Hamman Tukur: Gone but Not Forgotten on Fiscal Efficiency
By Hussaini Sani Kagara
The news of his death was rudely shocking but that was an inevitable decree of the Almighty Allah. Working closely with Engr. Hamman Adama Tukur, for about 10years, while he superintended over the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), was insightful, challenging and beneficial learning curve. Before the RMAFC, Tukur had served the nation in various capacities but I only got to know him in the Commission.
At the onset in the Commission, Tukur set the agenda – defined its broad functions in a detailed manner that brought out the academics, knowledge, intelligence and experience in him. Those details still guide the workings of the Commission. Tukur, an electric engineer by profession quickly transmute to become self-authority in public finance, economic policies and not to talk of law. He worked with passion, commitment and courage. No matter the volumes of a document, he read and virtually make notes on all the pages. A many of us wondered how he achieved that considering his age and busy schedules. He brought out the Commission from obscurity to limelight and made it a force to reckon with in the nation’s matters of public revenue and sometimes economic policies.
Before him was a function to monitor accruals into and from the Federation Account, which was tedious, complex and enclosed by political intrigues. Tukur, in this case, exhibited rare qualities. He took the stand of speaking the truth. His mantra was justice, equity and fairness. Not being a novice in the oil operations, he took up the NNPC and demanded for explanations. Tukur insisted that the NNPC must buy crude oil at the international price and monetized at prevailing exchange rate. He ensured that dual exchange rates were not applied in crediting the Federation Account and Joint Venture Cash Calls (JVCC) deductions. He declared the NNPC as withholding billions of naira meant for the Federation Account in 2002, which was later repaid. The FIRS was not left alone. The controversial cost of collections took centre stage. Tukur opposed it and went to Court but the Government had it way. The Nigeria Customs Service and Department of Petroleum Resources also felt the impact of Tukur. He started the Reconciliation of Tax Liabilities of States and Local Governments in 2004 that is still ongoing with billions of Naira recoveries into the Federation Account. Generally, Tukur promoted transparency and accountability in remittances and disbursements of the Federation Revenues and shouted at illegal deductions. It was Tukur that instituted the FAAC-Postmortem Subcommittee, which still function with remarkable achievements. When he was re-appointed in 2005, it was a surprised to many.
As Chairman of the RMAFC, Tukur worked assiduously with his Members to have a new Revenue Allocation Formula for the nation. He withstood the many shocks that came his way – especially the never ending complaints from the littoral States and many more. Up to the time he left the Commission in 2010, his efforts and reports of 2001, 2002 and 2003 were marred by political intrigues and never approved – a regret he lived and died with. The reports were sympathetic to States and Local Governments having more share of the Federation Account – a position not palatable to the Federal Government and thus failed to encouraged it passage. Likewise, the States were against direct payment of Teachers’ salaries. Tukur objected to the unilateral review of the revenue allocation formula by Obasanjo’s Administration and considered the Excess Crude account as an aberration. Tukur ended the zero allocation era to the Local Governments and opposed the creation of new Local Governments without due process by States like Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, etc and proposed the withholding of their funds albeit controversially. It was Tukur that innocently advised and insisted that the State Governments should operate the State Joint Local Government Account as provided for under the 1999 Constitution even though was later abused brazenly.
Disputation over oil wells characterized his period as Chairman. However, before he left virtually all the disputes were resolved through political compromised and scientific solutions. One approach that stands out was the use of coordinates, which scientifically identified the exact location of oil wells. It was this process that acknowledged Lagos and Ogun as oil producing States while Cross River became non-oil producing State. Tukur instituted the monthly review of the derivation indices and ensures that DPR provides accurate crude oil production data. It was Tukur’s led Commission that introduced the Direct Percentage of the Federation Account (DPOFA) that enables beneficiaries to calculate their portion the moment the quantum to be shared was announced. Tukur also ensured the periodic review of indices for the horizontal sharing revenue.
On the fiscal side, Tukur played prominent roles in the Nigeria’s budgeting process. He frowned at the budget envelope approach, opposed the MDAs making budget defense, decried the introduction of constituency project for the Legislators, insisted on budgeting for subsidy payments, which started in 2006, demanded for Legislation on Budgeting Processes in Nigeria and demarcation of responsibilities. Under him, the RMAFC Chaired the External Debt Reconciliation Committee, which formed the basis for Paris Club Debt relief and insisted that some States and all the Local Governments did not owe the Paris Club; they should, therefore, be refunded of their own share of the $12bn, which was eventually done in 2007. It was Tukur led Commission that blow the whistle about illegal deductions from the Excess Crude Account running into billions of dollars that resulted in a Senate Public Investigation in June 2006. Tukur was keen about economic diversification – he produced a report the likes of which I have not seen in recent times.
Another core to his achievement was in the area of Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders. The remuneration reports made far reaching and innovative packages aimed at reducing cost of governance and the promotion of modest and decent live style for public and political office holders. The monetization of some fringe benefits such as housing, vehicle loan, etc, which were hitherto provided by government was radical. Unfortunately, however, the real intention of the Commission was later bastardized. It was this policy that pitched Tukur and some of his Members that demanded for official vehicles as against the policy. Tukur took Danjuma Goje, then Governor of Gombe State, to Court for prescribing to himself humongous pension and gratuity. Tukur wanted the Chief Justice of Nigeria to be the highest paid officer but Obasanjo objected to that proposal. Tukur resisted the attempt by a high ranking leader in the House of Representatives to have similar Estacode with the Judges of the Supreme Court.
On leadership, Tukur encourages discussion and brainstorming sessions. He listened to the lowest member of staff for advice with a proviso – ‘the decision is mine.’ He recognized and mentor talents. He read all his memos and supporting documents before any meeting. A member once remarked ‘this man should be the Chairman of the Commission for life.’ Tukur never travelled officially abroad throughout his 10years in RMAFC. One attempt he made was to India but cancelled it at the late hour. Tukur dislike heavy protocol. He used only two official vehicles interchangeably for 10years. He has no convoy, Police Orderly or Executive Body Guards. He always said ‘who would guard you after leaving office.’ Tukur takes responsibility and despite being the Chief Executive, Tukur has a very clean desk – hardly you find a single paper or file on his official table – I wonder how he achieved that. Tukur was generous and result oriented. When you work late for Tukur, be assured of ‘Suya, Chicken and food’ from his personnel pocket – and your official overtime would be paid.
At any rate, the success or failure of any system is a striking reflection of its leadership. Tukur, by no doubt, was a leader full of courage and enthusiasm to serve and to make a difference for Nigeria to be a better and just country for everyone. To many, Tukur was controversial but that was the nature and challenge of adjudicating over public revenue especially among numerous contenders. No day pass-by that Tukur would not talk about the problem with Nigeria.
The story of Tukur in the Commission and elsewhere were voluminous. He left landmarks, footprints and remains nostalgic about the Commission, in particular. He was an enigma, charismatic and stands tall against odds. He was an embodiment of knowledge, intelligence and experience. He was never intimidated and maintained a network of highly placed individuals. He was a darling of the press as he always called ‘spade, a spade.’
So, Tukur is gone, Certainly, Tukur would be missed. As human, he has his shortcomings. May Allah forgive his inadequacies and grant him mercy.
Hussaini Sani Kagara
No. 144, Masoyi Road
Kagara, Niger State