President Muhammadu Buhari has described as regrettable the continued loss of public funds through illicit financial flows, saying it remained an impediment to development and effort by developing countries to scale up resource mobilization.

The occasion was a high-level dialogue on “Financing for development” with the theme: “Putting resources to work for more equal, sustainable societies, including combating illicit financial flows” at the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York at the weekend.

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, delivered the President’s speech on the occasion.  The President returned to Abuja last Saturday.

The President said that multilateral efforts at resolving the problems of illicit financial flows should be comprehensive and holistic with the active engagement of the origin and recipient countries.

“In this connection, my administration has demonstrated the required political will to ensure the independence of all anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria and reviewed enabling anti-graft laws,” he stated.

He encouraged member states to join “our efforts to strengthen the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and support the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiatives of the United Nations and the World Bank.”

President Buhari also said that, “Nigeria recognises the importance of Diaspora Remittance, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Official Development Assistance (ODA) in providing further channels to fund development projects.

“As a result, we call on our development partners to live up to their commitment to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of ODA/Gross National Income (GNI) and 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of ODA/GNI to least developed countries.”

He said the meeting provided for him a veritable platform to highlight some of the policies and achievements of his administration in the last couple of years.

According to him, “We have mobilised significant domestic resources to finance critical projects aimed at addressing inequality, ensuring social inclusion and sustainable development.”

He declared that four years after member states committed to the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “the question on how to finance such an ambitious agenda remains.”

The President said: “We believe that achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda is a task for all nations; however, it should be recognized that many Developing and Least Developed Countries are in dire need of financial assistance far and above what they can mobilise within national boundaries.”

He told the gathering that, “As part of my Administration’s effort to implement the SDGs by the year 2030, we have identified and implemented several policies to diversify the revenue base.

“The Single Treasury Account (TSA), Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Executive Orders on the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) and Ease of Doing Business have all been introduced. The objective is to ensure efficiency in resource mobilisation and avoid over-reliance on revenue from crude oil.”

The President said that Nigeria had substantially scaled up its efforts to mobilise domestic resources for development purposes, adding that “we have broadened the formal sector of the economy and carried out major reforms in tax administration, ushering in a progressive, modernised tax policy and efficient tax collection system.

“Our effort in this regard could be enhanced by strengthening international tax cooperation to minimise incidences of tax avoidance and tax transfer.”

He noted that Nigeria “is actively involved in the work of the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters,” pointing out that “We, therefore, support the call for the upgrading of this Committee to an Intergovernmental body that will represent the interest of all members and mainstream its work into the broader development effort of the United Nations.”

He added that, “My Government is investing heavily in the social sector through the introduction of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) to achieve Sustainable and Inclusive Development.

“Through this programme, we have empowered youths; created jobs; increased enrollment of pupils in public schools; supported the vulnerable groups; provided Nigerians living below the poverty line with means of subsistence; and extended material and financial support to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

“The funding for this flagship programme is provided annually from the Treasury with requisite budgetary appropriation.”

Explaining that debt instruments were also important tools for financing investment critical to achieving sustainable development for many countries, President Buhari said that Nigeria was, however, mindful of the principles of responsible sovereign lending and borrowing and, therefore, would continue to ensure that funds raised would be utilized for critical national development.

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