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Beyond oil revenue, embracing BRISIN

By Tajudeen Kareem
17 August 2015   |   1:07 am
AMIDST huge debts and dwindling revenue from the traditional cash cow, crude oil, the Federal Government, and indeed all tiers of government, must begin to look elsewhere for untapped incomes
Oil workers, member sof PENGASSAN. Photo: naij

Oil workers, member sof PENGASSAN. Photo: naij

AMIDST huge debts and dwindling revenue from the traditional cash cow, crude oil, the Federal Government, and indeed all tiers of government, must begin to look elsewhere for untapped incomes. At the last count, no fewer than 22 states were in arrears of salary payment to civil servants. Delta State, for instance, earns N10.03 billion but has to pay a debt of N4.6 billion every month. The scenario is not peculiar to Delta State. Many State Governments have borrowed heavily from the banks to pay salaries, even when those on their pay rolls are less than 20 per cent of their total population. The banks are shutting their doors.

But there may yet be succour on the horizon with the commencement of a novel project, the Basic Registry and Information System in Nigeria (BRISIN). The scheme seeks to provide a National Integrated Data and Information Infrastructure; indeed an all encompassing solid platform and a sine qua non for the change promised by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“This platform is perhaps what our new President has in mind when he promised ‘change’. This national infrastructure is critical in every developed and developing nation as a fundamental and primary base for checks and balances in their national development,” said Dr. Anthony Uwa, the head of BRISIN implementation team and Managing Director of Dermo Impex Limited, the solution providers to the Federal Government.

The search for a strong currency backed by an enviable economy would continue to elude Nigeria until this developmental foundation is built and deployed. The delay dogging its implementation has continued to give distorted figures and statistics on the nation’s economy thereby leaving planning and projections to guesses and estimates.

Outside oil, Nigeria is basically living on commerce and subsistence production. Therefore the economy should have fundamental attitude on fiscal and revenue management, which in actual fact cannot function without BRISIN. The underground economy in Nigeria is about 70 per cent and IGR is 30 per cent. The reduction in oil price is sending fever to Nigeria because we diverted from following the principles of economic development, Dr. Okorocha reasoned.

Appropriate and reliable data and information are fundamental for citizen identification, documentation, criminal monitoring and tackling insurgencies. “The BRISIN project transcends issuance of identity card to citizens,” argued Dr. Uwa. “It goes beyond giving documents to people without verification of information supplied by individuals. It is a shame that non-Nigerians are getting our National Identity Card and Passport, and are committing offences accredited to Nigerians. The absurd example of this anomaly is Boko Haram, which, owing to lack of information has remained faceless, simply because we cannot trace their identity to any family or residence, but they are human beings,” he further explained.

If the federal and state governments can collect just 80 per cent of accruable internal revenue, they will find it less stressful paying salaries, experts have argued. It is instructive that the project was approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2007. It directed that a pilot scheme be carried out in the FCT. It suffered the pangs of bureaucracy until the last Minister of National Planning Commission, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman on May 14, this year, inaugurated an implementation/technical committee to bring the project back on track. The Minister acknowledged the “numerous obstacles” which slowed down the project. He nevertheless emphasised that BRISIN is a critical national infrastructure necessary to fight endemic corruption, criminality, tax evasion and other socio-economic vices.

BRISIN will assist in the computation of GDP and other economic aggregates at all tiers of government as well as the assessment of the actual production strength of the nation and state governments. It will also assist in tax collection and revenue generation by providing information on individual and corporate economic activities.

Perhaps, the most immediate benefit of BRISIN is job creation. Dr. Uwa reckons that the project will create massive job openings when fully operational. Indeed, Dr. Suleiman said it will “create employment at the grassroots level by the establishment of documentation centres in all the wards which can lead to the employment of about two million Nigerians.” But experts reckon that BRISIN can generate 10 million jobs in five years.

Explaining the modalities for the project implementation, Dr. Uwa said the project works in an umbrella format, from the ward level. A BRISIN centre will be built in all the 8,812 wards to capture and manage socio-economy data and disseminate information; such data is transmitted to the local government area centres (774) for onward transmission to the state BRISIN centres. The national BRISIN processing hub will be located in Abuja.

Ministries, Departments and Agencies will use BRISIN centres to collect data and information for their sector and transmit through a programmed network from the local to the national level. This will allow verification of information from the source. Alternatively, the solution providers will provide trained data and information collectors and miners for them within the country.

“For now we will apply the use of CD ROM to transfer data and information for security reasons till such a time Nigeria will re-instate analogue communication and build own satellite. We can only use the present communication system to transmit information meant for public consumption, because GSM and present communication system exposes Nigerian data in the cyber space,” said Dr. Uwa.

There is no doubting that with BRISIN, Nigeria has a system to drive its vision, guide its development and take it to great heights.

• Kareem is a public policy analyst and national coordinator of the BRISIN project.