The stakes are unarguably high, the people equally expectant as President Muhammadu Buhari receives the baton to lead our dear nation. In fact, a new dawn has broken in Nigeria and the journey to repositioning our nation has begun. Predictably, anxious Nigerians expect nothing short of speedy progress and quick manifestation of change which was at the heart of the President’s campaign. However, be rest assured that rejuvenating a disenchanted nation and one deeply engulfed in political, economic, social, cultural, religious and security challenges must be a herculean task. Moreover, the President’s sincerity of purpose, messianic drive, and desire to positively transform Nigeria cannot be accomplished in one day and without taking some ‘bitter’ far reaching and key fundamental decisions and measures different from what was obtainable in the past.
Expectedly, the general consensus among Nigerians at the moment was that it can no longer be business as usual. Therefore, drastic and urgent measures must be taken to save the nation from these obstacles to national growth and development. First, the remuneration of political office holders, financial profligacy, the size and cost of running the government which are disturbing concerns in governance structure need to be frontally addressed by the new administration. This government should sincerely embrace a cost effective and efficient administration built on prudent management of available resources.
Ministerial positions and the number of aides to political office holders should be pruned beginning with the president and governors. It is common in Nigerian democratic parlance to find positions like Senior Special Adviser and Special Adviser to one man. One wonders where the difference lies if not only in the nomenclature.
Previously in Adamawa and Bauchi states, Governors Murtala Nyako and Isa Yuguda appointed more than 1000 advisers respectively. As both exit government, the impacts of these advisers on their government were yet to be felt? When one looks at the fleet of cars in the president’s, governors,’ ministers,’ senators and other elected officers convoys, one begins to wonder the huge cost of maintenance and fuelling of those vehicles. Will it diminish the office of the president, governor or any elected officer for that matter if they have lesser vehicles attached to their offices?
Example they say is better than precepts. Beginning from the president himself, some perks of the office should be slashed or out rightly removed. Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission which is charged with the responsibility of fixing the salaries of public office holders should begin a downward review of the total emolument of political office holders.
Public office is designed fundamentally for service to humanity; not for luxury or enrichment of the occupier. However, it was reported that the new executive and legislative arms of government at the federal level are to benefit from a N9 billion in furniture, sitting, disturbance, car, Newspaper and wardrobe allowances at the beginning and end of their tenure. Simple reason and wisdom should prevail on the need not to expend such huge amount on a few elected individuals. The entire nation cannot be hungry while some are pampered and over fed at the expense of the majority.
Second, the incongruity in allowing the annual budgetary recurrent expenditure to constantly outweigh the capital expenditure should be addressed. It is paradoxical for a nation desirous of development to encourage this budgetary misnomer. For emphasis, recurrent expenditure cares for the over head cost and pays salaries of both civil servants and political office holders while capital cost addresses the basic infrastructural and developmental needs of the nations such as building of school, power supply, hospitals, roads, pipe-borne water etc. In simple arithmetic, it means, the nation expends far more on payment of salaries than developmental projects. Steps taken by the immediate past government to cut down the recurrent expenditure seem not to yield the desired result as the 2015 Appropriation Bill assented to by former president Jonathan has N2.6 trillion as recurrent while N556 billion stands for capital expenditure.
Third, the nation can no longer afford to be an oil producing nation but ironically lacking same and have no working refineries. In the face of the nation’s dwindling economy occasioned by one monolithic product of crude oil, the Buhari administration has no option than to urgently move to reactivate other sectors of the economy beginning with power, manufacturing, agriculture, solid minerals etc.
Fourth, the responsibilities of some ministries and parastatals are practically intertwined or rather duplicated. Those with semblance of duties should be fused together for efficiency and effectiveness. This administration should take a second cursory look at Steve Orosanye’s Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of ministries, parastatals and agencies to bring an end to this duplication without undue effect on the workforce.
Fifth, due diligence in award of contracts and procurement should be strictly adhered to. The usual impunity for contract inflation will die a natural death if rules are duly applied. Contractors handling government projects should be closely monitored too to ensure that public funds are judiciously utilised for the purpose which they were meant. The law should take its full course on anyone who takes public money for a project, does a shoddy job, abandons it half way or absconds.
Sixth, the cost of running the National Assembly alone is too exorbitant to say the least. The 2015 budgetary allocation for the National Assembly stands at N150 billion. From 2003 till date, it was reported that the National Assembly has gulped N 600 billion in budgetary allocation. It will not be out of place to say that the cost of running the National Assembly for these years can build more than two power generation stations of 400 MW capacity and refineries respectively. The bills in both the National and in some state Houses of Assembly which gave undue life severance or retirement benefits to former governors and leaders of State Houses of Assembly were end of tenure scams which should be repealed immediately.
Seventh, it will be most economically suave for “Security Vote” to permanently feature as a sub-head of the ministry of Defence’s annual budget which must be accounted for and not to be handed over to the governors who cannot point at one important project carried out with the vote.
Eighth, various constituency projects captured in the budget within the fiscal year should also feature as sub-head under the budget of the ministry of works which should be executed by same and not by the legislators as it is obtainable today. There is no gain saying the fact that the legislature has significant inputs to make in budget preparation for the interest of their constituencies. But allowing them to handle projects on behalf of their constituencies has illegally conferred on them double roles of the executive and the legislature at the same time. In fact, the relics of these poorly executed constituency projects are evident in our constituencies. Generally, Cats cannot be said to be trusted custodians of dried meats. So, what do you expect from he who is responsible for handling a project and at the same time supervising it?
Ninth, oversea trainings, workshops and medical treatment of both senior civil servants and political office holders should be minimised except where they are absolutely necessary. This measure will reduce the growing rate of capital flight and medical tourism from Nigeria to other nations. In terms of training, Nigeria has over the years produced eminently qualified manpower to tackle most of the trainings we gallivant abroad to receive. Interestingly, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States have proudly provided world class environment and facilities for such trainings and workshops. Continuous and purposeful investment in the nation’s primary and secondary health care will discourage the craving for oversea treatment.
Finally, government should provide an enabling environment for the production and manufacturing sectors of the economy to thrive. The power and energy sectors must be up and running. The expected outcome is confidence building, peace and exponential rise in employment opportunities for the army of unemployed citizenry. No government can succeed in isolation of a patriotic, law abiding and orderly citizenry. Therefore, the intangible behavioural attitudes such as truth, obedience, tolerance, selflessness, punctuality, discipline etc., and reorientation of the society must align with the expectations of the new government for the good of all.
The writer, Eze is of Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, Kaduna