Indications are rife that the Federal Government will soon cut down personnel cost and merge Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) following persistent low revenue. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, hinted at the “National Policy Dialogue on Corruption and Cost of Governance in Nigeria’’ organised in Abuja this month by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
In this era of disastrous economic hardship, the Federal Government’s move to cut cost is most acceptable. This is a route that will be beneficial and long overdue, moreso as the country’s current system of democratic governance is very expansive and expensive. Besides scrapping or merging redundant MDAs, the constitutional provision mandating the President to appoint a Minister from at least each of the 36 States, should be amended to reduce the number of federal cabinet members.
The initiative to reduce cost of governance is an appropriate step towards the realisation that large federal structure is a driver of the high governance cost, engendering public outcry that government spending is largely on recurrent activities at the expense of capital or developmental projects. The subsisting fiscal policy is simply unsustainable and negatively impacts on the government’s fiscal situation.
In some countries, the general cost of administration is less than 10 per cent of the total annual budgets. For instance, the United States, with a higher population than Nigeria, has only 15 secretaries and executive departments as against Nigeria, which has 27 ministers, 16 ministers of state and 27 ministries. At the moment, the Federal Government is maintaining about 943 MDAs with many of them having duplicated functions.
Personnel cost alone was N1.87 trillion in 2016 while currently, the same cost has spiralled to over N3 trillion. With this revelation, it is apparent that the aftermath of the rising cost of running the government is the reason only 30 per cent of the budget is available for capital projects and the cause behind numerous abandoned projects nationwide.
Despite the administration’s unruly spending spree, federal agencies have similarly been accused of using “security votes” to siphon the public treasury. In a presentation at a virtual webinar to mark the 2021 World Press Freedom Day organised by the US Mission in Nigeria, BudgIT, a civic-tech non-profit organisation, said its inquiry exposed “over 316 capital projects worth N39.5 billion, among other loopholes for corruption.”
It disclosed that N1.9 trillion was allocated to the security sector in the 2021 budget, a 14 per cent increase from N1.78 trillion allotted in 2020. Notwithstanding the increase in the funds budgeted and Buhari’s promises to crush insurgents, arbitrary killings and kidnappings at the hands of Boko Haram, bandits, and killer herdsmen remain a regular experience of Nigerians.
BudgIT further revealed that other non-security agencies now receive massive allocations for “security votes”, and described the spending as “an opaque feature of the Nigerian security ecosystem devoid of accountability.” In the 2021 budget, a total of 117 federal agencies received allocations for “security votes” worth N24.3 billion, even though many of the agencies already have allotments for “security charges” to cover each agency’s security needs.
Investigations into the 2021 budget revealed at least 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5 billion, with 115 of those duplicate projects occurring in the Federal Ministry of Health. This is very disturbing and unacceptable, especially considering the immeasurable health infrastructure deficit and the raging Covid-19 pandemic affecting Nigeria.
We are miffed by the disclosures of fraud in the MDAs. Urgent steps must be taken to block the leakages. It is tragic that the Buhari’s government that chanted the familiar anti-corruption mantra in 2015 is shamefully unable to fulfill its promise of curbing corruption and grand theft with the budget riddled with gaping loopholes. A staggering N3.31trillion debt servicing burden which will wipe out nearly 41.63% of the projected N7.99 trillion 2021 revenue has become the spectre severely haunting the country.
One of the measures to reduce governance cost in the face of plummeting revenue is for the current administration to revisit the White Paper on Steve Oronsaye Panel’s Report on the Rationalisation of Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals, submitted in 2014. The committee, set up by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, recommended among other measures, the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161.
Nigerian leadership must task themselves on good governance. They have to be reminded that the success story of the Asian Tigers many years ago was a product of sound leadership and determination. Since it has been established that corruption is one of the viable drivers of high governance cost in Nigeria, the need to rectify the anomalies to boost revenue as projected by the Federal Government is more obvious.
IYD: Tapping Youths’ Potentials For Dev
The world designated last Friday, August 12, 2022, as International Youth Day (IYD). IYD is held annually to bring youth matters into the consideration of the global community and to celebrate the financial power of youth as partners in today’s world. The day also provides an opportunity to commemorate and mainstream the voices, actions and initiatives of young people and their meaningful, universal and appropriate participation.
Likewise, the occasion concentrates on the troubles that some young people are experiencing throughout the world. Half the children between the ages of six and 13 lack basic reading and mathematical skills, and childhood poverty is still a prevalent problem globally. Hence, IYD was established to help draw awareness to these issues. It is a day for reflection and acting.
In 1965, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) began making a collective effort to impact the youth. They endorsed the Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples. They began devoting time and resources to empowering the youth by recognising up-and-coming leaders and offering them resources to meet global needs.
On December 17, 1999, the UNGA endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, and IYD was formed. It was first marked on August 12, 2000, and ever since the day has been used to educate society, mobilise the youth in politics, and manage resources to address global problems.
The theme of this year’s IYD is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. It aims to enhance the message that action is needed across all generations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaving no one behind. The day also raises awareness of certain barriers to intergenerational solidarity, notably ageism, which impacts young and aged people, while having detrimental effects on society.
Nigeria also joined other nations in the celebration. Sadly, an increasing number of youths in the country continue to face economic uncertainty and social exclusion, compelling the majority of them into gambling and crimes, while the rest languish in penury and deprivation. While the multitude of youths entering the labour market yearly increases, the economy’s job-creating capacity is on the decline.
Nigeria was ranked 161 out of 181 countries on the 2020 global youth development index, which measures the status of young people around the world. In 2016, the nation ranked 141. According to the triennial report released by the Commonwealth Secretariat, Singapore rated top, followed by Slovenia, Norway, Malta, and Denmark. Chad, the Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Niger took the last five positions, respectively.
The index ranks countries according to development in youth education, employment, health, equality and inclusion, peace and security and political and civic participation. It looks at 27 indicators, including literacy and voting, to showcase the state of the world’s 1.8 billion people between the ages of 15 and 29. This year’s IYD offers Nigeria an opportunity to implement timely policies to harness the innovative talents of the youth for advancement.
With increasing technology, the resourceful minds and skills of young people can serve as the energy for development. Youth unemployment is a global challenge. Even the International Labour Congress (ILC) estimated that employment among the demographic dropped by 8.7 per cent last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Nigeria’s challenge far exceeds the global average. Youth development in the country is horrendous.
Nigerian youth comb the streets for jobs in vain. As the old saying goes of an idle mind being the devil’s workshop, some have taken up arms against the state while a large number have found solace in Internet scams, otherwise called “Yahoo Yahoo” or “Yahoo Plus”. Others have embraced quick-rich gambits such as sports betting, and risky investments like cryptocurrency and Ponzi schemes.
Young people face a catastrophic situation that could push the country to a cliff. Unfortunately, the government recently started actions to make life more difficult for them. For example, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cracked down on digital currency investors last year as it prohibited financial institutions from facilitating transactions. The Federal Government then banned Twitter, where thousands of youths make a living through content management.
With no less than 10.5 million children missing from school, Nigeria has the largest out-of-school population in the world. Poverty, insecurity, and gender barriers are among the reasons for this worrying record in a country where primary education should be free and compulsory. If quality education is provided to Nigerian youth, it will be difficult for them to be influenced by the selfish interests of the political elite, and thus have a positive impact on the growth of the country.
State governors should show greater commitment to youth empowerment and poverty eradication. They can partner with global financial institutions like the World Bank in providing sustainable development projects for young people, among others. They should consolidate youth-focused programmes to accelerate endurable growth and development of their states.
Rivers State is doing well in this regard. Governor Nyesom Wike, through critical investments and comprehensive empowerment programmes, is positioning the youth. The governor’s vision has always been to restructure the state to a phase where youths would grow with the assurance that their future is secured. Currently, they are being built up with critical life skills in sports, communication, and needed entrepreneurial leadership skills.
Before formulating development policies, the needs of youths should be considered. Young people and their organisations should be given grants. What this accentuates is the need to get the youth to utilise their enormous potentiality, priorities, and passion to deliver the SDGs. Young people can change our world. And this moment of ‘Peak Youth’ can be a historic opportunity for that positive change.
Kudos To Wike On Projects Delivery
Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and other urban centres have been agog with major activities since
last Monday, as the state government started another round of projects’ commissioning and flag-off across the state. The inauguration started with the unveiling of the Orochiri/Worukwo (Waterlines) Flyover in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Similarly, Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration unveiled the Ogbunabali-Eastern Bypass Road, also in Port Harcourt. The former Sokoto State Governor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, performed the commissioning. On August 11, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. M. K Fadah, unveiled the 5,000-capacity NYSC auditorium, while the new State House of Assembly Quarters would be inaugurated by the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila today, August 12.
Recall that last Wednesday, August 10, the former Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, flagged off the dualisation of Azikiwe-Iloabuchi Road at Diobu in Port Harcourt City. Between August 16 and 26, 10 more projects would either be commissioned or inaugurated across the state. They include the Government VIP Lounge at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, in Ikwerre Local Government Area on August 16.
Others are the unveiling of the remodelled Waterlines Building on Port Harcourt/Aba Express Road by Waterlines Junction in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, August 17; flag off of the construction of the 11th flyover at Ikwerre Road by Rumuokwuta/Rumuola Junction in Obio/Akpor Local Government Council on Thursday, August 18; and the inauguration of the 12th flyover at Mgbuoba-Ozuoba/Ada-George Road by Location Junction in Obio/Akpor Council on Friday, August 19.
Additional milestone projects lined up for special commissioning or flag off are the construction of Omagwa internal roads on Saturday, August 20, flag off of Igwuruta internal roads on Monday, August 22, both in Ikwerre Local Government Area, and unveiling of land reclamation, shore protection, road network, drains, power station and water reticulation, as well as housing complex at Ogbum-Nu-Abali sand fill, Port Harcourt, on Tuesday, August 23.
The others are the unveiling of a police station at Ogbum-Nu-Abali sand fill Eastern By-pass area on Wednesday, August 24; Eneka internal roads in Obio/Akpor on Thursday, August 25; and Community Secondary School, Obuama (Harry’s Town), in Degema Local Government Area, Friday, August 26.
Remember that last year, Rivers State was enthralled for about three weeks as distinguished Nigerian citizens joined Wike to either commission or flag off projects in 11 local government areas of the state. They included the Abonnema Ring Road in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Bolo internal roads in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, Isiodu Road in Emohua Local Government Area, Isiokpo internal roads Phase 2 in Ikwerre Local Government Area and Aluu-Rumuekini Road in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
Others were the Mother and Child Hospital, Real Madrid Academy, the 16.6 kilometre dual carriage Saakpenwa/Bori Highway in Khana Local Government Area, and the Sime-Nonwa-Kira Road in Tai Local Government Area, among a host of other projects. Several others were also commissioned. This remarkable development, taking place at a time when most governors use politicking, insecurity, dwindling economy and COVID-19 as excuse for non-performance will remain legendary.
All completed projects are milestones that support meaningful developments. They stand out and have continued to garner credit for the Wike administration from well-intentioned Nigerians and residents of the state. The flyovers, especially add beauty to the Garden City and its surroundings, and their unveiling accentuates another dream realised by the government. They will end the long struggle against the severe traffic congestion at their locations.
Undoubtedly, the projects would restore activities in the inert localities. To claim that the entire people of Rivers State are better off with these projects is to specify the obvious as they would go a long way to promote their socio-economic well-being. Indeed, walking in such splendid structures evokes euphoria and fulfilment in the subconscious of Rivers’ people.
Indeed, The Tide is satisfied with the unfettered initiative by the state governor. We recount how the shattered walls of development and brotherliness were revamped in Wike’s first tenure with sectorial performances and services furnished by strategic institutions of government which have remained efficient under his leadership into his second tenure without any relapse.
The various projects initiated and executed by Wike’s government in parts of Rivers would create employment for a good number of youths in the state. The quantum of civil construction work undertaken by the present administration in developing the state might be cost-intensive, but the overall benefits remain a driving force.
Anyone in the state can attest that the construction of strategic road projects and flyovers has progressed despite Nigeria’s fiscal crisis. We sue for understanding and cooperation from all Rivers people who desire good governance which Wike provides, and urge them to remember the inglorious past when the state was on its knees from where the governor took it up to chart a new course.
Obviously, the government is not neglecting any effort to improve Rivers State. To say that Wike is rapidly transforming the landscape of the state with its gigantic development steps is to affirm the tangible. Within a limited time, the governor has whirled around the entire state into a massive construction site that in every path, substantial development projects are either ongoing or have been finalised.
We join all well-meaning people of Rivers and Nigeria, business organisations and individuals in saluting and exalting the governor in this auspicious celebration of commissioning and launching of projects. The projects on the ground so far indicate an unprecedented transformation of the state, making it a preferred refuge for investors. This gesture is proof of His Excellency’s determination to leave Rivers State better than he met it.
No To Total Ban On Motorcycles
To combat the current nationwide insecurity in Nigeria, the Federal Government recently proposed
a ban on the operations of commercial motorcyclists, otherwise called “Okada” riders, across the country. This recommendation is another indication that deep or scientific thinking does not characterise how decisions are taken in the nation’s corridors of power. This is a problem any competent government can solve without throwing the baby away with the bath water.
The Federal Government, through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, AbubakarMalami, had declared openly that the National Security Council, chaired by President MuhammaduBuhari, might be compelled to ban the use of motorcycles and mining activities after the discovery that it remained a major means of movement by bandits and source of amassing ransom from kidnap victims.
Painfully, these are people whom the government has dismally failed to provide with meaningful employment or any form of sustainable empowerment, even though many of them are well-educated with families and dependents. Besides the economic and security implications, the scheme, if enforced, will impoverish millions of Nigerians, and further compound the anti-social vices the authorities are striving hard to contain.
Commuters regard motorcycles as a great relief to their transportation difficulties while bike riders see their adventure as a source of livelihood. Undoubtedly, the use of motorcycles has enhanced mobility for the middle-class and other income earners, which by extension has contributed immensely to an increase in production through a boost in man-hours. Many commercial motorcycle riders are in the business because they have no options neither are they interested in the commission of crime.
Bikes offer certain advantages of easy maneuverability, ability to travel on bad roads, and responsiveness to demand. We cannot wish them away as a means of transportation. The government should be circumspect in their decision. States should undertake repairs of all damaged roads where “Okada” activities thrive because of the refusal of commercial vehicles to ply such routes. LGs should repair inner roads. Of the country’s total road network of 195,000 kilometres, only 35,000 are federal, leaving the rest to the states and LGs.
If all the people to be rendered jobless by this plan take to crime, how can the government cope? It is wrong to attribute all the movements of terrorists to motorcycles, as criminals also operate with vehicles. When terrorists attacked Kuje prison, was it the motorcycle riders that caused the failure of intelligence? How did they beat all the security checkpoints to get to such a fortified facility? Was it motorcycles that enabled them to overwhelm the security agents attached to the correctional centre? Were motorcycles also responsible for the late re-enforcement?
Although placing a ban on the use of motorbikes may cut the supply of logistics and source of funds for the purchase of arms to the terrorists, there must be well-thought-out alternatives to lessen the effects of the attendant loss of livelihoods on those to be affected. It must not worsen the country’s dire economic situation.
A World Bank report noted that the number of poor individuals in Nigeria will rise to 95.1 million in 2022. In 2020, the figure was 89.0 million people. Over 6.1 million more persons would have fallen into the poverty bracket between 2020 and 2022, a 6.7 per cent increase. With the projected 2022 figures, the number of poor people in Nigeria has had a four-year increase of 14.7 per cent from the 2018/19 figure of 82.1 million to the projected 95.1 million in 2022. The poverty rate has been aided by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the growing population, the high inflation rate, and the harsh effects of the Ukraine-Russia warfare.
This development is coming after the Nigerian government said it lifted 10.5 million citizens out of poverty between 2019 and 2021. The President has repeatedly said that the Bank of Industry has created nine million jobs in the country since 2015, and different schemes to generate jobs and tackle poverty have been launched; these have failed to stem poverty. Therefore, if the suggested ban is effected, many Nigerians will be directly impacted including their families.
Motorcycle ban may not be new to some states in the South-East and South-South where commercial bikes had been prohibited long ago. Moreover, Lagos State has restricted “Okada” in some local government areas. States like Kebbi, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe and Zamfara have placed a total ban on their activities while Katsina restricted their operations in some frontline local governments. Selective proscription of this transportation mode in troubled areas is the way to go, not a nationwide ban.
However, the Federal Government’s proposition is beyond its constitutional purview. In a federal polity, it is the states and local governments that should impose and carry out such a ban. The federal authorities can only enforce the ban in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on federal interstate highways and in any state where an emergency rule is in force. At best, it can only persuade the states of the overriding urgency of such a sweeping embargo to combat insecurity.
A blanket prohibition must result in a provision for alternatives. Otherwise, the government will merely be expanding the army of criminals and terrorists. Handling the criminality of motorbike operators is a matter of competent governance. They can be trained, licensed and allocated areas of operations. They should be compelled to belong to unions that are accountable to the government so that felons among them can easily be nabbed.
In parts of the country where motorcycles have become the mode of transport for terrorists and other criminals, tricycles, bicycles and mini-buses can be used to replace them, at least for now. That will enable the easy isolation of terrorists on bikes. Also, the Federal Government should stem illegal immigration from the Sahel into Nigeria. This is because many of the insurgents are foreigners working with their Nigerian cohorts.
“Okada” riders should conduct themselves orderly with proper means of identification. Doing such will assist the security operatives in checkmating insecurity and fish out criminals using motorcycles to perpetrate evil. The security status of the country is unstable. It has to be realised that in overcoming the threat, the aftermath of every decision must be properly evaluated. The unemployment and insecurity haunting Nigeria will exacerbate if the government proceeds with its proposal.
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