to the existing cordial relationship between the Federal Government and the State Governors.

Boss Mustapha, who has earned the admiration and respect of many in the way and manner he has skillfully utilized the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to create a delicate non-partisan, robust synergy and collaboration with the administrations 36 States of the Federation to actualize good governance in the country, told the editors that the situation will not spin out of control.

‘’Let me assure you that the issues will be amicably handled. We have in place credible platforms to approach the issues and we will try as much as possible to create the enabling environment necessary for the resolution of all issues involved. In this office, we have re-enacted the Committee of SGF and have created synergy by consultation through appropriate organs and respect for the rule of law and principle of federalism.

‘’In pushing through, we have to be sure that we all are working in the same direction so that our people can get the best of all policies and programmes being put in place for order and good governance. The tendency is for Government to be interested in how funds are moved here and there because some financial movements have become instruments of national destabilization in most countries. It is important for our country to keep an eye on how funds are moved, it can destabilize the economy, it can also destabilize the security of a nation. We have to be very careful’’, he said.           

 

At the special interview which literally dragged into the wee hours of the morning of the 2019 Presidential Inauguration Day of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Boss Mustapha said commended Nigerians for re-electing the duo in whose hands he assured Nigeria was safe.

He said that the rare opportunity and privilege of working with the President and his team has made the sheer weight of his huge official schedules as the SGF to pale into insignificance. According to him, the entire complement of highly-focused, dedicated and patriotic staff comprising six Federal Permanent Secretaries superintending 22 Federal agencies has been intact since November 1, 2017 when he assumed office.

‘’Before I leave the office at about 4am every day including weekends, I ensure that my desk is cleared of files. The entire staff is very wonderful and we appreciate all of them in our own little way that the law and humanity permit’’, he said.

He assessed the last four years of the Muhammadu Buhari Administration and maintained that the foundation for gigantic milestones had been laid. He said that his office has been working very hard to promote peaceful coexistence in the country though he affirmed that current efforts being undertaken to stem banditry in the North West from turning into another insurgency were achieving results.

Mustapha maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari has done well considering where the state he met the country which he said made the administration narrow its focus on tackling insecurity, fighting corruption and diversifying the economy.

“We should not forget that when we came in, a substantial part of the local governments in the northeast were under the control of Boko Haram insurgents. As a matter of fact, today, I got a new figure that shocked me when the Governor of Borno State, at a meeting, mentioned that 22 out of 27 local governments in Borno States in 2015 were under the control of Boko Haram insurgents.

“Today, I can tell you not a single one of those 22 local governments are under the presence of Boko Haram. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but I can tell you substantially all the local governments that used to be under the occupation of the Boko Haram insurgents have been liberated.”

According to him, “People have returned to their homes. We still have challenges because of the level of indoctrination that has taken place. They still have some sleeper cells that come alive. What they do is that they look at soft targets. They get some small girls wrapped with explosives to go to churches, mosques, markets, schools. But there is no more occupation of any sizeable part of this country.”

He, however, noted that as Boko Haram is being decimated, in other regions of the country, in the North Central, there are clashes between herdsmen and farmers; issues of kidnapping. “We have had issues of armed banditry, which has taken a new dimension altogether. It is no more kidnapping just for the sake of it. Kidnapping is becoming a commercial enterprise and the banditry in the North West if care is not taken will be another insurgency.”

 “There are many aspects of this crisis that are manifesting, but I can tell you that we have tried as much as possible to deal with those crises. You can see that relative calm even in the Southern part of the country and South-South, which were major challenges at the time we came in 2015, but because of the interface, mediation, negotiation and extending a hand of fellowship and assuring people that they are part of Nigeria and they can make claims for which the government is obligated to listen to them, there has been relative peace even with the issues of self-determination as exhibited in South Eastern part of the country,” he said.

The government is doing so much in terms of interface with the governors, with the leadership of the South East trying to dissuade people from towing that part which will not be of benefit to anybody, he said.

According to him, government is doing everything humanly possible to contain security challenges in the country as they manifest in different dimensions while his office interfaced with stakeholders by promoting co-existence in the country as a means of discouraging strife and ensure that the country is devoid of insecurity. For example, he said a lot has been achieved with traditional rulers as the principal functionaries in most communities. It has consistently engaged the National Council of Nigerian Traditional Rulers, which is co-chaired by the Ooni of Ife and the Sultan of Sokoto.

“We have had series of meetings. Not long ago, I was in Kaduna, where we had joint one for the Northern states and subsequently we had that of the South-East in Owerri. We are working to have that of the South West in Ibadan or Lagos, which we haven’t fixed the time and one for the South South,” he said.

Also, considering that most conflicts in the country are driven by sheer suspicion and hate, his office has revived the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, NIREC after it was moribund for six years.

“I had to do a lot of spadework to convince the leadership that we needed to go back to the negotiation table and begin to talk. When the people outside begin to see the leaders of different faiths talking, it encourages them to have a sense or feeling that our problems will be sorted out,” he said, adding, it has helped tremendously.  NIREC has met in all the six geo-political zones.

The office has also engaged the National Council for Traditional Rulers to nurture and engender peace in the country.

“Because we have the responsibility for public safety and security, we have to take these steps to ensure that our people are in dialogue, talking and trying to find solutions to the problems that have engulfed our country.”

On the anti-corruption flank, Mustapha said a lot of recoveries were made while government, in the 2019-2023 period ahead will strengthen institutions by emplacing mechanism s to prevent corruption and the collateral expenses.

According to him, the government has created safety nets for the people that are involved in the work place, saying that the fear of the unknown was a major motivation for corruption.

“You are working today whereby you don’t know the future, and you will be 60 very soon and you don’t have a home, a good car and still have kids in school. How will you cope with that kind of life? That propels you into a quest for wealth and generally that is the thing that propels people to want to acquire more money as much as possible. But once you are able to create a safety net; something that can take care of them in terms of any major accident, insurance packages that can cover them and their families, people will have less tendency in indulging in corrupt practices.”

He said: “Nobody wants to be stigmatized with corruption, which is the truth, but I know it is this fear of the unknown that normally propels people into doing that.”

“Going forward, we should strengthen the institutions and build capacities for them; make sure too that we create safety nets around the whole places so that people can have a bit of comfort. No Government has ever recovered the kind of money that we have recovered nor the kind of properties that have been seized, now going through the processes of temporary forfeiture and eventually permanent forfeiture and after they are disposed of and the funds generated will be ploughed into the treasury account.

“Because of the Single Treasury System that has been put in place, so much money can be accumulated and be used to fund a project, provide for social services for the people of this country.

On the diversification of the economy, he said the government had done very well, particularly in the area of development of infrastructure.

“Most countries long time ago knew that if they could provide roads, provide rail then they would open up their countries, there will be influx of businesses and I think in that area we have succeeded tremendously,” he said.

‘’Not only that, the government has much investment in agriculture. The Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme has provided the resources. As at the time we went to campaign, about N86 billion was expended from that and you know how many millionaires have come out through the scheme, particularly in the area of growing of rice. We grew the rice farmers’ population from 4 million to 12 million.  So, it’s a mass of people that have benefitted from that scheme.

There is also the social investment programme, which has, two years on, done very much in creating wealth for the small business people. Also, the farmer money or the trader money, market money, and so many of those programmes have helped generate employment for the people. The school feeding programme in the south has created wealth for a lot of people that so many people have gone back to the farms, millions are required to feed the students on daily basis, so much monitoring are required, so many food vendors, women who have been employed as cooks servicing that particular industry.

“So I believe that to a large extent, we have diversified the economy. We realize that we came at a time when there was a major drop in crude oil prices, but we were able to navigate despite that we came out of recession and I think we have done so well and therefore we can do better for the people of this country.

 

Source SOUNDBITE NEWS

Posted on June, 5 2019

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