Between the FG’s Ban on Purchase of Official Vehicles and Saving Funds

By Segun Ogunlade
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Under normal circumstances, one would have greeted the Federal Government’s resolve to cut down on non-critical and administrative capital spending with a resounding applause. The country truly needs to cut cost and save fund. It is thus wise for the Federal government to think of supporting the economy after the disruptions and challenges meted out on it by the Covid-19 pandemic which the country is still struggling to maintain.

So, when Mr Femi Adesina released a document tagged “What you need to know about the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan” and listed eight interventions including mass agricultural programme, infrastructure, informal sector support, business support for Medium and Small Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), technology, expansion of National Social Investment Programmes, cut in non-essential spending and support for state governments, it appears the government is finally living up to expectations. It is a common thing in Nigeria to see official vehicles turn to unofficial vehicles for the persons using them. Many government officials don’t return the officials attached to their offices at the expiration of their term. They simply turn the official vehicles to personal vehicles and when another person comes to occupy the position they are vacating, the government has to buy another vehicle to service the office. The government is thus right to ban the purchase of official vehicles for now.

For some reason, I am sceptical about the Federal Government’s ability to see the National Economic Sustainability Plan through. This is not the first time the government has failed to deliver on its promises. And if it fails, there is guarantee that anyone would be punished for it. This current government or any other before it is not famous for bringing any government officials to book for why any of its plans failed. Besides this, I believe the Federal Government has more to do in the area of saving funds. There are many ways through which funds are wasted than they are saved in this country. But because the money are lost legitimately, the government doesn’t look at them. Perhaps it does but just hasn’t considered the implications yet because somehow they still gain from it.

You would have noticed that many of the big engineering contracts and others awarded by various governments in the country are to expatriate companies. Some of these are owned by Chinese, Americans, British, Italians, etc. By giving the contracts to these expatriate companies, the government pay in several millions of dollars. Instead of having the money stay in our economy, we pump them into other country’s economy by giving out contracts to people outside our shores. The people that run those companies collect their money and inject it into their country’s economy to further develop and strengthen it.

After paying millions of dollars to these foreign companies and the country runs into financial mess, the government of the day goes cap in hand to those countries to borrow part of the money it had paid some of their citizens while they were working on our soil. Then we continue to be indebted to them by saving us from economic woes. While their economic of those countries are flourishing because they have enough money to service it, ours is struggling for life like an abiku. The money would have ensured Nigeria has a strong economy if they are retained here and the contracts are awarded to local companies where a good number of the workers are also Nigerians.

As you would have also noticed, our academic training is tilted towards getting a certificate and using it to get a job. That is why there are many unemployed graduates who still think the only way to live is to get a job. We were not trained to solve problems in our society but to buy our way over the problem without ever fixing it. That is why we are busy making money just so we could buy the products of inventions from other climes whereas they are busy using the products of their invention to take our money away. While we save money to buy the next big gadget in the market, they are thinking of how to make money by taking the next big gadget to the market for sale.

By being good buyers in the world market, our money goes to solve some of the economic problems of the countries we buy from while our economy suffers a perpetual lack of money. If we had been producers, we would have retained a lot of money in our economy and that would have gone a long way in helping our economy develop. I am confident that when we start many of the things we need locally, we will also retain a large chunk of money in our economy and the federal government wouldn’t gave to always pump money into the economy to sustain it. But there seems to be a perpetual force that stiffens individual development in the country and makes it difficult for local companies to grow. Unfortunately, the government is not interested in making the country’s economy a producer-oriented one. After all, they have the money to buy the best of things from Europe, America and Asia. But the fact remains that anytime money leaves our shores to buy good from another country, we are doing disservice to our own economy by depriving it of sufficient funds that local funds could have used to boost their production.

Add this to the fact that Nigeria runs one of the most expensive governments in the world. Our political officers are one of the best remunerated officials in the world. Becoming a political office holder is one of the easiest ways to get rich in Nigeria because it comes with a somewhat unrestricted access to public funds. Once you become a politician in Nigeria, you often go into it full time and when you become a full time politician, your remuneration is also full. Whether you work to deserve the type of salary and allowances you collect whilst in that office doesn’t concern the public because many of them are looking for the same opportunity to do little and earn big. They call it the national cake. I hope the cake gets to finish one day and we will realise we have eaten it too for too long without second thought.

Becoming a political officer to earn in a year or less what a civil servant would earn in all his thirty five years of service to the country isn’t a strong deterrent to stay away from holding political offices. Of course, when you collect about 13.5 million naira in salary and allowances or you live freely on state funds, and you collect allowances with which to buy newspapers, you wouldn’t think of any other thing to do. That is why our leaders don’t have a high sense of responsibility and they don’t see their position any better than an avenue for enriching themselves. Everything comes free with their political offices and they earn more money doing things that are not related to their job description.

But successive administration in the country has not deemed it fit to review the humongous salary and allowances of political officers. These offices gulp more national funds than the provision of infrastructural facilities and social amenities in the country. Instead of talking about how to make political offices less attractive in terms of pecuniary gains to make people with right intention strive to occupy them, the government is banning the purchase of official vehicles. This isn’t the first time something would be banned in the country. Despite the ban on interstate transportation due to Covid-19 pandemic, it hasn’t stopped. People still travel from one part of the country to another. Defiling government order doesn’t come with consequences in Nigeria. That is why the citizens flout orders and directives and get away with it. That is why I am also confident that when any ministry or agency of the government purchases official vehicles despite the ban, they will get away with it.

I am waiting for the day any government in Nigeria would legislate against giving government contracts to expatriate companies, either in the state or at national level as a way of retaining funds within our economy. I am sceptical if that day would ever come though. After all, when billions of dollars have been shipped away by foreign firms by doing what could have been handed to Nigerians, they are the ones that benefit from the money that is left in the treasury. They are the ones who evade tax and could go away with it. That is why they don’t bother much about the different ways money leaves our economy but are always eager to pump money into it, when in the long run, a few would benefit. The choices we make regarding the management of our resources will determine the type of our country we will have.

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