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Reducing cost of governance

Immediately after the inauguration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Monday, Nigerians immediately entered panic mode because of his pronouncement on subsidy removal.

Just few minutes after his speech, some filling stations shut down as Nigerians started panic-buying of petrol.

The attendant effects of subsidy removal has been felt in the hike in cost of transportation as most prices have tripled.

With the federal government taking bold steps to move away from the subsidy regime, it now becomes imperative to find better ways of sourcing for money to meet the needs of the poor masses, who are obviously feeling the pressure of the subsidy removal.

Reducing cost of governance

Many Nigerians believe that one way to free up money to help the people out of incidental financial distress is to reduce the cost of governance in the country. For instance, in 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, told the House Committee on Finance that the cost of governance “must be reduced” if Nigeria is to “adequately tackle poverty and other effects of the (COVID) scourge”.

“We have a responsibility to act with urgent determination to build the infrastructure of opportunity that is required to lift millions of our fellow citizens out of poverty,” he said.

“We recognise that we cannot accomplish these objectives using loans and outside financing alone. Therefore, we need to impose deep cuts in the cost of governance and improve internal revenue generation and collection so that we can free up resources that can then be deployed to fund policy initiatives that will enhance the lives of our people.”

According to the Governor and Deputy Governors Law of 2014, which was passed by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, once you become a governor you become entitled to a life pension. For instance, the state’s ex-governors are entitled to 100% of the basic salary of the incumbent governor, one 5-bedroom mansion in choice areas, two cars every four years, and free medical bills for his family, including his wife and children.

The situation in Lagos, Rivers and many other states is no different as their former governors and family members continually milk the finances of the states dry in the name of pensions, while civil servants, most of who serve the country in longer capacities, take home little or nothing after retirement.

Also, the former minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, had in 2013 told the nation that the cost of running the National Assembly had soared to $6.2 billion annually; thereby making the country’s legislative arm of government the most expensive in the world.

Way forward

Deliberate effort must be made to make politics less attractive because, as the argument goes, bringing down the cost of governance will engender prudency and attract people who are only motivated by a desire to serve the country rather than those merely after enriching themselves, their families and cronies.

Some Nigerians have also advocated amending the current Constitution to effect a change from the present bicameral legislature to the unicameral, which had been the case in the First Republic.

Their argument is a credible one, especially because the huge pay packages lawmakers assign to themselves under the current two-chamber National Assembly could even be more than halved if the country resorted to a one-chamber parliament.

There have even been calls for the lawmakers to cut down on their retinue of personal staff and accept a cap on their pay packages.

Besides, and As the subsidy regime gradually comes to an end, there’s the need now, more than ever before, to diversify the country’s economy and focus on other areas away from oil. The potentials inherent in Agriculture, mines and steel development as well as the creative sector, must be tapped to their fullest.

Equally as important, if not more so, the canker of corruption must be tackled headlong if Nigeria is to reach its full potential. Even as conscious effort must be made to plug All government leakages, there is also the need to support anti-graft agencies, such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

Strengthening these anti-graft institutions, as well as enhancing their independence, will, as a matter of fact, stop them being used as tools to score political points.

Similarly, government should, as a matter of urgency, take steps to improve the transportation network nationwide. It should also intensify investment in infrastructure.

In the same vein, the welfare of workers should be given special attention. When all these are in place, Nigeria will undoubtedly be taking its rightful place as the giant of Africa.

Writing by Oluwaseyi Ajibade; Editing by Tony Okerafor