By Ayodeji Jeremiah
(1) Despite strong economic growths in the past 5 years, our government is broke because there is extreme wastage on recurrent expenditure. Our government is too big and extremely expensive to maintain. Our National Assembly consumes a huge amount of our budget. The president, governors and local government chairmen and their assistants all have expenses that can be curtailed to bring down the cost of government but we don’t see this happening. Why?
(2) Nigerians have to come to a realisation that for our government to work, it’s time to do away with federal character and ethnic representation. A situation where we constitute a board and insist on having six commissioners on that board representing the six geo-political zones when that board can work effectively with two or three commissioners is unacceptable. Having a federal government with 36 or 42 ministers is unacceptable.
(3) Why is government so unwilling to repair the existing refineries? Each refinery can be repaired within 12 months while a new one can only be built within three years. If the government says there is no money to repair the refineries, how about borrowing money from the World Bank or ADB at reduced rates to do so? If those refineries work, supply will improve and people will be more than willing to allow subsidy removal to pay back such loans. At least, we will know what the government used the money for.
(4) Our Civil Service is bloated, disorganised and non-functional, yet majority of Nigerians continue to subsidise the salaries and financial inefficiencies in this sector. The NLC will not address this situation because it is not politically correct for them to do so. Fighting for N18, 500 minimum wage for less than 5 million Nigerians when majority of Nigerians are in the informal sector working in companies with less than 50 staff where the minimum wage law does not apply to them is not the way for the NLC to go. NLC should be looking at how to engage the government on how to free up resources for the informal sector, how to build new infrastructure and how to sustain our moribund manufacturing industries.
(5) If government is sincere about removal of fuel subsidy, they should give a timeline. E.g.
- Repair of existing refineries – January 2012 – December 2013
- Improvement of Power Supply to at least 10, 000 megawatts – January 2012 – December 2012
- Reduction of staff, salaries and expenditure in the Civil Service including both political and non-political office holders – January 2012 – December 2012
- Provision of Mass Transit Schemes – January 2012 – December 2012
- Repair of Railway – January 2012 – December 2013
The monies for the above can come from savings made in (iii) above and from public-private sector partnerships and from soft loans. Rather than collecting loans and mounting up debts to maintain an expensive bureaucracy and government, such loans and debts should be used to build new infrastructure
(6) There will be no ‘cabal’, no subsidy and corruption will be eliminated in the fuel supply chain if our refineries can work and fuel supply is improved.
(7) The fuel subsidy issue is not just economic and that is where the government got it all wrong. Anyone with A-Level Economics knows this subsidy cannot be maintained but the argument is also moral and political. Nigerians simply do not trust their government to spend the money realised from the subsidy removal wisely. Government should have come out with a detailed expense statement saying this is how and how the money will be spent with derivables clearly stated and dated.
The subsidy is the only thing Nigerians generally see as their gain from the government, removing it arbitrarily was wrong and then the government’s damage control activities has been less than satisfactory. The House of Representatives, while they should be commended for their special session convened on Sunday January 8 should also be made to sit up. There are lots of other burning issues that we need their attention on. Playing on our emotions and sentiments should not be allowed, they are also culpable in the issues pertaining to our country. I did not see any statement from them slashing their salaries and bloated allowances.
If the NLC wants to go on strike, then it should not just focus on getting us back to N65 per litre of petrol. If at the end of the day, negotiations take place and we start buying fuel at N80 or N100 or N120 per litre, then nothing has been achieved.