By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
A non-governmental and non-partisan organization, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to consider cutting the cost of governance to save money for people-oriented projects, programmes, and welfare.
This was contained in a statement signed and made available to Vanguard by the Board of Trustees of ActionAid Nigeria, after a review of the State the Nation on October 26, 2019, in Abuja.
According to the statement, AAN followed with keen interest the various developments in Nigeria within the third quarter of 2019. Not discarding the efforts of government in improving the economy, believing that much more can be done to make the country better and safer for the citizens.
It also raised issues of concern including the proposed 2020 Budget Appropriation Bill, Value Added Tax, VAT, Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill, and others.
The statement reads in part, “We have therefore reviewed the happenings in government, economy and issues of security within the last quarter, particularly as it affect vulnerable groups: women, children, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), and the youths. Below are some of our findings and recommendations.
“Cost of governance in Nigeria is disproportionately high relative to productivity and there is need for urgent action if government really wants to improve the situation.
“The current VAT collection system is ineffectual and porous. Spending VAT proceeds on recurrent expenditure is counter-productive.
“The 2020 proposed budget has huge provisions for debt servicing and does not address the high need for infrastructural development given the growing population.
“The growing insecurity and volatile environments in different parts of the country will make it very difficult for development programmes to be implemented if not promptly dealt with.
“Climate change is perhaps the most serious environmental threat to the fight against hunger, malnutrition, disease, and poverty in Nigeria, mainly through its impact on agricultural productivity.
“The rights of communities where mining takes place in Nigeria are not adequately protected. There are gaps in mining laws and investors do not comply with regulations.
“Nigerian universities lack gender-specific mechanisms to tackle violence against students, particularly females and their peculiarities.”
Meanwhile, AAN also recommended that, “To cut running cost, Nigeria must reduce the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies as a matter of urgency.
“Government also must liaise with the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) to slash salaries of all lawmakers and political office holders in order to save money for the infrastructural development of Nigeria especially now that funding the 2020 budget poses a huge challenge.
“The Senate or the House of Representatives should be scrapped as a bi-cameral legislature increases the cost of governance.
“There is need for more consultation with stakeholders, as the proposed VAT increase will hike inflation and put more economic burden on the masses. Rather than increase VAT, AAN calls for broadening of the Nigerian tax base. We insist on a thorough appraisal of the current VAT regime and ask FG to account to the people how the proceeds are spent.
“AAN supports the Federation of Nigerian Mining Host Communities in demanding a review of laws that regulate the mining sector. We demand that the communities’ rights must be protected in the process of issuing licenses for mining. We also call for a robust mining audit to ensure fairness and transparency as well as making legal provisions for artisanal mining.
“The 2020 budget should capture adequate funding of Agriculture, Health and Education sectors given their strategic importance. Agriculture employs up to 80% of the population, especially in the informal sector, where the majority of the small-scale food producers are women farmers. The health sector requires improved funding.”
It also added that the Inspector General of Police, IGP, should step up crackdown on criminal elements as Nigerians are daily becoming victims of heinous crimes.
“While we acknowledge that the police alone cannot deliver on security, we charge the Inspector General of Police to take the battle to the criminals’ doorsteps by re-evaluating and implementing new operational strategies to stem the tide of kidnapping, armed robbery, and banditry”, it added.
It also urged Nigerians to join the tree planting campaign to salvage the environment from climate change and global warming, hence “all hands must be on deck to cut down on carbon emissions as a way of combating global warming.”