OPINION: Just before we crucify Sanusi – Simeon Christian Chukwu
Barely a few hours after the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Lamido Sanusi, made his unpopular economic proposition at the just-concluded Annual Capital Market Retreat held in Warri, Delta State, Nigerians were befuddled and began their usual emotional dissection of issues often proposed by the leaders. Sanusi argued that having the staff strength of the federal, state and local governments reduced by half would serve as a panacea for more infrastructural development in the country. But some Nigerians rather left the real issues and substance for shadow-chasing while hurling venoms at the CBN boss.
Just before we crucify Sanusi over his proposal, have we taken time to ask ourselves the following questions?
Why on earth should our federal lawmakers, both in the Senate and House of Representatives, alone be gulping up 25.1 per cent of our annual budgetary allocations? What laws are 469 persons making and what legislative functions are they carrying out to warrant such reckless wages and salaries?
Why should a local government chairman have more than two aides? Why should a state governor harbour over 50 aides under his payroll while having commissioners for each ministry?
What’s the essence of duplicating SAs, SSAs and PAs all under the payroll of the Federal Government? What are they assisting? Is the person in charge a dummy that he can’t think at all?
Why must an economy like Nigeria’s be spending 70 per cent of her annual budget on recurrent expenditure (paying workers salaries) while having just 30 per cent for infrastructural development and other capital projects? How will such an economy raise shoulders among her political and economic peers globally?
Did Sanusi single out any region as where the majority of the workers should be relieved? Sanusi is from the North (apparently the region with the highest number of government employees). Did he shield them?
What manner of “god” is the office of Nigeria’s Senate President that the occupant should earn six times more than what President Barack Obama of the United States takes home and three times more than what the British Prime Minister earns? In a country where over 65 per cent of the citizens wallow below the $1 benchmark.
Why are we still retaining the fuel subsidy when abounding evidence have shown that it is characterised by utter bewilderment and shrouded in corruption while only a few are rapaciously binging on the “ghost funds” known as subsidy?
Why must the Presidency spend so much on feeding alone while a majority of the people continue to wallow in abject poverty?
The truth is Nigeria’s democracy is one of the most expensive democracies in the world! We need to prune down cost of running government in Nigeria lest we kill the economy and plunge ourselves into further economic chaos in the nearest future. We must learn to think and plan ahead even for generations unborn.
We can make do with the House of Representatives alone while we retrench the Senate which obviously is just a retirement ground for the elite. Enough of the government wastage!
Sanusi’s thesis on sacking 50 per cent of the workforce might not necessarily have to be the civil servants. Something seriously needs to be done but not sacking 50 per cent of government employees. That could be disastrous.
However, it smacks of crass preposterousness for a Senate President of a developing nation and economy to be earning more than the President of a developed nation. We can save the economy from collapsing by curtailing some of this overpaid zealousness.
Politicians and political appointees need to reduce the number of SAs, PAs and other domestic staff as they are paid for by the government. The Steve Orosanye Committee report (scrapping some agencies and merging duplicating agencies) should also be implemented without further delay. This will not be up to 50 per cent agitated for by Sanusi but will go a long way to save more money for the Government which will hopefully be utilised judiciously by the Federal Government.
More so, if the government can create an enabling and conducive environment for both foreign and private investors, the burden and high expectations for them to create jobs and more jobs will be lessened; as there’s practically nowhere in the world where the government is employing up to 50 per cent of her citizens.
While trying to encourage investors, the government can adopt this formula for taxation: the higher the number of employees under a company, the lower the tax that company should pay. For instance, if Mr. A has an investment of N3bn and Mr. B also has the same, Mr. A employs 100 Nigerians while Mr. B has 200 Nigerians under his payroll; then Mr. A should pay a higher tax than Mr. B because of his capacity to employ more people. This is one of the secrets to President Obama’s projection of reducing unemployment from 8.9 per cent to 7.1 in the US.
Sanusi’s proposition could be the way out actually, but the corruption in this nation has eaten so deep into the fabric of the Nigerian system thereby making it pragmatically difficult for even the 30 per cent left to be effectively utilised.
The Central Bank governor has spoken like an economist and the Presidency has also responded with immediate alacrity at least to douse the fears that might arise; with an affirmation that they are not going to lay-off anybody. But like we all know, there’s a difference between the ideal and the reality. Sanusi is proposing the ideal with a gloomy prognostication at sight. But the reality is that our government can’t dare it as it seems perhaps helpless.
If we subscribe to Sanusi’s conceptual thesis, we could be saving the government some cool cash annually, but we wouldn’t because the “boys” don’t have alternatives at the moment. So, the charade continues!
– Simeon Christian Chukwu is ex-editor-in-chief, Psychology Press Organisation, University of Ibadan. (firstname.lastname@example.org)