New Telegraph

December 7, 2023

The Token Mentality And Unsustainable Cost Of Governance

If there is one frictional factor that has slowed down the steps taken on the path to sustainable economic development in Nigeria it has to be the huge costs of governance. Incidentally, the alarm for its drastic reduction has come from the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Ibadan. In fact, two recent events are instructive in this regard.

It is worrisome indeed that at a perilous period in our nation’s history, when the economic indices are scary, the President Tinubu-led government would set the record of the nomination of 48 ministers. The second issue has to do with the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio’s recent statement of the law makers sharing some “tokens” for their holidays. Though it was quickly denied, it has nonetheless stoked flames of anger across the land.

Against such cloudy leadership missteps such warnings have to be taken with all the seriousness they deserve. According to the World Bank Public Expenditure Review Report 2022 Nigeria is facing a severe problem of miscalculation when it comes to the public funds expenditures. For instance, about 60 % of the low levels of overall spending are absorbed by public sector salaries, pensions and all manner of emoluments.

Similarly, the World Bank stated that 96% of the country’s revenue is spent on debt servicing; leaving little for economic development and social services. So, it spends only $220 per Nigerian citizen per year! This amounts to a meagre 12% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) making it one of the lowest levels of spending in the world. And of course, Nigeria ranked 167th out of 174 countries, worldwide.

This of course, is a worrisome situation that needs to be frontally tackled. Unfortunately, our current crop of political leaders are yet to give a listening ear to such admonition coming from the World Bank and other institutions of global reckoning. Our source of concern is the painful fact that though the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina at the inaugural lecture prior to the swearing in of President Bola Tinubu charged him to cut down on the high cost of governance, his actions taken so far are in utter disregard to the words of caution.

The topic of that lecture was: ‘Strengthening Nigeria’s Economy’. It is pertinent to highlight the factors listed as responsible for the huge costs of governance. According to NISER from its research that examined them, in addition to the structure of government and the comparative analysis with more developed countries, issues of budget padding, high costs of the conduct of elections, duplication of function amongst agencies and departments have been fingered.

The situation is so sad that both Dr. Abubakar Oladeji, an Associate Professor of the Department of Public and Governance Policy, and Louis Chete of the Economic and Business Policy Department, NISER, decried the situation that has 5% of the population controlling and appropriating 80% of public funds.

This is definitely an unsustainable economic paradigm that has to shift. That underscores the alarm raised by the duo of Martin Okeke and Okechukwu Eme in their related research on the cost of governance in Nigeria back in 2015. They described it as “disproportionately high in relation to productivity”.

The challenges posed by the self-serving factors of over-bloated bureaucracies, with a large number of ministries, departments and agencies have to be reviewed by a holistic approach through the retooling of the 1999 constitution, as amended. The law which states that one minister has to come from each state must be done away with.

And so is the anomalous and unconstitutional ‘Minister of State’ office. Another important aspect of the huge costs of governance that needs a thorough appraisal is that of the duties of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). By fixing the salaries and emoluments of the politicians in office with huge pay packages, it has undermined the prevailing economic situation in the country.

For instance, not long after the coming on board of the new set of politicians it flew the kite of in- creasing their salaries by as high as 114% but following the expected public backlash they quickly denied it. It equates to gross insensitivity for humongous sums to be al- located to serving politicians who are supposed to make the much-needed sacrifice at this delicate time, deploying leadership by example.

Most of them have served as senators or governors but are recycled every election cycle at the detriment of the worsening poverty in the country. With the World Bank stating that about 12% of the extremely poor people in the world are currently living in Nigeria according to its report in 2022, the time to do the needful is now.

We must admit that one of the root causes of the high cost of governance is that of the huge amounts paid by politicians aspiring to be elected into one so-called “juicy” office or the other. This has certainly made politics as a lucrative business, instead of that of servant leadership.

This runs at variance from the original concept of democracy as practiced by Greece beginning in 500 BC when the people got fed up with both aristocracy and monarchy and decided to take their destiny in their own hands with pro-people policies.

In fact, the fat pay packages of the current politicians is also out of sync with the evolution of democratic values as they have metamorphosed to that of the United Kingdom UK and the United States of America USA from which ours was borrowed. A drastic reduction in the politicians’ pay packages has therefore become an imperative.

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