Curbing profligacy in governance
The end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term in office and that of 29 state governors on May 28, this year, marked 20 years of unbroken democratic rule in the country.
The smooth transition witnessed at the centre and across the states on May 29, despite the acrimony that trails the outcome of some of the elections, signified that democracy has taken root in the country.
Many Nigerians were quite pleased that the country survived yet another general election and transition from one dispensation to another. But there are some imperfections in the system that leave some highly placed Nigerians and even the ordinary man on the street wondering whether the country’s version of democracy is different from what obtains elsewhere.
The high cost of governance in the country is one of such flaws that have left a dent on Nigeria’s democracy.
While it cannot be gainsaid that the country has recorded a lot of positives in the last 20 years of civilian administrations, when juxtaposed with what obtained under military rule, it is plausible to state that more could have been achieved if the country’s elected representatives and political appointees managed the national resources more prudently. What obtains instead is a situation where those at the helm of affairs at all levels of government maintain posh lifestyles at the expense of the governed.
They earn fat salaries and allowances that are quite above what their counterparts in other climes earn; they collect security votes, which details are not disclosed to the public, and so are unaccounted for; they keep a retinue of aides majority of who offer no services to the state but must be there to collect salaries as reward for political loyality; they keep a fleet of cars that are maintained at the expense of the commonwealth; they refurbish their official quarters at the end of every dispensation with new furniture, electronics, utensils, etc., yet no one accounts for the old ones. These profligate tendencies and many more are very common in both the executive and legislative arms of government.
Take for instance the recent revelation that the National Assembly Service Commission would pay members of the 9th National Assembly N4.68 billion as take-off allowance.
Under the arrangement, the sum of N10,132,000.00 and N9,926,062.5 is allocated to each senator and member of the House of Representatives respectively as furniture and accommodation allowance.
This is outside the N13.5 million they will receive quarterly as running cost as revealed by Senator Shehu Sani in March last year.
Enraged by the development, some civil society organisations comprising the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); BudgIT and Enough is Enough Nigeria have approached the Federal High Court, Lagos, seeking an order of the court to stop the said payment.
They argue that the payments, if made, would be in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers (Fifth Schedule Part 1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, oath of office (Seventh Schedule) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and Section 6(1) of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) Act 2004. They have also called for a downward review of the pay and allowances due to members of the NASS.
Majority of Nigerians have thrown their weight behind SERAP, BudgIT, Enough is Enough Nigeria and other civil society organisations agitating for the enthronement of a prudent governance culture in the country as a new dispensation begins.
Many of those who spoke with The Guardian from across the states believe that the ostentatious lifestyles of the Nigerian politicians were antithetical to the country’s quest for growth and development. They believe that the present political culture that glamourises politics and projects it mainly as a means to have a chunk of the national cake must pave way for a culture where politics is seen as a means to serve others and make life more meaningful to the majority. They believe that this is the best legacy President Buhari could leave for the country at the expiration of his second term in office on May 28, 2023. They have an idea of how this could be achieved. Details are contained in the reports below:
Ekiti Residents Want Number Of Political Appointees Reduced Drastically
From Ayodele Afolabi, Ado Ekiti
The Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Ekiti State chapter, Comrade Sola Adigun, believes that one major step that should be taken to cut the cost of governance in the country is to abolish the present bicameral legislative system and adopt the unicameral system.
Adigun, who spoke in Ado-Ekiti, argued that there was no need for the country to have bicameral legislature, noting that the system was too expensive to run and also inefficient.
He maintained that the Senate, which is made up of three representatives per state, is enough for the country.
“So, the House of Representatives should go. I was reading a newspaper yesterday and it was alleged that some states budgeted over N4 billion for travel whereas they budgeted N2.5 billion for agriculture. So, governments need to cut down those expenses of travelling to the barest minimum. If the government has been urging workers to sacrifice their comfort, which they have always done, I think it is high time they too made sacrifices by curtailing unnecessary expenditures. They must be leaders by example. There is no need for governors to hire private jet to travel,” Adigun said.
He added: “The number of aides appointed by these politicians is unwieldy. Many of them have nothing to add to governance. It is very appalling that a politician that serves for four years is being placed on life pension. On the other hand, workers that serve for 35 years are begging for their stipend to be paid regularly. The ministries should be merged. There are some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that are being duplicated with overlapping responsibilities.”
A resident of Ado Ekiti, Oluyinka Soyemi, is of the view that the government should reduce the numbers of political appointees.
“They should plug the loopholes that drain public funds. They should base appointments on merit and not on political patronage and nepotism. Political leaders must see governance as service, as if they are running personal businesses. If you are running your private business, you will like to be efficient and cut cost at the same time.
Look at the amount of taxpayers’ money deployed to the Office of First Lady, which is a constitutional aberration in the first place. In other words, a serious government that wants to save cost will abolish the Office of the First Lady. What is a governor doing with 20 SUV’s in his convoy? It is only a very profligate person that will be going to an event with such a long convoy,” Soyemi said.
A lecturer in the department of Religious Studies, Ekiti State University, Dr. Gbenga Jegede, said that the budgeting system further encourages high cost of governance.
“Look at the budget of the Federal Government for instance. The recurrent aspect that may not necessarily make impact on the lives of the people takes the larger percentage. This is at the expense of the capital component that has direct impact on the people. You often read of how N1 billion was budgeted to feed a family or two that reside in the villa. Every four years when governors take the oath of office, they will change the cars in their fleet. Not only that, all the computers, printers and other office equipment are changed almost yearly, just because they are already captured in the recurrent budget. So, there are a whole lot to be done to reduce the cost of governance and it requires patriotism and political will on the part of the political leadership to do it,” Jegede noted.
For Mr. Adeleye Ibitoye, who also resides in Ado Ekiti, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMFC) should review the outrageous salaries and other emoluments of the National Assembly members.
Ibitoye said: “This should also be replicated at the state level. The current wage bills of the National Assembly is undesirable in a population that majority are living below poverty level. The government should look at the possibility of making the national and state assemblies a part time institution to save cost and make them less attractive. The executive branch too needs surgical operations. There are too many funds residing in the various MDAs that could be channeled to other productive areas.”
‘Adoption Of Part-Time Legislature Will Save Funds For Development’
From Abiodun Fagbemi, Ilorin
IN Kwara State, some stakeholders however canvassed proper funding of the legislative arm of government in the country as a precursor to a virile democracy.
Chief Wole Oke, who was the Leader of the state House of Assembly in the Third Republic, and Tayo Awodiji representing Irepodun constituency at the state House of Assembly, stressed that the legislative arm should not be made the scapegoat for financial recklessness, especially at the state level.
According to Oke, “many Nigerians are aggrieved with the way the legislators are remunerated because of the prolonged military rule in our country, which eradicated the arm of government.”
He said that “the essence of democracy itself is to engender true representation of the people and all shades of opinions. So, whether unicameral or bicameral legislature, we should be prepared as a democratic nation to bankroll it but based on the resources of the nation.”
Awodiji on his part said the executive arm of government “with its bogus budget” should be the focal point if the country intends to reduce the cost of governance.
An Ilorin-based human rights lawyer, Abeny Mohammed (SAN), however, maintained that the emoluments of the members of the National Assembly were unreasonable.
Mohammed said: “I want to say that the allowances of our National Assembly members is unreasonable. We can’t justify that based on the economic status of the nation. How much does Nigeria make as a nation on a daily basis that we will be giving each of them a sum of N13 million as allowance for three months? What we give our lawmakers is the highest in the world.
“Now everybody wants to be in National Assembly because of what they will get and not necessarily because they truly want to legislate. Our economy cannot support the bogus pay. Let the legislators be proactive by reducing their emoluments, then pressure will switch over to the executive arm.”
Former Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, also called for a downward review of the emoluments of the lawmakers. He also suggested that the country should make law making a part-time job.
He added: “There is the need to do surgical operations on political offices in Nigeria. In all spheres of governance, service should be the ultimate. Some years ago when I went to Atlanta Georgia, legislators work on part time basis. Here in Nigeria, there is no need to make it a permanent endeavour.
“I think we should review the issue. But certainly, the elected legislators are not the ones to call for any downward review but the civil society. They should sustain the agitations until something meaningful is done.”
‘Security Votes Is Another Way Of Extorting And Exploiting Nigerians’
By Charles Gyamfi, Abeokuta
NATIONAL Secretary, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Comrade Yinka Folarin, has urged Nigerians to sustain the agitation for a reduction in the cost of governance until it is achieved.
Folarin observed that the cost of governance in Nigeria was unimaginable, adding that it was becoming unbearable for the citizens of the country.
He condemned the jumbo salaries earned by elected representatives and government appointees in the country, adding: “The most disheartening part of it is that there is no adequate justification for the so called allowances that they are getting. It is very much necessary that we holistically cut down the cost of governance in this country.
“We could run a unicameral legislature; we could reduce the number of aides that the legislators have and the appointees of government as well.
“Government must be made unattractive; it should not be seen as avenue for making money. It should be seen purely as service. The legislature should be run on part time basis. Our legislators should be paid based on the days of their activities. What they are doing now is not enough justification for what they are earning.
“The people must stand up and collectively say enough is enough with the high cost of governance. Government officials are getting billions of naira at the end of the day while people are dying in the hospitals. I think it is high time we revisited all these and bring back real governance.”
Folarin agreed that legislators should have aides to assist them in their assignment but noted that the number of aides each legislator could have should not be more than two. He said a legislator that wants to have more than two aides should be made to pay from his purse.
He also urged the state governors to reduce the number of aides working for them. “It is only in this clime that you see a governor going about with more than 30 aides whereas in other climes they walk about freely just like any other person.
“The issue of security votes is another way of extorting and exploiting Nigerians. I see no reason the governors cannot declare their security votes. I see no reason we cannot know how much is being appropriated for that. But I suspect that it could be an unimaginable amount of money they are getting.”
To a former national chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief Alani Bankole, the best legacy President Buhari could leave for Nigerians for which he would be remembered forever is to ensure that the country reverses to the parliamentary system of government.
“The present presidential system is not working apart from the fact that it is not in the interest of the people. Too much power has been concentrated in the hands of the President. Besides, we are not matured enough to practise such an expensive system,” Bankole submitted.
Public Office Is Not Public Reward, Says Amadi
By Collins Osuji and
Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri)
A good number of stakeholders in Imo State had at different occasions raised concerns about the high cost of running government in state and the country as a whole. Some of these stakeholders told The Guardian that corruption, lack of vision and political sagacity on the part of the political leaders in the state were the major factors contributing to the rising cost of governance in the state.
The immediate past administration of Rochas Okorocha had created additional ministries and offices, including Ministry of Happiness and Office of Electronic Media, among others, which the people viewed as not having direct impact on the masses but instead created further financial burden on the state government.
The above were aside other parastatals, agencies and boards created by the same government, which, according to it, was to further complement its rescue mission agenda.
The current administration of Emeka Ihedioha might be taking a similar train with the appointment of over 150 persons as inauguration cum transition technical committee members.
He had also within 20 days in office constituted over 10 various committees charged with respective duties in line with his rebuilding process of the state. Some stakeholders have questioned the rationale for the above actions of the governor, stressing that offsetting their bills would no doubt eat deep into the already slim coffers of the state.
A notable politician and legal practitioner in the state, Nnenna Aladum, identified the large number of workforce in the civil service, engagement of security personnel by political office holders, reckless employment of people as legislative aides by the state lawmakers and falsification of working age by people in the higher cadre of civil service as part of the reasons for the high cost of governance in the state.
Her words: “When you talk of reasons for high cost in governance, first of all, we look at how people are recklessly employed by our lawmakers as legislative aides. No matter how one views it, they put pressure on the cost of governance because they must be paid allowances. I will simply suggest a minimal or considerable number; that way, it will help in reducing the running cost of government.
“Secondly, we have extra large workforce in our civil service sector. We have a situation where many people are on the pay list as employees of the state but they are doing nothing. And it is obvious that most of the state government funds go into payment of salaries of the civil servants.
“Another factor is security. In any of the three arms of government, you will see government officials lining up security personnel. The engagement of these security personnel also adds to the running cost of government. No doubt, they would be paid allowances for extra duties outside their normal salaries. For this, I will suggest that private security firms be engaged to provide such security instead.”
Also speaking, former Chairman of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi, blamed the situation on the nature of democratic practice in the country generally.
He said: “I had a debate on this issue that our democracy is expensive and some ill thought out proposals of returning to the Parliamentary system emerged. It is a form of poor diagnosis. The question is why is our democracy expensive? It is not because of model or structure of government. Some say we have too many Ministries, we don’t have too many ministries. Some say that we have too many agencies; no we don’t have too many agencies. We only have very high cost centres.
“Let me give you an example. Before I came in as chairman of NERC, Commissioners were flying first class. I abolished that. The cost of ticket between first class and economy class on major routes are over N1 million. In an agency where in a week you have over four to five people travel out you can save over N4 to N5 million.
“In some places, look at the amount of police escort, everybody in Nigeria who is somebody has a police escort, which is paid from public purse. They all have other forms of support base privileges and prerogatives. We created a privileged based public service and that is where the money goes. This means we see those persons in public offices as persons to spoil. We don’t see them as servants who have come to deliver public service.
“So, we have imposed an aristocratic system upon our democracy such that we are spending a lot on one person. Think about 108 Senators, every quarter they have about N15 million. That amount is supposedly for them to run their offices. Now in running those offices, what stops the civil service from running them, i.e. engaging the Civil Service Commission? Should a senator be involved in that? They should sign off their working materials like computers, printers, papers etc and run like a typical bureaucracy and even connect all of them to a first class digital library. The best a senator gets is simply materials, books, reports, journals and brain power. They are not manufacturing anything so why N15 million.
“So, we have already made a choice to waste money. It is not a choice imposed on us by the structure. The base of the structure around government is sub-optimal.”
Amadi continued: “The problem is not the structure. If we pay all the senators their normal salaries and the Civil Service Commission pays all their aides, what is the meaning of running their offices? Is it the work of the senator to run his office? It is the work of bureaucracy to provide facilities.
“We are in a neo-feudal set up that continues to perpetrate that aristocratic system we imposed on ourselves by our desire and design. That is what is costing us much in democracy and not the model of democracy. We will continue to live with the expensive democracy so long we live with the mind-set that public office is public reward. If a man spends one billion to win election and every month we give him about N350 million is that not madness?”
On his part, the Programme Director of Development Dynamics (DD), Dr. Jude Njoku, cautioned politicians against making numerous appointments. He urged government at all levels in the country to learn how to avoid frivolities and financial wastages.
“For instance, I am of the view that the legislators need assistants, but not to the magnitude that we find in Nigeria. Why should a legislator parade about 10 aides? Where will they be paid? From the government coffer? There are other areas of need,” he stressed.
For Mr. Oliver Enwerenem, a former House of Assembly legislator in the state, legislators should be asked to have only the necessary number of aides.
“We should learn to apply scarce resources judiciously. Any legislator at any level should only have the privilege of aides strictly on the number necessary. It should not be used to settle the ‘boys’,” he said.
President, Governors Should Embrace Compact System
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
The Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), North Central Zone, Steve Aluko-Daniel, has advised the current government both at the federal and state levels to run a compact government. Aluko-Daniel, who stated that doing so was in the interest of the government officials, also advised that they run an ICT driven government to reduce cost.
He said: “It is also in the interest of Nigerians to begin to demand from the National Assembly that we have part-time senators, House of Representatives members and House of Assembly members. If we do that, it will also reduce the cost of governance.
“On the executive arm, it is very important that they also come clear on the issue of security votes because a good number of funds that they allocate to themselves are unaccounted for. If we make security votes to be accounted for, it will reduce what people will vote at the end of the day.
“As far as some of us are concerned, it will also be in the interest of the executive to run a budget that is people-driven, programme-driven and time-specified. Running the legislative and executive arms take over close to 35 per cent of our budget. At the end of the day, we end up having a recurrent budgeting process that does not address the issue of capital projects. So, we must also change the focus of our budgeting so that it will be capital project driven rather than recurrent expenditure driven as we have presently.”
Relevant To The Growth Of
The Country Should Be Made’
From Tina Todo, Calabar
During his first term, Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, had over 8,000 appointees and promised to appoint more during his campaign for a second term in office. He said he would do that to put food on the tables of every indigene of the state.
Some of the appointees do not have offices attached to them yet they receive their salaries every month. This scenario has contributed to the high cost of governance in the state.
Speaking with The Guardian, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mba Ukweni, advised that the money spent in paying appointees that are not relevant to the growth of the country or state should be invested in infrastructure that would benefit both the government and the people.
He said: “I don’t know what is in the mind of the governor of Cross River in terms of the over bloated cabinet he had in his first term. But if he takes step to reduce the number of his appointees that were doing nothing but received salary alerts and then channel the money to development projects, it will help. It is not only by being in government that somebody receives the benefit of governance.
“The issue of saying that you give appointment to people to put food on their table, doesn’t make meaning to me. Appointment should be given only to functional offices that would render productive services to the state. It would be better so that those resources would be channeled towards better things that will help even those people that are clamouring for those appointments. So, appointments should be limited.”
At the federal level, Ukweni suggested that government appointees should run as ad-hoc staff so as to reduce the amount of money they receive as sitting allowance.
“I suggested before now that I see no reason federal legislators should be on permanent employment, if I should use that word. How many people do you see sitting in those chambers? Those legislative houses, apart from the staff, can basically run on ad-hoc basis. That way, these issues of placing them on full time salary and other allowances would be tackled and the resources used in developing infrastructure. Those days during the time of the regions, we had things like houses of chiefs. It wasn’t permanent; they had sittings and they got allowances for their sittings and it did not interfere with the performance of their functions,” he added.
Duplication Of Agencies
Drain Govt Resources,
Say Rivers Residents
From Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt
Residents in Rivers State have decried the high cost of governance in the country, blaming it on corruption and duplication of agencies and parastatals by the government.
Speaking with The Guardian, the Executive Director of ‘We the People’, a non-governmental organisation that kicks against corruption and fraudulent elections, Ken Henshaw, said the high cost of governance in Nigeria was driven by the size of the governance infrastructure and corruption.
He said: “The Nigerian governance system allows for a rather massive bureaucracy which is mostly an alarming retinue of duplications. In the fight against corruption for instance, there is the Nigeria Police Force, the ICPC and then EFCC.”
He, however, opined that the duplications were allowed because government uses them as avenue to settle friends.
“The large bureaucracy is necessary in a patronage seeking system such as ours to ‘settle’ friends, supporters and cronies. The government must be seen to be taking care of its ‘people’ through the allocation of offices,” he noted.
On corruption, Henshaw alleged that political office holders deliberately inflate expenses in their overhead costs to provide a surplus that is later diverted.
He further lamented that the National Assembly has abused its powers and fixed very high allowances and payments to itself under various guides.
But a former lawmaker in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Victoria Nyeche, while agreeing that the cost of governance in Nigeria is very high, pointed out that the costs were not sequel to the number of aides a legislator has.
She argued that even if a lawmaker or politician has high number of aides, the law recognises only the ones he or she is entitled to, adding that the extra aides are at the personal cost of the lawmaker.
She also blamed the bogus cost of governance on the executive arm, which allows duplication of agencies and parastatals. She stressed the need to streamline such agencies or allow them function as units.
Meanwhile, a farmer who also spoke with The Guardian, Mr. Ekindayo Paul, said the high cost of governance was affecting funds that could be channeled into agricultural productions.
He said: “We in the farming sector have a lot of challenges to boost our productions but none of these challenges are being addressed. We are neglected; you make applications and it will be declined because the funds have been seized by government.”
For Sebastian Kpalap, the Coordinator of Citizens Voice Initiative, the high cost of governance in Nigeria is an ugly phenomenon. He said it was difficult to relate the high cost of governance to corresponding service delivery across the country.
“Governments all over the world are rated based on their ability to deliver social services and public works at the least cost to the commonwealth. This implies the effective and efficient utilisation of public resources.
Efficient public financial management is sine qua non to good governance,” he noted.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of the Institute of Export Operations and Management, Ofong Udofia, said it was unfortunate that the Nigerian government was not sensitive to the needs of the citizens.
He stated that if government could channel most of the funds to ease the challenges of doing business in the country like provision of electricity, adding that unemployment would reduce while investors would come in.
‘Govt Should Priotise People-Oriented Programmes’
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
In Enugu, some residents lamented that increasing cost of governance has continued to affect delivery of services that could promote the living standard of the people. They insisted that in the attempt to satisfy political interests, some governors engage in making appointments that at times become too burdensome to bear and maintain.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr Chuks Ibegbu, told The Guardian, that time had come for governors to make appointments based on need and in those areas that could add to the development of their various states.
He stated that it was wrong for a governor to appoint numerous Special Assistants who are maintained with tax payers’ money, while those who strive to ensure that organs of government were functional are left in the lurch.
“That is why we cannot improve the salary and welfare of our workers in this country; that is why there is always contentions when a new salary scale is approved. While some governors are comfortable paying N100,000 and above to their aides who have no duties, the civil servants are sweating to be paid a minimum wage of N30,000. The implication of this kind of development is that we are encouraging our youths and other persons in the society to develop interests in politics because that is where the money is made,” he said.
To contain the trend, Ibegbu stated that the new administration should prioritise their programmes in such a way that it could be people-oriented and remove the bottlenecks impeding the development of the country.
“I am one of those who believe that a government should look at the areas where the people should benefit most. For instance, what will any government be doing with 150 aides who are paid monthly? Will that government still do something concrete to improve the wellbeing of the people? The problem is everywhere – at the National Assembly and even at the State Houses of Assembly. Someone is already doing a job, probably as an Information Officer; but a lawmaker who is appointed as chairman of a committee will still come and appoint his own. That is duplicity of functions, which to me amounts to waste. That effort being spent on one line of duty could be channeled into another area to improve production. That is the problem of the country,” he said.
Ibegbu added: “This is not the only area where our leaders waste resources. Many of them travel a lot in the guise of looking for investors. The money that should have been spent in the areas of development is spent on travels. That is why we have cautioned these governors in the zone to reduce the volume of their movement and concentrate in helping our people.”
Speaking also, former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya, stated that putting a peg on the number of aides and convoy elected office holders and appointees should have could reduce the cost of governance.
He queried the rationale behind an individual driving with several vehicles in a convoy probably to an occasion where he was the only one invited.
“These cars are fuelled and most of the time is only occupied by a driver. That driver goes there with others and sleeps while the programmes last and returns home. That is not all; the vehicle breaks down and it is serviced and the same driver who is not contributing anything to the development of the state or improving the revenue of the state is paid at the end of every month. So, Nigerians know how to waste resources in the guise of pomposity,” he said.
Eya stated that with prudent management of resources especially by those occupying public offices, the country could take care of her immediate needs, stressing: “If what we invest in frivolities is put in investments, Nigeria should be better than it is at the moment. We would have grown economically. We would have solved a lot of social problems. But we have a situation where our people like consuming without anybody thinking about tomorrow.”
The Director of Civil Concerns International, a non-government organisation, Chijioke Eze, told The Guardian that what has encouraged indolence among elective office holders was the erroneous impression by majority of them that “paying salaries was a way of empowering people.”
“That to us is good but it is not the kind of empowerment that is needed to boost the economy. If people are provided with skills, if people are gainfully employed, they will try to contribute their quota to nation building. That is what we are saying. We end up dashing people money for four years and when that money fails to come they turn into armed robbery and other form of threats to the society. So for us, we have started advocacy aimed at making these officers engage people that are productive so that they can also benefit the society.
“It is not reasonable that you appoint someone for just two years and give the person a brand new car, only for him to leave that office with the same car and when a new person is appointed, you begin to look for resources to buy another car,” he said.
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