Productivity and national development (II)
In addressing productivity and national development, the paper presented by my humble self at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies argued that corruption stifles national productivity and national development. It highlighted other aspects of the Ribadu report which revealed that the NNPC had failed to report N86.6 billion to the government in 10 years by simple manipulation of exchange rates by officials of the corporation. On oil theft, the report showed that about 150,000 barrels of crude oil are stolen each day in Nigeria. This amounts to a loss of $13.5 million per day (at $100 per barrel). In a year, that stands at $5 billion (N750 billion). Experts say ‘Nigeria earns $20billion =N3 trillion in oil and gas revenue, federal taxes rake in 5 trillion naira , customs duty is about 1 trillion naira making a total of N 9 trillion. In a typical year excess crude account is put at about $10 billion.
If the country earns N10 trillion and federal budget is 4.9 trillion naira, then 5 trillion naira is available for politicians to throw around. On the other hand if we share 10trillion naira among 170million Nigerians, every citizen will get N 59,000’.A typical family of six will get N 354,000 but corruption has denied citizens of the benefits. Citizens are demanding an end to impunity in the handling of corruption cases and making chapter 2 of the constitution justiciable.
The paper made reference to the publication by an Abuja based civil society organisation which shows that Nigerians want a new social order. The Centre of Social Justice aptly captures this. Eze Onyekwere, the Executive Director of the Centre recalled that ‘The House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution on Thursday, April 18, 2013, presented the collated results of the Peoples’ Public Session on Constitution Review to the public. According to the Committee, the results reflected the views of Nigerians across the states of the federation. Nigerians by a majority of 279 constituencies voted in the affirmative while 78 rejected the proposal, with only three being undecided. The implication is that Nigerians have voted for improved governance, service delivery and a rights-based approach to development.’ The government is yet to yet to act on this.
The paper also underscored the fact that national development will take place when we eliminate waste in utilization of resources. It observed that government had also initiated a committee but action was not taken on the report. In January 2013, a presidential committee on public service reform discovered that top government officials in Nigeria take home N1.126 trillion a year in salaries and allowances – out of a national budget of N4.9 trillion. These public officers constitute just 0.013 per cent of Nigeria’s population. The jumbo pay that legislators pay themselves is also worrisome. Nigeria’s 108 senators each make over $1.7m dollars a year, when US President Barak Obama only makes $400,000 a year. That alone is $183.4 million (N28 billion) The 360 members of the House of Representatives each takes home over $1.2 million dollars, which amounts to $432 million dollars (N65bn).
Another source of concern is Governors and their security votes. Each state Governor collects an average of 200 million naira a month, just as security vote. In a year, they each get N2.4 billion naira. Our 36 governors take home N87 billion naira on security votes alone every year. Add what they are paid as salaries and allowances. Add our 38 ministers and ministers of state, 100 plus heads of federal and state agencies, over 432 state commissioners, and 774 local government area chairmen and almost 10,000 councillors and it becomes clear where the N1.126 trillion goes.
The paper highlighted the path to national development which has already been carefully articulated by development experts in the countdown strategy for achieving the MDGs. Citizens are demanding that passage of the National Health Bill which protects and allocates resources toward primary healthcare as this will propel Nigeria to achieving the MDGs. Other demands are ‘ Accelerate efforts under ‘Saving 1 Million Lives’ in order to reach the 2015 targets of reducing preventable deaths. Other strategies for promoting inclusive growth include, building up education and skills. Target resources better to produce results at the school level by reducing waste / leakage and inefficiencies. Decentralise and simplify the financing of education; A structural shift to make the private sector the engine of growth and payment of minimum wage, a projected increase in the private sector share of investment from 28% (2004-9) to 40% (2010-13), providing sustained job creation. The MDG countdown strategy also highlighted the need to ‘Invest in human resources as well as infrastructure. Strengthen the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission ICPC with powers of investigation and prosecution of corrupt politicians and citizens. Eliminate impunity in handling corruption cases.
Worldwide the labour union is the leading civil society group that promotes workers rights and is strategically positioned to enhance productivity. The week before I made the presentation at NIPSS the Joint Action Front (JAF), a labour and civil rights group affiliated to the organised labour, warned the parent labour bodies, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), against taking part in the National Conference being organised by President Goodluck Jonathan. JAF gave the warning at a press conference titled: Jonathan’s Conference Is An Exercise In Futility through its chairman, Dipo Fashina and its secretary, Abiodun Aremu. The organization expressed pessimism about any positive outcome from the conference, saying it is a waste of time, money and effort. JAF said the conference is a wasteful jamboree, claiming that majority of the delegates are those who have soiled their hands and put Nigeria in its current sorry state. It therefore urged the organised labour to avoid being seen as hypocrites claiming to be fighting for the downtrodden masses, yet dining with those considered the real enemies of the country. JAF stated that the neo-liberal economic policies of privatisation and deregulation with its attendant failure to deliver on education, health, employment opportunities, social welfare, infrastructure, have made life unbearable to the people.
JAF had also warned Nigerians that it was not enough to talk about “Political restructuring and Revenue Derivation”, but that Nigerians should in particular, be concerned with: what use the current office holders make of the allocations they receive monthly.’
The paper presentation was followed by an interactive session where participants made useful observations and asked interesting questions that opened new perspectives to the issues discussed in the paper. NIPSS observes the policy of non attribution so the discussion cannot be shared.