EX-FCT MINISTER AT EDITORS' CONFERENCE
Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, yesterday decried growing and outrageous cost of governance without meaningful impact on development and empowerment of the populace.
He solicited the assistance of the media in the delivery of dividends of democracy. The former boss of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) gave the charge at the opening of the seventh biennial conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), in Benin, Edo State capital.
He noted that the 'entire oil earnings for the year cannot pay the salaries and allowances of politicians and public sector workers and their overheads such as tea, coffee, travel and estacode'.
The former minister, who was arrested and detained in July, this year for alleged inflammatory talks, gave detailed insight into how government at all tiers squandered collective wealth of the people on few elected and public officials.
While indicting the three arms of government of sheer profligacy, el-Rufai hit the present administration for its wastage and growing budgetary expenditure without commensurate development.
In his paper entitled; 'Perspectives on the cost of governance in a democracy', El-Rufai stated that Nigeria remains the only developing country where annual expenditure on general administration ranges from 55 per cent to as much as 75 per cent of the budget.
'The rich countries spend an average of 10 per cent of their budgets and/or GDP on the general administration of their countries. China and India have the largest bureaucracies in the world. But their average annual expenditure on general administration is only about 12 per cent of GDP, and that is considered high, but at least the results are showing – these are the fastest growing economies in the world that have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the last decade.
Giving a sectoral analysis of how Nigeria's wealth is cornered by its officials and cronies, the former minister disclosed that a whopping N49.9 billion will be used to run each of the 49 line Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) outlined in the 2011 Appropriation Act; N150 billion to fund the 469 members of the federal legislature and their support staff for the year while upkeep of judges along with their support staff comes to about N73 million on yearly basis.
'Each ministry has at least one minister -some have two or three, with a permanent secretary, and on average eight directors. The ministers and permanent secretaries have personal assistants, special assistants and special advisers. Each of these expects to drive a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) or two to work, complete with police orderlies and other file carriers. Then, they will need houses, furniture and running costs of the vehicles and utilities. The costs of all these somehow find their way into the overheads budget of the ministries, and makes a complete nonsense of the monetization policy we implemented in 2004.
'Up until December 2006, there were 31 cabinet-level ministries including the FCT Administration and about 42 ministers. The reforms of 2006 led to the merger of the ministries of Petroleum and Power into a single Energy Ministry, Water Resources and Agriculture into a single Agriculture Ministry, commerce with industry, the addition to steel development to the mandate of the Solid Minerals Ministry, the abolition of the ministries of Police Affairs, Communication, and Co-operation and Integration in Africa into larger ministries, works into transportation, and so on.
'This reduced the number of cabinet level MDAs to 21, but without a significant reduction in the number of ministers. The Yar'Adua and Jonathan administrations reversed these reforms, and now, we have some 30 ministries housing between 42 and 48 ministers.
'We elect a total of 360 members to the House of Representatives and 109 Senators to make laws and enhance good governance by checking and balancing the excesses of the executive arm of government. For this privilege, the 469 members of the federal legislature and their support staff at the National Assembly (NASS) will spend N150 billion this year. From the NASS website, it is evident that they only passed eight bills as at the end of May 2011, and have been on recess for 43 days out of the first 100 days of this administration.
'So, assuming that they manage to pass another seven bills before the end of this year, it would cost the Nigerian citizen an average of about 10 billion naira to pass a single bill. This implies that to pass the 2011 budget (which allocated N150 billion to NASS), we paid 10 billion naira. An even more interesting statistics is the cost of maintaining every legislator every year. It works out to a princely N320 million per legislator per annum. At this rate, every four-year stint at NASS works out at N1.28 billion per legislator.
'The judiciary seems equally determined not to be outdone. In this year's budget, apart from the nearly 20 billion naira allocated to the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Judicial Council will receive 95 billion naira. If we compute that the Supreme Court has 22 Judges; Court of Appeal 67; Federal High Court 58; FCT High Court 38 and the National Industrial Court 13, an average of 30 High Court judges per state gives a total of about 1,300 puisne judges nationwide. Following the same statistical analysis, the upkeep of these judges along with their support staff every year comes to a about N73 million per annum per judge', El-Rufai stated.
He also picked hole in the budgetary allocation of government, which he said was not in tandem with the needs and aspirations of Nigerians. 'Another interesting observation is the fact that government says the problem of power shortage will be a priority, yet the Ministry of Power only got N91 billion as total appropriation, while the security sector (Military, Police, Internal Affairs, National Security Agency, Amnesty, Pensions, Police Reform, etc.) got a mind-boggling N1,592 billion.
'This amount is over 35 per cent of the entire budget. In other words, though Nigerians have never felt so insecure, the NSA, Internal Affairs, Police and Defence combined will be spending N4.36 billion per day on our behalf! This does not include the security votes in ministries, and the 36 states. Even local government chairmen now have security votes', he added.
The former minister, therefore urged the media to wake up to its traditional role by sensitizing the populace on their rights, saying the people have not found their voice but rather 'polarised on primordial ethno-religious sentiments'.
'We should hold accountable those who hold political offices on our behalf, nonetheless the inadequacies in our electoral system. They should be our servants rather than being our 'Lords' as they currently arrogate to themselves and flagrantly display at all available fora. Until the people muster the courage to manifestly use the power, which the tenets of democracy vest in them, it is doubtful if the continually rising cost of governance would impact positively on the wellbeing of the populace.
'Those that impose the outrageous system of governance wherein the spiraling costs translate into less investment, poor services and abject poverty for the majority of the people are drawn across the 774 local governments. This, in my candid opinion, is where the media's role in educating and mobilizing the people to action appropriately lies. But do we have a mass media that is neither cowed nor bought over? That is a question that you, ladies and gentlemen can answer honestly.
', el-Rufai said.