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By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Debts worth N5.2 trillion have been uncovered by the federal government out of which N49.7 billion has been recovered and efforts are being made to get the remaining.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, while presenting a memo for approval for N316.5 million to execute the second phase of the Project Lighthouse at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday, stated that the discovery and recovery were made through the execution of the first phase of the project.

At the gathering presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister said the fund was needed to carry out the second phase of Project Lighthouse, which is a component meant to expand the debt recovery capability of the project.

Project Lighthouse is a data engine that collects, integrates and analyses data from revenue-generating agencies in order to create insightful information for improved decision making, a statement issued by Mr Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, the Special Adviser of Media and Communications to the Minister, explained.

The project is being executed by Messrs Carter House Consulting, a Nigerian technology company that has worked with the ministry for three years. It also implemented the first phase of the contract in May 2019.

“One major area that we have witnessed remarkable progress is in terms of recovery of debts owed to the government. Generally, revenue loopholes have been aided by poor information sharing enforcement.

“So, this Protect Lighthouse shows us that many companies and individuals who owe government agencies have refused to honour their obligations, yet are still being engaged and transacted with, and even being paid on government payment platforms like Treasury Single Account (TSA),” the statement said.

In 2019, the ministry issued a directive to all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to aggregate and sent to the ministry a list of all debtors and their outstanding amounts that are owed to government agencies.

“This we have put together in one central fund that we call Project Lighthouse.

“Since that time, we have been able to aggregate N5.2 trillion worth of debts that are being owed to the government by third parties, and as of today, we have been able to recover N49.7 billion of this amount through the efforts of works we have been carrying out through Project Lighthouse and we are still compiling.

“Project Lighthouse has brought together data from Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), as well as data from bank verification number (BVN) in one central pool.

“Also, we are hoping we get data from three states; land registry data from the FCT, from Kaduna State, as well as from Lagos State, and other states will also be joining in the second phase.

“So, what this has done is enabling us to identify revenues that government can collect and actually be able to use the common platform to collect some revenues. We are leveraging this project to enhance our revenue collection capabilities,” it said.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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