Debate on the alleged missing $20 billion from the Federation Account uncovered by suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Thursday resurfaced at the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) when the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that forensic auditors have been appointed to probe the activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Speaking during a debate at the 24th edition of WEF for Africa, Okonjo-Iweala said that an accounting firm, PriceWaterHouse Coopers, has been appointed to execute the audit.
According to her, the move followed the recent revelations by the suspended Governor of CBN, Lamido Sanusi, that the sum of $20 billion was not remitted to the Federation Account by the NNPC.
She said the exercise, which would be supervised by the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF), would be completed in 16 weeks.
The forensic exercise, she said, would unravel all the mysteries surrounding the unaccounted $20 billion so that Nigerians will know the true position of things.
“We need that transparency and we welcome it. The (suspended) CBN Governor raised issues on unaccounted amount from the Federation Account.
“We, at the Ministry of Finance have for two years been reconciling these figures with the NNPC to know what they are supposed to remit to the Federation Account.
“Our feeling is that the only way is to have a forensic audit that would let Nigerians know the issue.
“There is a forensic audit that the government has approved and it is being done by PwC under the supervision of the AGF and they said they need 12 to 16 weeks to do that and all these would be clarified.”
The Minister, however, regretted that Nigeria’s economic growth is not inclusive, adding that more needed to be done to change the quality of economic growth.
“It is obvious that the quality of our growth is not good enough because we are rising with inequality and without creating jobs for our people.
“We are all growing but not creating jobs and we have been asking ourselves, how do we change the quality of this growth, and our rebasing has shown us where the potentials is. We need to get people to go into farming through agroprenuers where 750,000 youths would be encouraged to go into agriculture.
“Africans want decent jobs and we should admit that we have those at the bottom who can’t get decent jobs so we need to create social safety nets to take care of this. We also need to look at building skills for our young people,” she said.
In his opening remarks, President Goodluck Jonathan said there have been many reported cases of reverse migration of young graduates from Portugal and Spain, who are now moving back to their former colonies such as Angola, Brazil and Mozambique to seek jobs, saying that Africa is exempted from the unemployment challenges.
“The unemployment rates today are over 20 per cent in many of our countries – Nigeria at about 24 per cent, South Africa at 25 per cent.
The second point I want to make is that in Africa, the unemployment problem is compounded by our youthful population and pending demographic transition.
As you know, Africa’s population is very young.
Other continents are “aging” but Africa’s population of young people is growing. African leaders therefore face special challenges. We have the challenge to provide jobs, housing and healthcare.”
“For us in Nigeria, job creation has been the main focus of our ongoing Transformation Agenda, which is our programme to modernise and diversify the Nigerian economy.
“Job creation is one of the concerns that keep me up at night and it has been the main theme of our Federal Government budget in recent years. We recognise that the private sector will be the engine of growth and job-creation.
“And we are putting in place the necessary conditions to support this private sector growth, such as ensuring a stable macroeconomic environment (low inflation, stable exchange rates and so on), investing in critical infrastructure (roads, railways, power, etc.) and investing in the development of skills of our people,” he said.
Nigeria, the president said, has grown rapidly over the past decade – at about 7 per cent per annum. He, however, acknowledged that Nigeria is now the largest economy on the continent and the 26th largest in the world, saying that Nigeria’s GDP is estimated at $510 billion after the rebasing.
“That is why we have focused on a number of priority sectors, which have high job-creating potentials, such as agriculture, manufacturing, housing & construction, and the services sectors.
“And in each of these sectors, we are working to unlock the various obstacles faced by businesses so they create jobs.
“We are learning from the example of other countries such as China to see what they have done in this regard to create jobs for their citizens.
“Our recent GDP rebasing exercise shows that the services sector now accounts for about 51 per cent of our economy, up from 26 per cent previously.
“And so we are introducing targeted measures to further harness this sector by supporting the development of our SMEs.
“For example, we are working to develop our housing and construction sector, given its potential to create jobs for our craftsmen and artisans.
“We also recently launched our National Industrial Revolution Plan, which will further invigorate our manufacturing sector.
“In addition, in the short-term, we have also introduced special government initiatives such as a business plan competition for young entrepreneurs (called YouWiN), which provide grants of between $10,000 and $90,000 equivalent to the best business plans.
“This programme has thus far supported more than 2,400 young entrepreneurs who have created more than 26,000 jobs.
“We also have a Graduate Internship Scheme, which places recent graduates in private sector jobs. Also, a public works programme as part of our Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P), which has created about 120,000 jobs.
“Overall, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimates that 1.6 million jobs were created across the country in the past 12 months but my administration is not relenting because we are aware that even more jobs are needed to support our growing youth population,” he said.
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