It is a matter of public knowledge that sources from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Federal Ministry of Finance, Offices of the Accountant General and Auditor-General of the Federation Nigeria affirmed that Nigeria made a whopping N41.6 trillion as revenue from duties, crude oil proceeds and taxes between fiscal years 2011 and 2014. Yet, the nation’s economy is at an all time low. Federal and State governments are borrowing to meet financial obligations including payments of workers’ salaries.
This development amongst others must have made us to ask why things do not work as expected in Nigeria. It is all due to our ethically-debased system, which has profoundly impacted negatively on our collective and societal attitude. Though there are many ethically sound Nigerians either as followers or leaders, but the societal ethical value is debased. Across all professions, the mess is too obvious for all to see. We easily think of corruption only in terms of leadership failures without taking cognizance of the fact that the followership is no different. Each entrenches corruption based on capability. Should there be a vertical movement; the ‘former’ follower may be as corrupt as the ‘present’ leader if not worse. Aside monetary corruption, absence of ethical values is expressed in how we discharge our daily activities: lack of mutual respect/courtesy for the rights of others, disobedience to traffic rules, parental irresponsibility, ethno-religious primordialism, professional misconducts, lack of patriotism amongst others.
Also read: CBN makes last policy decisions before election
We have rightly made calls for reduction in salaries/allowances paid to public officers. However, this will make more money available for management by the same system, which is ethically debased. There will be motion without movement!
Firstly, we need to collectively embrace attitudinal reforms, strengthen our public institutions (INEC/ others) and law enforcement agencies to function effectively and punish corruption without fear or favour. We will then have truly elected leaders and followers who will serve the nation well. Once deterrence is observed in punishing offenders, everybody begins to sit up.
Secondly, the cost of governance has to be reduced. Temporary measures may include reductions in salaries/allowances of public officers and number of ministries. The real steps towards reduction in cost of governance in-order to spur economic growth are:
(i) Quality education with emphasis on skills acquisition and not paper certificates: This implies that our educational training must be practical - oriented and tailored towards solving societal needs i.e. 'gown to town approach'. Our products will think more of standing on their own and far less on looking for non-existing paid jobs. Rather than becoming employees, they will become employers of labour. Availability of youths for socio-political thuggery, terrorism, ethno-religious crises and others will be reduced to the barest minimum. Individuals will see getting involved in politics as an opportunity to serve and not solely for monetary gains as politics is presently seen as the 'best' way to ensure economic survival. The economy stands tall against shocks and societal progress is ensured.
(ii) Diversification of the economy: Nigeria is a blessed nation with abundant human and material resources. The senseless reliance on oil rent revenues as a means of survival which requires federal and state governments to sit monthly at Abuja to share money not striven for must stop. The economy has to be diversified across agriculture, mining and others. This must also include increased investment in the healthcare sector. A healthy populace is required for enhanced productivity.
(iii) True Federalism: The numbers of items on the Exclusive List has to be reduced for increased items on the Concurrent List. This will allow more powers to states to control local resources and drive healthy competition amongst states. The overall national economy grows for the benefit of all.
(iv) Reduction in the Number of States and Membership of State/National Assemblies: We need to begin an honest debate on how many states we need for our survival as a nation. The present 36-state structure is not sustainable considering dwindling oil revenues and poor internally generated revenues. Most of our states except few are not viable in the absence of federal allocations which may remain low for a long time as official sources have confirmed that global oil prices may be as it is for years. The present inability to pay salaries of workers in many states is a tip of the iceberg. The much sought financial bail-out from the federal government will only be a temporary saving device and we shall be faced starkly with the same problems sooner than later.
It is not a bad idea to go back to the twelve-state structure of the Gen. Gowon era. Imagine the financial resources that can be gained for meaningful development without the salaries and allowances of 24 Governors, Houses of Assemblies and Thousands of aides/advisers (some states have been reported to have a thousand or more). This will drastically reduce the membership of the State/National Assemblies whose composition is defined per state/constituency as well as the number of aides of legislators. Pundits opposed to such revolutionary idea will point to issues of marginalization by concerned socio-ethnic groups. So long as Nigeria remains as it is, cries for more states will never stop even if we have a 100 - State structure. Creation of more states only increases access to more resources by the political class. It has not in real terms solved the problems of poverty and infrastructural deficiency across the nation. We may solve emerging socio-political problems by institutionalizing zoning within and amongst existing constituencies. It is equally important as a temporary measure that we reduce the membership of State/National Assemblies via constitutional amendments prior to reduction in the number of states. This will also help reduce cost of governance and make more money available for national development.
May our nation remain blessed. Amen.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.