Following is a transcript of Mr Peter Obi’s speech at the 52nd Annual Conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) on Wednesday at the Mallam Tijani Musa in Abuja.
I thank the Organizers of the 52nd Annual Accountants (ICAN) Conference, and especially the 58th ICAN President, Mallam Tijani Musa for the kind invitation extended to me.
I join you today, not because I am an Accountant, but because we are all fellow believers in the search for a new Nigeria. Also, ICAN as a body of accountants continues to contribute to economic sustainability to the country.
Today, I will speak briefly on “Accounting As A Requisite For Sustainable Governance.” Whether you are involved in corporate, public, government or forensic accounting, all accountants are fundamentally concerned with financial records. Incompetence in financial records, totally distorts intended development. It is logical; therefore, that placing Nigeria on the part of economic prosperity will help reduce our national challenges to the barest minimum. We must therefore put in place, sustainable economic policies that will drive economic prosperity in the country
In keeping with our vision of moving the country from consumption to production, we must pursue sustainable economic policies that will help the nation to remain productive in all fronts and sectors For this reason we will endeavour to domesticate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of our governance modalities.
We have a three-tracked plan aimed at achieving Goal 12 of the SDG, namely ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Second, pursuant to Goal 9 of the SDGs our administration will from its inception continue to encourage investment in infrastructure, energy, transportation, irrigation and telecoms to grow these and other sectors.
We will expand the frontiers of financial inclusion to ensure that SMEs have greater access to credit to grow. We will work with financial institutions to improve their ability to identify credit worthy borrowers; and support inventory financing, which will help to unlock finance for SMEs dealing with high account receivables. All loans must be invested in regenerative projects. We shall pursue a drastic reduction in cost of governance and corruption; improve ease of doing business to attract Foreign Direct Investment to jumpstart industrialization and when borrowing is unavoidable, it will be strictly for production.
It is also imperative that henceforth, we should strive to operate within available resources and strive for a balanced national budget as cost saving measures.
I have touched on cost of governance and blocking leakages. The efficiency and credibility of any system whether an institution or even a government is closely linked to the credibility of its accounting system, and where there is disorganisation in the growth of any nation, you will always find discrepancies in the accounting practices.
Our message of probity, equity, innovation, competence, true brotherhood and visionary reconstruction in governance has not only been embraced by the youth, but has now become too many, their own personal and collective battle to take back our country, and rescue it from the difficult times with which we daily struggle.
As President, one of my priorities will be rule of law and due diligence, and promoting intangible assets, which are vital components of holistic security. This will also underpin public sector accountability.
We will abide by the Fiscal responsibility laws. All arms of government will be subject to routine audit this is the only way to ascertain the veracity of procurement figures, recurrent and concurrent expenses, even constituency projects.
Nigeria is not bereft of good governance ideas and plans. However, a combination of institutional weaknesses and lack of political will meant that various policies and strategies are poorly implemented leading to poor outcomes for the people.
My last points could easily have been my first, but I preferred not to lead with them. So let me touch on corruption. It is the issue of corruption and investment protection.
It is no secret that corruption has been endemic and one of the biggest obstacles to our economic progress in Nigeria. Corruption is the big elephant in the room. In the past few days we have seen videos of illegal pipelines connected to national oil pipeline networks, running for kilometers… where billions of dollars that should have been used for development and welfare, have been illegally siphoned away, for up to nine years, according to reports.
What I first expected was that the hierarchy of our top oil management bureaucracy will immediately resign, because without mincing words, this is irrefutable evidence of their incompetence, if not collaboration. My administration, when we come in, will tackle this corruption head on. We will have zero tolerance for corruption.
The truth is that the position of accountants in our society and in our public institutions is very vital in checking corruption especially in government.
But it is also true that the position of accountants in our society is also vital in aiding corruption in our society.
If you look at the written financial regulations in any establishment, you will see watertight regulations of auditing, vetting, tendering, vouchering, joint signatories and other safeguards, designed to check embezzlement and corruption, yet these sharp practices and misappropriated sums continue to rise, and I understand that there is now a Nigerian record of almost N109 billion allegedly embezzled by an accountant.
I know your profession is an honorable one, so I do not have to emphasise so much why it is important that you increase the level of peer surveillance and internal discipline among your ranks , if we cannot properly account for our finances, the country is finished, let us as accountants, do more to check and stop corruption.
May God bless the Accountancy profession and ICAN; the noble association of men of figures.
God bless our dear country, Nigeria.