The Federal Government has on Tuesday declared that it does not have the resources to meet the N92 billion financial demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The Federal Government said it in very plain language: it is broke.
The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in a speech at the opening of a two-day meeting of Commissioners of Finance and Accountant-Generals of States Ministries of Finance, said the N92 billion being demanded by the university lecturers is not within the reach.
According to her: “At present, ASUU wants the Federal Government to pay N92 billion in extra allowances when the resources are not there and when we are working to integrate past increases in pensions.
“We need to make choices in this country as we are getting to the stage where recurrent expenditures take the bulk of our resources and people get paid but can do no work.
“Since I assumed office, the share of recurrent expenditure in our total budgets had increased astronomically.
“In fact, recurrent expenditures accounted for about 77.2 per cent of the Federal Budget and we are now working to re-balance this ratio.
“The country is still suffering from the effect of the 2010 increase in salary.
“Do we want to get to a stage in this country that all the money we earn is used to pay salaries and allowances?”
Okonjo-Iweala said at the meeting with the theme: “Restructuring Nigeria’s Finances”, that the N92 billion being demanded by the university lecturers is just not available.
“If the demands of the university lecturers are met and we continue to pay them salaries and allowances, we will not be able to provide infrastructure in the universities,” she said.
The minister also lamented that Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil has resulted in the deterioration of the nation’s non oil tax, noting that in 1970, non oil taxes accounted for 74 per cent of Nigeria Government’s revenues but by 2012 it had declined to only 30 per cent.
She said: “Many states and local governments are also dependent on monthly revenue allocation from the central government.
“On average, only 11 per cent of sub-national revenue was obtained from internally generated sources.”
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the volume of external and internal debts of the country has been on the increase, adding: “In fact, in August 2006 when I left office, we had a total of $17.3 billion comprised of $3.5 billion in foreign debt and $13.8 billion in domestic debt.
“By 2011 when I returned to office, the total debt now stood at $447.9 billion and the domestic debt had now grown to about $42.3 billion.”
The Minister however said the Federal Government has taken measures to revamp the economy, adding that these measures have started yielding fruitful dividends in the areas of direct capital investment in the country and in the establishment of industries and agro based firms.
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State in his address read by his Deputy, Hon. Ahmed Ibeto, asked the Federal Government to plug all the areas of wastages in the oil sector of the economy and also check pipeline vandalization across the country.
Aliyu suggested that Nigeria should pay more attention to the non oil sector of the economy, especially agriculture, now that many countries have discovered and are now refining oil.