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Politicians fail to reduce cost of governance

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By Abraham Adekunle

Nigerian civil service and government structure remains bloated.

It is no news that amid rising burden of removing subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) on civil servants, the self-employed, and the general public, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has proposed a 114-percent raise in the salaries of public office holders. This has created a series of discussions and reactions in the media about what the new minimum wage should be. However, beyond the reactions in the media, the problem seems to be deeper than what is seen on the surface.

Since independence in 1960, successive Nigerian governments have formed at least a dozen different panels to reduce the bloated civil service, rein in out-sized governance costs and make the public service fit for purpose. Every measure that was either adopted or recommended has failed. Although Tinubu campaigned on fixing Nigeria’s broken government, he has followed in the footsteps of Buhari his predecessor, whom many have called incompetent. He seemed to have earned a spot in the Oronsaye report.

No political will to implement recommended measures.

According to the analysis of various academic research and expert opinions on efforts to reform Nigeria’s civil service, the conclusion is that it remains bloated, corrupt, and unfit for purpose. The inability to tackles this issues stems from the face that politicians lacked the political will to enforce measures recommended by panels that they formed. Some of the political leaders are bogged down by their own corruption such that implementing some of the measures could cut off access to patronage systems or the cover through which corruption festers.

There is simply no incentive to raise or support a bill in the legislative chambers that focuses on the reduction of the cost of governance. In 2018, Senator Shehu Sani representing Kaduna Central revealed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.” He also said that the running cost does not include a N700,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances which they also receive. With the new proposed salary increase, a senator could earn up to N2 million per month.

Current structure is the creation of the British colonialists.

According to research by Rosemary Anazodo of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria, and others published in an academic journal, Nigeria’s civil service structure is a creation of colonial Britain. It was narrowly structured to enable colonial masters to extract value in the form of financial and material resources needed to exact control. Transparency, professionalism, and accountability were not counted as important features, and the Nigerians who succeeded the colonialists followed in the same tradition, leading to wanton corruption, nepotism and inefficiency. This is the root of the problem.

According to Anazodo, after the British left in the early 1960s, Nigerian bureaucrats who occupied the leadership position in the civil service imbibed the colonial mentality of wealth acquisition for self-aggrandisement. They were simply the new head and free to do as they wished. After independence, the Nigerianisation policy in the civil service was created to reduce expatriate predominance in the civil service but it led to the regionalisation of the Nigerian civil service, where tribe rather than competence formed the basis for recruitment.

Oversized public service will impede move to market-led economy.

During the administration of President Jonathan, Nigeria embarked upon its most comprehensive reform to its public service. In August 2011, a seven-member Presidential Committee led by Stephen Oronsaye, former head of service, was set up to advise on the restructuring and rationalization of the Federal Government’s agencies, parastatals and commissions. The committee gave some critical recommendations to the government. Although Tinubu’s government has shown the willingness to implement some of the report recommendation, leading the country towards a market-led economic system, experts have said that a bloated, corrupt, and ineffectual public service would be a hindrance.

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