By Emmanuel Edukugho
The hope of better life for Nigerians after long era of terrible military rule, which culminated eventually into democracy in 1999, seemed dashed with emergence of profligate politicians and flamboyant public office holders who have only succeeded in pauperising the citizenry and deepening poverty in the country amidst stupendous national wealth.
With the coming of democratic dispensation, it was like starting over again for a country brimming with immense talent and potentials that turned into a synonym for everything dirty-corruption at all levels (monumental and petty), human rights abuses, drug peddling, fraudulent practices, immorality, environmental degradation, educational collapse, electoral sham, massive unemployment, power and water outages, hunger and homelessness.
Public officials steal and squander hundreds of billions of naira earned from huge production of oil and gas resources with reckless abandon. Nigeria has experienced three distinct leaderships under one political party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP in the last fourteen years.
From Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler who kick-started democracy, becoming President of Nigeria for eight years, to President Goodluck Jonathan took over after the death of President Musa Yar’Adua, and was re-elected as President in 2011; the squander and misuse of public funds has conitnued unabated even getting more scientific than ever before.
Addressing Nigeria’s socio-economic and political problems had been an uphill task for all the leaders since 1999. But the most traumatic is the Goodluck Jonathan presidency which was compounded by Boko Haram insurgency in which over 20,000 people have died so far including security operatives.
At present, the country’s entire economy revolves around oil with large reserves, which implies that Nigeria has the potentials of a very prosperous economy. In fact, oil accounts for nearly 90 per cent of her revenue, yet, the wealth from oil has not positively impacted on the economy as poverty is still endemic in the country.
Rather what continued to stare us on our faces is devastating lavish lifestyle of leaders from the presidency to ministers, governors, commissioners, local government chairmen, councillors, permanent secretaries, heads of parastatals, directors, board members and so on. However, the most disgusting is the extravagant salaries and allowances earned by members of the National Assembly – Senators and Representatives running into billions of naira every year, while millions of Nigerians are hungry, jobless and virtually homeless.
The executive, legislature and judiciary seemed to have connived in ripping off the people. In other words, the government has continuously shown that the interest of the larger Nigerian population is not its priority.
For instance, the sum of N150 billion is being allocated to the National Assembly as annual budget in which senators received quarterly pay of about N50 million each and House of Representatives members about N40 million each every quarter in addition to multi-million naira constituency projects allowances not accounted for. Also, members of State Houses of Assembly go home monthly with millions of naira.
Ministers and commissioners are paid millions of naira including all sorts of allowances beyond the imagination of the toiling masses whose minimum pay had been fixed at a paltry sum of N18,000 monthly which many states even refused to pay. Yet, state governors get billions of naira as security votes which ended up in private pockets.
Two years ago, N18 billion was budgeted for the maintenance of presidential fleet of planes, while N1.9 billion was set aside for the purchase of an additional aircraft for the President. Before then, it was announced that the presidential fleet was to be upgraded with planes costing N31.5 billion. It should be noted that wealthy nations like Britain have no presidential fleet as the Prime Minister David Cameron travels by the national carrier. The Chinese President also travels by the country’s national airline.
Only recently, the Federal Government approved N2.2 billion for construction of a banquet hall for Aso Rock Villa which evoked outrage of the citizens. Some years ago, the World Bank grant of $8.64 billion facility for growth and poverty reduction in Nigeria was frittered away, while in 2008, we were told that this country has spent $16 billion to reactivate the power infrastructure.
Corruption affects the way money is allocated within the state budget, diverting expenditures away from less lucrative sectors as health and education to high kickback areas.
Sometime in 2012, an investigation by House of Representatives Committee on Finance, Petroleum Upstream, Downstream and Gas Resources, revealed how NNPC under-remitted a sum of N3.098 trillion to the Federation Account between 2004 and 2011 under the watchful eyes of CBN and NEITI.
Two governors in the South/South reportedly bought jet planes – a Bombardier Global 5000 worth $45.7 million and Gulf Stream Jet which cost $45 million. These planes are believed to be used privately and also for official duties. A governor, piloting a private aircraft crashed and was flown abroad for medical attention and is now no longer fit to resume duties after his return . Several ministers are said to be owning private jets and fleet of exotic cars and mansions.
Maintenance of these private planes could be a constant drain on public treasury which can be used to build and repair roads, improve healthcare, education, provide decent housing, electricity and water.
Also, the Federal Capital Territory Authority, FCTA, will be spending N3billion to build official houses for principal officers of the National Assembly.
About 70 per cent of the country’s income is expended on public officers and politicians who comprise less than 1 per cent of a population of 167 million.
According to the CBN Governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi who said recently, “we cannot develop if we continue to have so much of our resources where government is spending 70 per cent of the nation’s revenue on itself and leaving 30 per cent for the people. Is that a sensible situation?” Ironically, the CBN budgets N300 billion lacking oversight duties of the legislature needed to ensure transparency and accountability.
In 2011, the United Nations Development programme placed Nigeria 156th out of 187 surveyed, saying that Nigeria has been recording constant high economic growth rate that has not produced commensurate employment opportunities and reduction in poverty among citizens.
In 2012, the M.O Ibrahim Index for Africa Governance, ranked Nigeria 43 out of 52 countries assessed. Nigeria’s overall score of 42.0 was no match to African average score of 51.9.
UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Nigeria as the worst place for a baby to be born in 2013. Nigeria is 80th out of 80 countries surveyed. Infant and maternal mortality is among the highest in the world. Expensive and frivolous lifestyle of the leaders that glorify waste and financial recklessness are responsible for the horrible economic situation of the country.