We, the undersigned civil society organisations, are following with keen interest the controversy trailing the lead presentation by the former Vice President of the World Bank for Africa and Minister for Solid Minerals and later for Education, Mrs. ObyEzekwesili, at the One-Day Dialogue on the Cost of Governance in Nigeria organized by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC). The Dialogue was convened within the remit of the Steve Orosanye-led Presidential Committee report on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies.
In her lead presentation, Mrs. Ezekwesili spoke on several issues that cut across governance, public finance management and development with statistics from credible sources of government and international institutions. The issues also cut across all levels and arms of government – including the Executive and the Legislature – without narrowing on any specific arm of government for condemnation. We are thus surprised that rather than focusing and engaging the issues flagged in Mrs. Ezekwesili presentation with a view to moving forward the policy debate and finding a workable solution, some respondents have chosen to play to the gallery and resort to the use of unedifying and abusive language to address the lead paper presenter. This is demonstrated in the recent responses by the National Assembly.
We are of the strong view that this approach to public policy debate is not healthy for Nigeria’s democracy and it remains condemnable in its entirety. All over the world, democracy thrives on debates founded on empirical knowledge as against the intolerance for dissenting views.
It is important to stress that the debate about the unprecedented cost of governance in Nigeria is not necessarily a new one, except that it has assumed such a dangerous proportion that the Nigerian masses have become so pauperized at the expense of a select few that goes about with the impression that they were elected to enjoy on behalf of others. To put the issue at hand in proper perspective, it is important to stress that even before the CISLAC event where Mrs. Ezekwesili made her presentation, the discourse about the high cost of governance in Nigeria has dominated national political discourse, leading to:
Publication in the Daily Independent of Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, which bemoaned wasteful spending and improper utilisation of resources by government;
Publication in Bussinessday of 11 March, 2013, which revealed how the Legislature spent N5.2bn per Bill in two years, and publication in The Punch of August 14, 2013, containing several criticisms on the same issue.
Publication in The Guardian of 20 May, 2012 in which the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), SanusiLamidoSanusi, was reported as saying 25% National Budget is spent on the National Assembly, and publicationin ThisDay of 18 December, 2012, which reported concerns expressed by the same CBN Governor that over 70% of the nation’s revenue was being expended on recurrent expenditure;
Publication in BussinessNews of 7 November, 2012, which reported the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), MallamNuhuRibadu, as critiquing the high cost of governance in Nigeria, while advocating drastic reduction in expenses associated with all tiers of government and suggesting the country drops the keeping of a full-time National Assembly.
We hold very strongly to the opinion that Recurrent Expenditure in the Nigerian budget has continued to outstrip capital budgetary allocations. We are saddened that despite public outcry about the situation, the Federal Government has not demonstrated enough commitment towards poverty reduction, educational and infrastructural development, sound healthcare delivery in the country owing to the leakages induced by high cost of governance and corruption. The recurring huge spending of the nation’s budget on political appointees and their cronies (including needless retinue of Advisers and Aides to The President, Vice Presidents, Ministers, Lawmakers and their counterparts at the state and local government levels) have become an added burden to the country in this critical period of socio-economic challenges requiring urgent redress.
Rather than dissipate energies on unproductive and needless controversies, we recommend that:
1. The National Assembly and the Executive should collaborate with Civil Society to initiate a National Dialogue of stakeholders to discuss the boggling problem of high cost of governance in Nigeria with a view to proffering concrete and practical solutions that work.
2. The National Assembly should, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, refrain from making its withdrawal from national appropriation, a matter of secrecy; In fact, it should as a matter of urgency publicly publish its remunerations as it is practised in the United States that is our model of democracy (http://disbursements.house.gov/).
3. Both the Legislature (NASS) and the Executive should, rather than engage in frivolous and wasteful spending, commit to the judicious utilization of Nigeria’s national resources to deliver public good and guarantee the welfare of the citizenry as a way of fulfilling the primary purpose for which government exists.
We, the undersigned, in the spirit of evidence-based advocacy and constructive engagement, will be glad to collaborate with the National Assembly and the Executive to promote transparency and accountability and reduce cost of governance in the country.
1. African Centre for Media & Information Literacy
2. Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE)
3. Bauchi Coalition for Improvement of Public Expenditure Management (BACIPEM)
4. Centre Democracy and Development (CDD)
5. Centre for Information Technology and Development(CITAD)
6. Centre for Social Justice (CSJ)
7. Citizen’s Forum for Constitutional Forum (CFCR)
8. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
9. Community Action For Popular Participation(CAPP)
10. Environmental Rights Action(ERA)
11. National Procurement Watch Platform(NPWP)
12. Resource Centre For Human Rights& Civil Education(CHRICED)
13. Partners on Electoral Reform
14. Public and Private Development Centre(PPDC)
15. Say NO Campaign – Nigeria
16. Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
17. United Action for Democracy (UAD)
18. West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF-Nigeria)
19. Zero – Corruption Coalition (ZCC)