Wasting resources is not new in Nigeria. Our successive governments’ penchant for profligacy amid poverty is legendary. At some point in the 1970s, erstwhile Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, reportedly told the world that our problem as a nation was not money, but how to spend it. Today, our problem has become both money and how we spend it.
Last week, it was reported that the leadership of the National Assembly (NASS) has started distributing brand new Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) to our lawmakers. There are 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives. The NASS leadership had earlier announced that senators would get 2023 model Toyota Land Cruisers while Reps would get Toyota Prado. The cost is not certain, but some reports say each of the Prado SUVs cost N130 million. The total cost is said to be about N57.6 billion. The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Akin Rotimi, said the vehicles were tied to the oversight functions of the lawmakers.
Hear him: “The public is invited to note that as part of the 10th Assembly’s objective to ensure our integrity and independence, members of the Green Chambers have resolved to maintain a respectable distance from the executive arm of government, especially in issues relating to logistical aspects of oversight functions, including reaching difficult terrains in the country.” This sounds like some of those funny tales some men tell their wives when they return home late from a crooked outing with their girlfriends.
Also laughable is the clarification by Rotimi that the vehicles shall remain the property of the National Assembly until the expiration of the tenure of the 10th Assembly in 2027. Then, he said, members might have the option of making payment for the outstanding value of the vehicles to government coffers before they could become theirs.
It is pertinent to note that this practice is not new. And it is not restricted to lawmakers. Other senior public servants also have brand new cars attached to their offices. Recently, the Labour Party National Chairman, Julius Abure, lamented that our new ministers were given three four-wheel drive vehicles each on their first day in office. It would have been understandable if the government had patronized local car manufacturers. That would have boosted our dwindling economy.
Regrettably, the government of President Bola Tinubu has shown in all ramifications that it is not sensitive to our crumbling economy. His son flies around in Presidential jet to attend personal recreational functions. The President himself moves about in a convoy of cars that makes you think Nigeria is one huge mart for exotic cars. He travelled to New York in September for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). He was said to have spent $507, 384 (390.6 million) on hotel rooms alone in the one week he stayed at St. Regis Hotel in New York. He appointed 48 ministers and sundry advisers and special assistants, the highest since the advent of this fourth republic in 1999.
When you juxtapose this profligacy with the current economic reality on ground, you can’t but weep for Nigeria. The rate of inflation has continued to climb. In 1999, it was about 6.62 per cent. Before the All Progressives Congress (APC) took over government in 2015, it was about 9.01 per cent. In August 2023, it jumped to 25.08 per cent. By September 2023, it climbed to 26.72 per cent, the highest in over 18 years. Food inflation as of September 2023 is 30.64 per cent. In August this year, it was 29.34 per cent. To appreciate the enormity of the food price increases better, recall that a bag of 50kg of rice in August 2015 was a little above N8, 000. Today, the same commodity is about N55, 000. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is N30, 000 per month. Last week, Tinubu approved the sum of N35, 000 as minimum wage for federal civil servants with effect from September 1, 2023. This is pending when a new national minimum wage is signed into law.
Considering our government’s profligate spending, where will the money to pay this new minimum wage come from? The Federal Government said it was facing enormous challenges because of revenue deficit. The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu, reportedly lamented in Abuja last week that there was no money anywhere in the country and that the government was managing to pay salaries. He added that Nigeria’s population growth was increasing fast and that unemployment was surging amid high inflation.
Perhaps, borrowing will continue to come to our rescue. Our public debt stock as of June, 2023 is N87.38 trillion. There are plans to borrow another $1.5 billion from the World Bank. Last year, we spent about 96.3 per cent of the country’s revenue to service these debts.
Exchange rate is another major headache for manufacturers and many other Nigerians. A few years ago, when dollar was less than N300, we lamented the turn of events, not knowing that the worst was coming. Today, the exchange rate is over N1, 100 to a dollar. Companies that cannot cope with the situation have closed shop. A typical example is the British multinational pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The company recently announced its exit from Nigeria after 51 years in the country. The implication is that the costs of essential drugs that come from the stable of that company have gone up to over 100 per cent. Many of the existing companies and service providers are barely managing to survive as they find it difficult to source foreign exchange for their business.
Many workers have lost their jobs as the rate of unemployment continues to rise. Depression is real and a number of frustrated Nigerians have either attempted suicide or actually committed it. Those who have the liver for evil join criminal gangs to unleash terror on fellow citizens. Kidnapping for ransom has become routine in many parts of the country and nothing much has been done to put a stop to it.
As it is, many Nigerians now battle hunger and starvation. Some others have had to sell off their property just to obtain visa and relocate abroad.
The quest to have a leader who can reset Nigeria was thwarted in the last general election. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to respect the wishes of the majority of Nigerians for a change. And the presidential election petitions tribunal helped to stamp that electoral heist on the country.
We do not have to relent. We shall continue to press for good governance in the country. We shall continue to admonish government at all levels to put the citizens’ interests above their personal interests.
There is need for total political reforms in Nigeria. Politicians kill to gain power because of what they stand to gain in office. If we make such offices less attractive, perhaps, it will limit the number of greedy entrants. We also need to make the centre less attractive by devolving power to the regions. We are fighting to be at the centre because of the oil money. What happens when the oil becomes less lucrative as it is happening already? The 2014 National Conference proffered solutions to some of these things. President Tinubu should revisit the report with a view to implementing some good aspects of it. We cannot continue to do the same thing all the time and expect to see changes. We must restructure to live or continue in our old ways and die. The option is ours.
Re: Certificate forgery defenders
Dear Casy, it’s understandable when a professional sycophant like Femi Fani Kayode exhibits his character but when someone like Wole Soyinka becomes hypocritical and sycophantic even at his age and the international clout he has, then things have fallen apart. Soyinka was a thorn in the flesh of President Jonathan and his wife (Patience) when they were in power. Soyinka even nicknamed Jonathan’s wife “Shippopotamus” just to ingratiate himself to then opposition who later took power in 2015. How many times did you hear Soyinka criticize Buhari’s government even when that regime turned out to be the worst in Nigeria’s history? Not even once because that evil government had a Yoruba as vice president. Soyinka’s hatred for Jonathan was because he gave Igbo a sense of belonging in his government. Has Soyinka said anything since Tinubu’s brouhaha started? His pastime these days is attacking whatever Peter Obi says even when severe hardship is ravaging the country. Imagine if Jonathan was still the president, Soyinka would be leading daily protest all over Nigeria. I have little or no respect for that man because his legacy is introducing Pyrate confraternity in the country’s tertiary institutions.
-Ifeanyi, Owerri, 0806 156 2735
Dear Casy, what do you expect the defenders of forgery to do in Nigerian nation that is in inverse position? A nation that is on reverse gear in almost all strata of development and growth? A nation where for you to clinch political power, you must do the unthinkable, including surrounding yourself with goons and sending them after any person(s) considered a threat to the wiles and guiles deployed towards realization of your political ambition? A nation where, even the Judiciary, seen in saner climes as the last hope of the common man, is, inversely, the lost hope of the common man because she, the Judiciary, speaks ‘in tongues’ and goes in twists and turns, especially, where matters involving the mighty are concerned? Casy, the forgery defenders are just doing the ‘needful’ by transporting the truth to the cemetery and singing its dirge for the sole purpose of their stomach infrastructure and the associated personal comfort. Remove or dislodge them from the sources of their stomach infrastructure, then they would dash back to the cemetery and exhume the truth! That’s our nation for you and me! Very unfortunate!
-Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731.
Casmir, those inclined to defending forged certificates in high places are not doing the present and the future of the nation any good! They are setting the moral compass of Nigeria in the wrong direction. The lowest depth that the president of any nation can descend to is to be accused of forgery! ‘The sin of forgery is worse than the sin of rigging an election’. No amount of detergent/soap that may be used by his propaganda machines will wash him clean, especially, in the eyes of the public. The antidote to this ‘irreparable damage’ is to speak for self rather than use surrogates or in the worst case scenario become evasive or attempts to stop the acceptance of Atiku’s new evidence at the apex court. Why someone who had excellent results is toeing this line leaves watchers exasperated! Tinubu has become an enigma of a sort and a mystery that is yet to be unravelled. The face behind the masquerade is about to be revealed. The consequence of this long (1999-2023) intractable soap opera, is that, the standard required to become Nigeria’s president has now been completely lowered or next to none! The youths are watching with keen interest to see how it will play out at the ‘Supreme Court’ of Nigeria.
-Mike, Mushin Lagos, 0816 111 4572
•Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 23, 2023