The cost of running government in Nigeria is astronomically high. The Senate of Nigeria with 109 members has 54 committees. The House of Representatives has 360 members and 84 committees. The Senate of the United States of America with 100 members and the House of Representatives with 435 members have only 21 committees each. I consider that there is a need for the government to visit some of the recommendations of the last constitutional conference that “elected members of the legislative arms of all the tiers of government should serve on part-time basis”.
On the 1st October, 2016, Former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi delivered a speech on the cost of governance in Nigeria. He stated clearly that if the cost of governance is reduced, Nigeria would easily overcome many of its current economic challenges. He identified the running of state governments in Nigeria as one of the means by which much needed funds are wasted. Giving a summary of the speech, one online publication reported as follows:
“Peter Obi said if the huge cost of governance in Nigeria today is reduced, Nigerian governments at various levels will have enough money from the country’s income to execute their projects and programmes.
According to the former governor, many state governments spend on things that could be done away with. He also highlighted that some other spending can be reduced to help the government save and spend more on other sustainable projects.
“Out of the N11.4 trn expenditure expected this year, the states have N5.4 trn. I believe out this N5.4 trn, we can save N1 trn and we won’t borrow that,” Obi said.
The federal government’s 2016 Budget is about N8 trn. According to the FG, the country’s oil and non-oil revenues will only give N6 trn, creating a deficit of N2 trn. The government says it has plans to borrow the rest of the needed money in order to adequately implement the budget.
Peter Obi stated that over N1 trn can be saved from cutting off some excesses in government spending. He said about 12-15 percent of the allocation [estimated N600 – N800 bn] to states is used in running the Office of the Governor. “If you decide to reduce it to between 3-5 percent, the cost will be between N200 – N300 bn. Thereby, you [will] save about N450 – N600 bn,” Obi noted.
Based on his experience as a governor, he also stated that competitive procurement by state governments can help them save up to N600 bn in a fiscal year. Obi went on to explain that more money could be saved by doing away with the unconstitutional Office of the First Lady that is been operated in most Nigerian states today. At the same time, he said the number of cars in governors’ convoys can be reduced too. “…If you look at what I have showed you now, you are going to save over a trillion naira, and I can tell you it is practical,” he said.
Obi’s speech focused on state governments, leaving out the federal government that incur more than 50 percent of the country’s total expenditure. Notable among many reducible expenses incurred by the FG, the Presidential Air Fleet has not less than 10 aircraft on it and as at August this year, the government had spent over N19 bn on maintenance in the last one year.”
Mr Obi’s statement could not have come at a better time particularly as the Nigerian economy is currently in recession following years of mismanagement and over dependence on oil revenue. That he is a former governor who has witnessed firsthand the wastage in governance in Nigeria makes his comments more profound. Furthermore, his statement mirrors the views which I have canvassed on numerous occasions on the high cost of governance in Nigeria.
Need for urgent change
Nigeria at the moment operates a bicameral legislative system comprising of the Senate and the House of Representatives. At the state level, there are 36 Houses of Assembly and 774 local governments. The executive at the Federal level comprises of the President and a high number of ministers. At all levels, there are special advisers, personal assistants, secretary, orderlies etc. Owing to constitutional requirement that each state be represented on the federal cabinet, some ministries have too ministers assigned to them. Interestingly, the Federal cabinet in the United States of America consists of about 20 persons much less than the number in Nigeria.
The states are also not left out as each state has an equally high number of Commissioners. At the federal level, the judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, and National Industrial Court. In addition each State has its own High Court comprising of a Chief Judge and a number of High Court Judges.
The effect of the above is that the cost of running government in Nigeria is astronomically high. It is reported that the Senate of Nigeria with 109 members has 54 committees and that the House of Representatives with 360 members has 84 committees. However, the Senate of the United States of America with 100 members and the House of Representatives with 435 members have only 21 committees each. Yet in Nigeria, each committee receives funding for its activities including salaries and emoluments for the members. It is estimated that it costs about N320 million to maintain a legislator per annum. According to a former minister, Federal legislators and their support staff at the National Assembly spend about N150 billion a year.
It is on the basis of the above that I still consider that there is a need for the government to visit some of the recommendations of the past last constitutional conference. Although the Conference failed to recommend an abolition of the Bicameral System of Government it nevertheless made a very profound recommendation at page 187 of its report wherein it is stated as follows:
“Elected members of the legislative arms of all the tiers of government should serve on part-time basis;”
In summary, the Conference by the above, recommended a situation in which membership of the legislative arms of government would no longer be considered to be a full time employment. All persons elected to the legislature would thus be expected to have regular jobs and would only sit in the hallowed chambers of the national assembly on occasions that require legislative business. To describe this as a recommendation of seismic proportions would be an understatement. It would force many politicians who at the moment view membership of the national assembly as a means of wealth acquisition to have a rethink. It would make membership of the national assembly less attractive for such politicians. Further it would ensure that only persons who are truly interested in public service vie for such offices. It would also reduce the huge cost of governance in Nigeria. Avenues for drain of the public purse such as constituency grants may well become a thing of the past. The earlier this is done the better it will be for Nigeria.
- Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, OFR, CON, FCIArb, FNSE