The trending topic last week in Nigeria was the arrest…
By Kurtis Adigba
Yesterday, I teased:” Nigeria will never make progress unless we tame corruption and huge public expenditures- the two elephants, in the room”.
We know the negative impacts corruption has had on our quest for progress and development. We agree that we must tame corruption. What we tend to disagree about, is how corruption should be dealt with, and by whom. But for us to make any significant progress, the stealing and looting of public funds by a few privileged political elites and their collaborators in the Civil Service (described by Obafemi Awolowo, one of the nations’ greatest minds and leaders, as “Evil Servants”), must be significantly contained, or reduced to the barest. All perpetrators of corruption, must be brought to justice irrespective of status, power, authority, religion, and ethnicity. No one, should be treated as above or below the law – we are all under the law.
Corruption, ensures that we cannot build and rebuild our infrastructure. This is because funds allocated for doing so are never used for the purpose. They are stolen and stashed in private accounts in local and foreign banks. The result is that we have awarded contracts for the same sets of projects so many times without doing them. And when we do, we do some sub-standard jobs. And I’m not even talking about the extra high costs of doing these jobs which are usually 20 times above the real costs! Still, the jobs are not done, or done in sub-standard ways! We are simply soulless and graceless. Today, we have billionaires without trade or work. This is what corruption has done, and is doing to us!
The other problem, is the ballooning costs of running the government. We have the Executive, Legislature, and the Judiciary at the federal and state levels. The budget proposals for running the Executive and Legislative branches of the government, are huge and stifling. The presidency, is operated at too high a cost to the nation. We have too many aircrafts in our presidential fleet. We have too many Special and Senior Special Assistants, Personal Assistants, and so many aides doing nothing to bake the cake.
By the force of the provisions of the Constitution, the president must appoint at least a minister from each state of the federation. We have at least 36 ministers drawing salaries monthly. The ministers have Special Assistants and Personal Assistants. These aides, also have their own aides. The ministers and their retinue of aides, all have official vehicles fueled and maintained by the government. When they travel out Abuja, or the country, they are paid allowances. We have at least 36 Permanent Secretaries, countless Directors, Deputy and Assistant Directors, and a massively bloated Federal Civil Service.
The National Assembly, is another problem. The two chambers have 469 members. We have 109 senators and 360 Representatives. They have consistently allocated to themselves N125 billion annually. Senators earn about N14.25 million monthly in addition to constituency project allowance put at N200 million. The Representatives, earn as much as the Senators. They also have retinue of aides, and a bloated bureaucracy. The Judiciary, is the weeping arm of government at all levels.
We have 36 State Governors, 36 Deputy-governors, and at least 10 Commissioners in each state. This is outside of the Special and Personal Assistants appointed without any specific jobs, but just for political expediency. The Civil Service in states are bloated and over-staffed. Many of the states, depend on the monthly federal allocation to pay salaries. Their IGRs are next to nothing. Productivity is so poor, but the governors do not have the political will to do what is right- reduce the work force to a manageable size. No wonder, many of the states are owing workers’ salaries between 3-11 months!
The State Legislatures, are drain pipes on the resources of their states. We have 36 State Houses of Assembly. There is no State House of Assembly with less than 23 members. We have states with more members. Conservatively, that is 828 members drawing salaries and allowances from the government. They also have multiple aides. In most states where civil servants are being owed salaries, the salaries and allowances of these “Honourables” are being paid without delay. The governors surely know the people not to toil with!
We have 774 Local Government Councils. 774 Chairmen, 774 vice-chairmen, numerous elected councilors, supervisory councilors, treasurers, heads of departments, and a bloated civil service in all the LGCs. All but a few of these LGCs are just salary payment centers. They do not generate any revenue, or engage in profitable ventures. They are just collect and pay entities. Many of the LGCs were created by the military for the benefits of some powerful people. They are funded by the FG through allocation paid into the States and Local Governments Joint Accounts. In almost all the states, the governors are criminally diverting the funds of the LGCs for their selfish interests.
The combined effects of the above is that more 60% of the country’s resources/funds are either stolen through corruption, or used to pay salaries and allowances of an over-bloated public sector that is not contributing so much to the development and growth of the economy. No country spending or losing more than 60% of her resources to corruption and recurrent expenditures, can ever develop, grow, and make real progress. We must do the needed: fight corruption, cut the waste in use of public resources, and deploy more resources to capital and human development. The Nigerian economy is so poor for the system of government we operate. Nigeria, with her huge population, is a poor country. We must stop deceiving ourselves that we are rich.
God bless Nigeria.
Kurtis Adigba is the Principal Partner at Kurtis Adigba and Co.