Listening to the Minister of Finance and the coordinating Minister for the country’s economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as she came out to inform Nigerians of the slash in the global benchmark for the price of petroleum in the OPEC’s world market from $78 to $73, its inherent sharp reduction in the nation’s earning power and by implication, its telling effect on her economy. Thus, according to the Minister, there is the urgent need to cut down drastically on government’s spending as well as review the nation’s tax policy.
Extra-wage benefits like oversees trainings and conferences for public officials are to be drastically checked and rationalized; certain ministries to be merged, meaning that some of those ministries which, ab initio, were seen by objective minds, as unnecessary duplications aimed at merely satisfying a set political end and of course a reformed taxation policy that would begin to make lovers of luxury pay for their uncommon taste, are to be immediately put in place.
For a government that is known for reckless spending, these proposed reforms are anything but a desire for cutting down on financial profligacy and impropriety, rather it’s a child of necessity. Of course, it is left with no choice other than to begin to cut its coat according to its size, since the country’s economic survival virtually depends on income from oil. It is on record that so much noise had consistently been made by public commentators and economists over the undisciplined habit on the part of the government in this regard. Little wonder then that the federal government’s annual budget could accommodate a recurrent expenditure that takes a whopping 75% and leaving a paltry 25% for the capital expenditure.
For an economy that had refused to diversify its earning potentials to other natural endowments but had chosen to pack all its eggs into one basket, such belt-tightening measures had become inevitable. But while agreeing with the government that cuts be drastically made in its spending, especially as applicable to the overheads, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) would want to submit that all attention should not be focused on the afore-mentioned areas only, rather the government’s searchlight should be directed more to the political office holders whose retinue of office are over-bloated and mostly unjustifiable.
How does the state justify placing on its payroll about 10 aides to just one legislator or a fleet of about 10 expensive cars procured, fuelled and maintained regularly by the state to him? Every standing committee at the National Assembly parades an array of staffers who individually also enjoys a great amount of state largesse such as allocation of expensive vehicles, oversees trainings and conferences at short intervals.
It is a fashion for our law-makers to find excuses for regular oversees tours for one reason or the other: if it is not for vacation, it is paying official visits aimed at improving their legislative functions or regular medical check-ups – all at the state’s expense. Even participation of the country in sporting activity abroad has become another avenue for a spending spree as the National Assembly now formed the habit of sending high-powered delegations to watch such events, more often than not, accompanied by their aides, friends and family members.
Basically, the cost of running each of the ministries and their ministers is alarming. A case of a minister with a minister of state in the same ministry, performing almost the same functions should be addressed, if this government is really serious with its austerity measures.
It’s another mind-bogging dimension with the state governors as each tries to outpace the other in their insatiable knack for luxury at the expense of the masses that voted them in. A first-time visitor to most of the states might not find so much of structures put in place for the general benefit of the people but a trip to government lodges that parade state-of-the-art structures and furnishing would leave such visitor’s heart missing a beat at their sight.
Charity, they say, begins at home. Researchers, sometime ago, submitted that the Nigerian government remains the most expensive democracy in Africa. The presidency alone is a veritable testimony to this claim. There are so many aides and aides-to-aides with no clearly distinctive job descriptions. One doubts if there is any other country in Africa that could match the array of luxury and magnificence of the Aso Rock. Ranging from the size of the entourage of the President during official tours to the large fleet of aircrafts at presidential hanger with each, according to a reliable source, costing about N4 billion per year to maintain. Little wonder that today, private jets and bullet-proof cars have become a common sight among the political office-holders.
It is an under-statement to say as it is today that the average Nigerian masses who live below poverty line already have their belt tightened, therefore any further belt-tightening might completely break their waists, hence CACOL is calling on the government to leave the masses as they are and not add more to their pains, rather it should look inwards and adjust where necessary to slash down its unnecessary spending to enable us cope with the current price cut on oil.
Executive Chairman, CACOL
18th November, 2014