The civil society in Nigeria is obviously not done with tackling state governors in the country who collectively fired a package of proposals to the Federal Government on how to heal the country of its economic crisis. In fact, this could turn out an ugly week for state governors in Nigeria if newer reactions to the proposals are anything to go by.
In addition to leading labour platform in Nigeria – the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) which sent a counter package much earlier, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) calling the governors’ package deceitful, unrealistic and lopsided.
The NLC which turned the heat on the governors earlier, called for any of them above 50 to be sent packing. That is the NLC’s own response to the particular item in the proposals by the governor in favour of dispensing with workers above the age of 50 from the Federal Civil Service with a one-off payment. The NLC is like saying the governors and other political office holders rather than workers were better guinea pigs of the very idea of retiring people based on an age benchmark arbitrarily decided by employers/politicians.
CISLAC’s which is the latest insists that accepting the key elements of the governors’ proposals would only aggravate existing socio-economic burdens and inequalities among common Nigerians. It adds how the proposals mirror what it calls the lop-sidedness, insincerity and lack of readiness by all levels of government to holistically address the contending issues backpedalling country’s socio-economic development”.
According to CISLAC, the problem lies more with systemic mismanagement of nation’s treasury and institutionalised spending of whopping sums on irrelevant activities that continued unabated at national and sub-national levels. Among these as listed by it are poor transparency and accountability, paving way for abuse of public funds amounting to trillions of Naira by successive administrations at all levels.
“As 85% of reform efforts have failed since independence, we are more worried by the dreaded impact of mismanagement and undue political interests that will continue to frustrate the success of socio-economic reforms; and without pragmatic measures could cost up to 37% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) by 2030, as reported by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)”, CISLAC countered the governors, maintaining its concern with a fuel subsidy regime it says merely serves as a major contributor to high cost of governance in Nigeria, having increased from N350 billion in 2019 to N1.573 trillion in 2021, with the National Assembly approving the sum of N4 trillion for petrol subsidies in 2022.
A major other item CISLAC listed is unchecked inflated budget-line items, non-existent projects and inflated public contracts permeating budgetary and procurement processes at all levels of government and which it exemplified as follows: non-existent projects worth N4 billion reportedly discovered in the 2020 budget proposal of the National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA); over N65 billion allegedly spent by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on silting and clearing of water hyacinth against the 2.5 billion budgeted for the activity; the over-priced budget-line attributed to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC)’s budget proposal with the code ERGP10140070, named “purchase of one 500KVA soundproof generator for Lagos office” but priced at N26,930,992.
The civil society organisation concluded this practice is not uncommon with other ministries, departments and agencies in both the Federal and State Governments, “where billions of Naira are appropriated to non-existent and over-priced projects annually”.
Pursuing the governors further, CISLAC privileged what it calls numerous unjustified jumbo salaries, allowances, benefits and public paid expenses enjoyed by the governors, their deputies, former speakers and their deputies throughout and after their tenures. While restating its objection to endless clamour for life-time pensions and benefits by public office holders across the country, it took time to mention the paradox of re-looting of looted assets.
Like the NLC before it, CISLAC offered what it considers alternatives, among them, drastic reduction of the growing cost of governance in the country through institutionalised mismanagement, systemic embezzlement, inflated budget, procurement corruption, revenue loopholes, among others, to allow adequate resource allocation to finance critical sector and eradicate poverty at all levels.
- drastic reduction of the growing cost of governance in the country through institutionalised mismanagement, systemic embezzlement, inflated budget, procurement corruption, revenue loopholes, among others, to allow adequate resource allocation to finance critical sector and eradicate poverty at all levels.
- The government institutionalizing sustainable measures to block existing revenue leakages
- Prompt removal of needless subsidies on petroleum, to enable adequate financing for the critical sector, job creation, infrastructural development and poverty eradication in Nigeria.
- Governments at all levels to create enabling environment to boost businesses and attract private sector investments through wider economic integration involving security, removal of tariffs and trade barriers as well as policy and regulation harmonisation in the areas of investment, competition policy, digital trade as well as quality of infrastructure
- Strict compliance with remuneration provisions prescribed by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission
- State Governments devising holistic and sustainable measures to curb recurring ghost workers syndrome, which constitutes a major challenge in efficient management of states’ revenue resources and adequate budgetary allocation to the critical sector.
- Exhaustive scrutiny of the budget as submitted by various ministries, departments and agencies to address issues of inflated budget lines and duplications
- National Assembly strengthening oversight activities on budgetary implementation as appropriated to prevent or sanction poor implementation, mismanagement and non-existent projects
- Full implementation of The Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022 and Money-Laundering-Prevention-and-Prohibition-Act-2022, to strengthen the anti-corruption fight, sanction treasury looters and ensure that repatriated assets are utilized for the benefits of Nigerians
At this rate, it could be said the last has not been heard yet on the considered positions of the governors as a layer of power in Nigeria. The puzzle in the recommendations by the governors remain why they considered emolument of workers to be a bigger explanation for high cost of governance but not the allowances claimed by governors themselves, their aides, (many of whom have no access to them); commissioners, First Ladies and several other layers. The second segment of the puzzle would be why politicians in Nigeria do not see social threat in income inequality. In most societies, governments monitor gaps in income inequality and do not allow it to widen far. This is because inequality gap in income can easily provoke a revolt. Is the Nigerian social order immunized against inequality-informed protest?