JONATHAN AND WASTEFUL PUBLIC OFFICIALS
President Goodluck Jonathan is not happy about 'reckless spending' by state governors, ministers and other senior government personnel. And, this is official. Last Monday, Nigerians were informed that the Presidency was scheduled to hold a workshop for governors, ministers, directors of ministries, council chairmen and other key government officials to educate them on what amounts to money laundering.
The initiative is said to be a fallout of the president's unhappiness over the extravagant lifestyle of some key government officials during trips abroad. According to a report in a national newspaper, government will introduce new steps to monitor spending habits of all principal office holders while abroad. The National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Owoeye Aziza, reportedly raised the memo on the new government position and the 'compliance workshop' for the top government officials in Abuja.
The memo, as reported in a national daily, said 'the purpose of the workshop is to enlighten participants on some salient issues that could have negative effects on the efforts of government at employing economic diplomacy to facilitate development through foreign direct investment. It added that 'this is essentially because the attraction of such investment is often predicated on the perception that the nation's economy is stable and the government sincere and responsible.'
The memo explained further that efforts of the government to improve accountability in governance and reduce extravagance were 'inadvertently being hampered by the spending habits and actions of government officials, especially when on overseas trips. The document said this is because of the robust anti-corruption laws of some countries which trigger 'red flags in their systems whenever frivolous spending is observed. It said such records are often used in some countries as basis for investment advice to business communities and in taking decisions on visa applications with respect to such officials.
Let's put this in plainer language. What this memo is saying, when shorn of bureaucratic elegance, is that the way Nigerian senior government officials spend money like rain water while on foreign trips abroad does not portray Nigeria as a serious country, or one needful of, or deserving of aid and investment from more developed countries.
Simply put, the president is miffed by the reckless spending of some top government officials while on foreign trips because the perception of their profligacy by the countries they visit affects Nigeria's image and our quest for foreign direct investment.
In short, top officials of a country like Nigeria whose leaders are always going abroad for foreign direct investment and other aids and grants should not be seen to be reckless spenders, as this creates the impression that Nigerian leaders are wasteful, reckless and irresponsible. It also suggests that the nation does not really need the foreign aid and investments that Jonathan has been asking for.
The compliance workshop for the top government officials covers many issues such as money laundering, and the anti-bribery and corruption laws of Nigeria, the United Kingdom, United States of America and the European United (EU)
It is good that the president is worried about reckless spending by top government officials, abroad, and has taken steps to educate them on it. But, beyond the poor public image that this reckless spending paints of Nigeria and her leadership class abroad, there are many more important reasons why Jonathan should be worried. He should be very worried about the factors that fuel this profligacy, especially in the face of the growing impoverishment of ordinary Nigerians.
One critical factor that we are all too familiar with is corruption of many members of the leadership class. I mean, top government officials and political appointees who convert public funds to private use. Many of these people find it difficult to separate personal money from public funds, hence their reckless extravagance at public expense.
Even when some of these top government officials may not be stealing public funds, the widening gap between the remuneration of this class of public officials and other categories of workers should be a source of worry to the president.
There is, indeed, a lot to worry about when the leadership class of a country wallows in obscene profligacy and conspicuous consumption at home and abroad in the face of growing dilapidated public infrastructure and poverty of the people. It is needless here reeling out Nigeria's dismal statistics on child and maternal mortality, life expectancy, out of school children, unemployment, polio, child labour, poor child nutrition and inadequate access to potable water. Anyone with a fair knowledge of Nigeria's performance in the area of public infrastructure and the annual Human Develop Index cannot fail to wonder how the nation's leaders feel comfortable happily strutting about while shopping abroad when the people they are supposed to be leading can hardly eat two meals a day.
Jonathan should not only be having sleepless nights about wasteful spending of senior government officials abroad because it is affecting his drive for foreign investments. He should be bothered about wasteful spending everywhere, home and abroad, and its impact on what is available to develop public infrastructure and improve human development in the country.
So much has been written about the jumbo pay of public officers and the poor pay of those on the lower rungs of the job ladder. Beyond this workshop, let the president demonstrate an appreciation of the depth of the problem by implementing the minimum wage structure he approved many months back. Let there be stronger commitment to job creation. Let him lead a campaign against profligacy of the political class and strive to bridge the gap between top government officials and other workers. Let him make his team understand the enormity of the task of national development before them. And let him lead by example. Recent reports of his request for a virement of about 90 billion naira to accommodate several expenses including about 55 million naira for feeding of horses and dogs are not encouraging, at all. Processes and systems should be instituted to curb corruption in public office. Those found guilty of the crime should be punished.
The task of national transformation which President Jonathan promised to take upon himself is not an owambe party. It cannot be achieved with a leadership class given to gallivanting around Europe's most expensive stores, and raising eyebrows about the irony of a country in search of foreign aid and investments even as its leaders strut the world in opulence like oil Sheiks.
Thank you so much for this article. I am at a loss to understand the porous and contradictory statements credited to the president always. Who will tell him to be more circumspect and selective in his choice of words?
He already knows Nigeria is a ticking time bomb. All these so called leaders are interested in is looting all they can before total chaos and anarchy rips the nation apart. That is why their assets and cash are stashed abroad. They don't give a damn about the masses.
Peter Ene, Lagos.
What did Obama see when he came: Short stay, tinted glass car, air conditioner everywhere. Was he allowed to interact with the masses?
Mrs. Bissy Koya
Many thanks for the onerous sacrifice. You have boldly belled the cat by speaking the minds of majority of Nigerians.