Many Nigerians are calling on President Bola Tinubu to follow up on his announcement that petrol subsidy is gone with measures to cut the outrageous costs of running the government so that it is seen as sharing in the pain.
Tinubu’s slate of economic policies announced during his inaugural speech on Monday is set to bring serious economic pain to Nigerians. The rise in fuel prices has already doubled transport costs and food prices are set to go through the roof.
This is now the perfect opportunity to curb government excesses like the outrageous allowances given to lawmakers, selling off several planes in the presidential fleet, and pruning down wasteful government expenditures and inflated budgets that are not grounded in reality.
“The government is too big, we need a limited government,” says Olisa Agbakoba in an interview monitored on Arise TV on Wednesday.
Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AFDB), in his speech at the inauguration lecture held at the International Conference Center, Abuja, on Saturday, that the government should raise taxes, grow revenue and keep a leash on spending, decrying the high cost of governance.
He charged the Tinubu government to look critically at the cost of governance in Nigeria, which he said “is way too high and should be drastically reduced to free up more resources for development. Nigeria is spending very little on development”.
The Oronsaye report, officially known as the Report on the Restructuring and Rationalization of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, was submitted to the Nigerian government in 2012. The report was commissioned by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in response to concerns about the size and cost of the Nigerian public sector.
The report was prepared by a committee chaired by Stephen Oronsoye, a former director-general of the Budget Office of the Federation. The committee reviewed the mandates, functions, and operations of all federal government parastatals, commissions, and agencies. It also made recommendations for the restructuring and rationalisation of the public sector.
The recommendations of the committee include the abolition of 38 agencies, the merger of 52 agencies, the reversion of 14 agencies to departments in various ministries, and the rationalisation of staff strength in the civil service.
The report argued that the implementation of these recommendations would save the government N1.3 trillion annually. It also argued that the recommendations would improve efficiency and reduce waste in the public sector.
However, previous governments have ignored the report due to a lack of political will and concerns about possible job losses.
The Oronsaye report promotes efficiency and reducing waste in the public sector as well as advocacy for the removal of such extra-budgetary allocations like security votes, and cutting down allowances of lawmakers, among others.
The first test for the newly minted lawmakers including those from smaller parties that position themselves as alternatives to the All Progressives Congress and People’s Democratic Party, which many see as irredeemably corrupt, would be whether they would refuse to pad budgets, forego ridiculous allowances they allocate to themselves and demand fiscal accountability to curb reckless spending by the government.
Agbakoba also called for reorganisation of Nigeria’s security architecture in order to make it more efficient. “The EFCC is a behemoth, it should go; its always in battle with everyone and that is not a way to fight corruption,” he said.
Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was engaged in a brawl over an office building with the Department of State Services on Tuesday. The organisation has become renowned for exerting its energy on bottom-barrel criminals involved in Advance Fee fraud while politicians loot state treasuries.
Across social media platforms, Nigerians are demanding that the government too share in the pain by cutting its high operational cost. They want these cuts reflected in the budget for entertainment at Aso Rock and the number of cars that are included in the president’s convoy and the sale of several planes in the presidential fleet.
Last year, the president of Zambia sold the presidential plane purchased for $194.9 million by the previous government because of colossal maintenance and servicing costs.
“They want the Nigerian working class to pay for fiscal reforms through their nose, while they keep subsidising their own wealthy lifestyle funded by taxpayers’ money,” said Adetola Tosin on Twitter. “If at all any subsidy has to go, it should be the subsidy that funds the opulence of the ruling elites.”
Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, also lampooned the decision to remove subsidies without any announcement on raising the minimum wage of Nigerian workers.
Governments across the world provided some sort of support for the poor and vulnerable but some of the social welfare schemes embarked upon by former President Muhammadu Buhari were dogged with allegations of corruption and poor implementation.
This effectively leaves the petrol subsidy as perhaps the only viable programme but even that has been dogged with rampant corruption and abuse with Nigerian petrol stolen and smuggled across the borders to as far as Sudan.