By Muiz Banire SAN
A disturbing feature of governance in Nigeria is huge and inexplicable cost of governance. While cost in this wise is monetary, it is certain that cost of governance in Nigeria has acquired a morbid and fatal effect on lives. Government continues to say it is broke while profligacy continues. The amount spent on cost is unreasonable and inimical to the health of the country. Many pundits and public analysts have commented on the crazy nature of Nigeria’s public expenditure and the conclusions are practically the same. The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in his characteristic manner, decried the high cost of governance in many fora. the response from the powers that be was frightening as they rather persecuted him than supported him.
This is in direct contrast with the earlier stand taken by the then President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, who, when this issue and public outcry on it became a concern to the government, in August 2011, set up a Presidential Committee on Rationalization and Restructuring of Federal Government’s Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies. The committee was headed by former Head of Service of the Federation, Stephen Oronsaye, with the mandate to review and make recommendations on how to reduce cost of governance in the country. The committee’s findings were mind-boggling and quite disheartening in content. The committee observed, among other salient observations, that “The average cost of governance in Nigeria is believed to rank among the highest in the world” and “if the cost of governance must be brought down, all arms of government must make spirited efforts at reducing their running cost.”
Oronsaye’s report on proliferation of agencies and parastatals is yet to be implemented while the country bleeds from this vicious ailment. The ailment will continue to heighten in the face of unjustifiable recurrent expenditure. Two brilliant members of the academia in Nigeria, Okeke Martin Ifeanyi and Eme Okechukwu Innocent, in a peer-reviewed article titled “Cost of Governance and Its Implications on Nigerian Economy” have beautifully summarized certain features characteristic of public offices in Nigeria, which have constituted an albatross on our national lives.
According to them: “The cost of running Nigeria is one problem policymakers have refused to address. Those who have done so did it half-heartedly and the country is gradually grinding to a halt. Many do not see it but we do. If only we could address this, Nigeria would be saving billions of naira that could be pumped into other productive ventures. A governor with close to a thousand aides cannot honestly tell us his state’s problems will be solved in his four-year term because that state’s resources are being used in the course of governance, instead of providing the much-needed infrastructure to jump-start the economy. We agree that some of these aides are useful to the running of governance but the sheer number of them is a great cause for concern. It boggles the mind. If a member of the National Assembly earns more than what the American President takes home, then we know things are not right. If one thinks about the number of ministers and how many aides each of them has, then we will surely know that our problems will never be solved until we address the issue. If we think of how many states votes as much as a N100 million monthly for security, money, which is usually not accounted for, then we will know what Nigeria’s problem is.
“So much is being wasted on unproductive ventures that we fear the country may collapse under the weight of this burden. It is time to take another look at the issue of the salaries and allowances of the people that govern us. We believe democracy can work, just like it is working in other climes but how many countries spend so much on governance to the detriment of other things? Democracy in other climes is not a full-time job like it is in Nigeria. We have to address the issue of paying so much to so many and achieving so little. After so many years of waste with so little on ground, we need to take another look at a constitution which allows so much money and allowances to be paid to those that begged to serve. It is not too late to address this anomaly. The siren-blaring idle people have had enough and the National Assembly should move in to arrest the situation.”
The above pungent facts were published in Kuwait Chapter of Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review, Vol. 4, No. 5, of January 2015.
That was four months before the government of President Muhammadu Buhari came into power with the promises of fighting corruption and introducing prudence into our financial management as a nation. That we have not made any significant progress from the embarrassing situation painted above is not a point for debate. Rather than combatting this evil monster, the government has institutionalized reckless spending and it seems it has become a hallmark of our national existence. The President that promised to sell off the country’s fleet of presidential jets and use the money to develop the economy while flying commercial airlines has forgotten this salient promise but has rather acquired more planes in addition to the existing fleet of the President. Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world with no national carrier, as the defunct Nigeria Airways was bled to death by those who were supposed to sustain it. Many governors fly private jets and no more “Your Excellency” on local flights and international flights out of Nigeria, as those who do not have private jets use chartered planes all over, with the astronomical costs associated with such wasted spending.
Political office holders with retinue of aides, right from local government chairmen to the President, have transformed the ancient use of retinue by warlords and kings to a permanent feature of mere patronage. Present-day legislators are no exception with their convoys competing with that of governors, ministers and other government officials. The waste associated with this extravagant living consumes what could provide several infrastructures and probably resolve ASUU issues and put an end to the recurrent decimal of strikes in our higher institutions and other sectors.
Constituency allowance is another menace that the legislators have built into our national spending. This has become a means of self-enrichment by our lawmakers who collect the money designed for provision of development to their various constituencies and pocket a huge part, if not all. A peep into the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission Report on this will reveal the extent of the ‘robbery’.
The concept of constituency allowance in a nation with an executive government with ministries for works is an aberration. One would think that the duties of the executive is to execute government policies and build necessary infrastructure while the lawmakers should concentrate on lawmaking by which our statute books would boast of development-oriented statutes and regulations. Of course, stemming from the public outcry, the practice now is to route same through the executive for implementation while a large chunk of the committed resources reverts to the legislators. Certainly, the game is not esoteric to us.
There is need to reduce the size of the legislature and render them part-time as against the current system where able-bodied men and women pretend to be making laws while frittering away our national wealth that is not sufficient to take care of our needs. It is urgent we consider unicameral legislature as the two Houses at the national level is a structure designed to impoverish the nation with undisclosable amounts being paid to legislators by a government that is complaining of lack of funds.
In fact, if not too much, we should revert to parliamentary system which is more prudent in number of officials to pay for national assignments. It is certain that no sane society runs the kind of public expenditure Nigeria budgets for every year.
In addition to that are supplementary budgets to oil the palate of our leaders and line their pockets. The projection of affluence displayed by our leaders in the international engagements they go to represent us does not present us as a serious people. Amount they spend on security aides accompanying them is embarrassingly satanic. Even entertainment expenses incurred both in the office and official residence are obscene. Billions of Naira is budgeted to feed the President and his visitors annually while the office of the other executives attracts same. The governors too must strive to outdo one another and lavishly they waste our money feeding recklessly political jobbers, loafers and slackers, who have turned our public spaces to places of gluttonous consumption.
One wonders if our government offices and residences are cafeteria or permanent event centres where celebrations hold on a daily basis. In fact, some enjoy wardrobe allowances as if they were elected or appointed into offices naked. It has been observed, and this is pretty much so that about three million people who work for government in Nigeria consume not less than 70% of our annual budget on salaries and allowances while the remaining 197 million struggle to eke a living out of the remaining 30%.
To use the street lingo, life no balance at all at all. How on earth do we expect to make progress? How do we think we can make life better for an average Nigerian when our public offices are occupied by parasitic excrescence? Which nation, all over the world, does what Nigeria is priding itself on in terms of public waste? In a paper recently presented at the 10th Anniversary Lecture of Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State by Alex Otti, former Managing Director of the defunct Diamond Bank and former governorship candidate of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) which paper was titled Massive Government, Miserable Populace: Cost of Governance as Economic Growth Decelerator’, Otti observed that the government spent over 70 per cent of the budget on recurrent expenditure and less than 30 per cent on capital expenditure.
He concluded by saying that the cost of governance is a drain on the nation’s scare resources as well as unsustainable given the country’s economic predicament. No one needs the augury beads of a soothsayer to come to this conclusion. It is high time we called ourselves to order. It is high time we addressed this ogre that is devouring our future and the future of generations yet unborn. Doing something the same way and expecting a different outcome has been described as simple madness. This Country, beyond other afflictions, cannot rise from the direstrait state, much less grow with this type of indiscretion, putting it mildly. We hope Nigerian leaders will wake up and where they fail to, the youths of this nation should rise up.
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