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BreakingNews 6/4/2014 - Squandermania At The National Confab: How Nigeria Borrowed To Squander Amid Protracted Crisis In Higher Education

BreakingNews 6/4/2014 - Squandermania At The National Confab: How Nigeria Borrowed To Squander Amid Protracted Crisis In Higher Education

[ Masterweb Reports: Intersociety reports ] – PART ONE: (Onitsha Nigeria, 26th day of March, 2014)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety is shocked and alarmed over the reported squandering of a whopping sum of N7Billion (about $45M) by the Federal Government of Nigeria at the ongoing National Confab. The shocking huge sum is being shared among the 492 delegates to the Confab on the basis of “N4Million per delegate” monthly, which translates to N12Million per delegate for three months the Confab is expected to last. Our dependable sources disclosed that N1, 4Million has already been disbursed to each delegate as at Saturday, 22nd day of March, 2014.
 
 
 This is said to have covered “the preamble allowances” of the Conferees. The sum is part of the bloated monthly allowance of N4Million. The bloated monthly allowance under reference covers hotel accommodation, meals, transport and sitting allowances. There are reliable speculations that the Confab will be deliberately or “technically” extended beyond three months to create room for further squandering of public funds. It is most likely that the Federal Government of Nigeria will end up squandering N10Billion ($62.5M) or more. Already, long and unnecessary adjournments have set in. Five days adjournment granted to the Conferees just ended.
 
 
From our extensive investigations, the N7Billion being squandered at the Confab is borrowed. Further findings indicate that a whopping sum of N5, 9Billion, out of the said bloated sum, will be squandered on the 492 delegates on average of N135, 000 a day, while the remaining N1.1Billion will be lavished on other costs associated with the Confab. The N135, 000 (about $850, 00) daily pay for each delegate is equivalent of monthly block pay wage of a Grade Level 12 civil servant and above and more than ¼ of a block monthly salary of a public university professor (N450, 000) in Nigeria. There is no member of the 492-member Confab that legitimately earns daily business profit or public pay of N135, 000, not to talk of a whopping sum of N4Million a month.
 
 
 As if that was not enough, some Conferees like Alhaji Hassan Adamu; a former ambassador, have the temerity to reportedly agitate for inclusion of the Conferees’ retinue of aides in the scandalous allowance jamboree. Shockingly, too, most of the so-called “24 Nigerian CSO” delegates to the Confab, including three out of the four pastoralist activists, who said “they are representing Southeast zone”, have also gone dumb and blind over the matter. The likes of Mr. Mike Ozekhome appear to have applied infantile and unsound logic to justify involvement in sharing the widely condemned bloated allowance. His likes reportedly argued that “if the N4Million is rejected by each of them, Nigeria’s pervasive corruption situation may make it grow wings and disappear from government coffers”. They also reportedly claimed that their own share of the bloated and widely condemned allowance “will be given to the poor”. This reason or excuse is totally rejected by us at Intersociety.
 
 
Borrowing To Squander: It is a truism that Nigeria borrows to squander. It is also a truism that the country has over the years, steadily recorded and still records monumental revenue shortfalls, warranting her reckless and crude borrowing policies. The monetary obligation met over the protracted public universities industrial disputes that ended few months ago over the 2009 ASUU/FGN Agreement, was met on the basis of capital markets’ borrowings, not from non-borrowing revenue reserves.
 
 
 In totality, it is correct to submit that the bloated sum of N7Billion being squandered at the conference under reference, is borrowed from the local capital markets. This is more so when the 2013 and the 2014 real and proposed budgets of the Federal Government of Nigeria contained huge deficits. For instance, the 2014 budget proposal of N4, 9 Trillion (about $30.1Billion) including SURE-P proceeds of N268Billion, contained a total huge deficit or borrowing package of N911.6Billion (about $5.7Billion). The official borrowing figure in the appropriation proposal for 2014 is N571Billion. In the 2013 budget of N4, 99 Trillion, another whopping sum of N727Billion was borrowed. While N591 Billion was spent on “debts servicing” in 2013, the sum of N712Billion is to be spent on same in 2014.
 
 
The idea of borrowing to squander has tragically become a norm in Nigeria. Out of every N100, 00 spent publicly in the country, it is tragically observed that N80.00 out of it goes for recurrent or non-productive expenditure. This explains why out of the 2014 budget proposal of N4, 91 Trillion, a whopping sum of N3, 5 Trillion is being spent on recurrent expenditures. This includes N592Billion spent annually on 12, 788 Local Government top executives in the country involving chairmen, deputies and councilors.
 
 
 Whereas the capital cost of the budget gulps a paltry sum of N1.1 Trillion, its personnel (real salaries, allowances and emoluments) gulps a staggering sum of N1, 723 Trillion. The remaining N2, 43 Trillion goes for non debt and non personnel recurrent expenditures called “real overheads”.  In other words, the sum of 1, 723 Trillion spent to service the salaries, allowances and emoluments of federal civil and public servants in Nigeria is greater than the sum of N1. 1 Trillion budgeted for capital expenditures or provision of social amenities including fixing and maintenance of critical infrastructures. It also means that the sum of N2, 43 Trillion spent on running and maintaining Federal Government machineries is twice greater than the sum of N1.1 Trillion spent on capital expenditures.  
 
 
The collective and individual silence shown by most of Nigeria’s CSO’s delegates (except few like Tunde Bakare and Olisa Agbakoba), whether imposed, nominated, selected or elected, is roundly shocking. Except few like Pastor Tunde Bakare and Olisa Agbokoba, who commendably rejected the bloated allowance and vowed not to collect it, others have kept mute or sanctioned such fiscal recklessness on the basis of “share the money after all our politicians have been eating it from left, right and center”. By refusing to condemn this fiscal “ovambe”, the affected CSO’s National Confab delegates have no moral standing both now and in future to challenge the Federal Government’s crude economic policies including reckless borrowings and pro-corruption policies.
 
 
 They have also become accomplices of moral economic and financial crimes by making themselves beneficiaries of roguery financial and economic policies of the present federal government. “Where does the money come from?” “Is it from borrowing or missing oil billions?”  “Is it from the 2013 spent budget or the 2014 un-passed budget?”  “Is the allowance not too bloated considering the sorry state of the country’s economy?” These should have been the frontal questions of the country’s CSO’s delegates at the Confab, who always portray themselves as “social saintsand “best shadow public managers” both locally and internationally. This is more so when it is on record that the Federal Budget of 2014, in law and in the eyes of the populace, is still “an appropriation proposal or bill”.
 
 
 
PART TWO

 
 
 
(Onitsha Nigeria, 28th day of March, 2014)-On Wednesday, 26th day of March, 2014, the leadership of Intersociety released the first part of this public statement, detailing with strong condemnation “how Nigeria borrows to squander” with specific reference to borrowing and squandering of a whopping sum of N7Billion at the ongoing National Conference on “ delegates’
allowances and related logistics”. The legal source of the money has also become a national concern as it could not be traced to the un-passed federal budget of 2014. The huge sum is believed to have been borrowed and squandered without considering the fact that the country’s teachers at the public colleges of education and polytechnics have been on indefinite strike since October and late December 2013 respectively over a twenty-point of disagreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria.

 This is not minding the fact that one of the major reasons why government exists is the provision of quality, uninterrupted and affordable education to the citizenry. Education is also a second generation industry after family and shares the same boundary with “the fundamental right to life”, because an uneducated person is not only a moron, but also a beast-like being and life without education is an incomplete life. When school pupils are in classes they are kept away from juvenile delinquencies and when students are in classes, they stay away from crimes and avoid being in conflict with the law especially the criminal law. Education is an industry because it offers formal and informal employment to those accessing it both as the mentors and the mentored. The fundamental provisions of the Nigerian laws make the following express pronouncements and commandments on education.

 “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels”–Section 18(1) of the Chapter Two (Fundamental Objectives & Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended in 2011. Section 18(2) says: “Government shall promote science and technology”. Section 18(3) provides: “Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end, Government shall and when practicable provide (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education, (b) free secondary education, (c) free university education; and (d) free adult literacy programs”. Section 39 of the Chapter Four (Fundamental Human Rights) of the Constitution strongly adds “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.

 Coming from the angle of Article 17 of the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights of the AU 1981 (African Charter on Human & People’ Rights Ratification & Enforcement/Domestication Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1983), “Every citizen shall have right to education” and  according to Section 1(4c) of the Nigeria’s National Policy on Education of 1998, “Every Nigerian child shall have a right to equal educational opportunities irrespective of any real or imagined disabilities, each according to his or her ability”. Its Section 1(5) clearly and unambiguously states “Nigeria’s philosophy of education is therefore based on: (a) the development of an individual into sound and effective citizen; (b) the full integration of the individual into the community; and (c) the provision of equal access to educational opportunities for all citizens of the country at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels both inside and outside the formal school system”.

 Shockingly, the successive squandermania governments of the Federation of Nigeria and the present ones have criminally and immorally turned blind eyes to these sacred provisions. Instead, they channeled and continue to channel over 70% of the country’s annual gross earnings into “real overheads” and “real recurrent (personnel)” bloated expenditures. These huge public expenditures have no direct positive impacts whatsoever on most Nigerians, except a paltry 17, 500 top public office holders and their subordinates. Specifically, the Federal Government’s spent budget of N4.99 trillion of 2013 and the un-passed and unspent budget of N4.91 trillion of 2014, clearly show that only 1, 113 top federal public office holders,  which include the President and his vice, about 472 ministerial and non ministerial executives, 172 federal judges and 469 federal lawmakers and machineries of their offices, out of the country’s 17, 500 top public office holders, take over N2 trillion off the respective budget.

  While N1.4 trillion is provided in the 2014 un-passed budget for maintaining their office machineries, another whopping N1.723 trillion is to be spent on “real recurrent” (salaries, allowances and emoluments) of the same 1, 113 federally privileged citizens and other federal public and civil servants. According to the Salaries & Allowances for Top Public Office Holders in Nigeria Act of 2002 as amended in 2008, there are 17, 500 top public office holders in Nigeria. They include 11, 788 LGA councilors and executives (8, 692 councilors and 3, 096 executives), 2, 664 State executives, 1, 152 State lawmakers, 762 State judges, 472 Federal executives, 469 Federal lawmakers and 172 Federal judges. The said top public office holders’ wage Act, after its amendment in 2008, was astronomically reviewed from N755 billion in 2002 to N1.13 trillion in 2008.

  In other words, it now takes (officially) Nigeria a whopping sum of N1.13 trillion annually to service her 17, 500 top public office holders. This includes N592 billion spent on 11, 788 top Local Government officials, out of which, N550 billion goes for allowances alone and only N42 billion spent on their statutory salaries. Conversely, the reality as evidenced by the budgetary provisions under reference, shows that more than this amount is spent annually in servicing the Federal Government’s 1,113 top office holders in the form of “salaries, allowances and emoluments” and “real overheads” (running government affairs).

 For instance, the 2014 budget proposal arithmetically shows that out of N4.91 trillion proposed, N1.723 trillion is to be spent on payment of salaries, allowances and emoluments (real recurrent) of federal top public office holders and public and civil servants. Servicing of Federal Government machineries called “overheads”, manned by 1,113 top citizens is to cost N1.4 trillion, while N712 billion is reserved for debts servicing. Only a paltry sum of N1.1 trillion is to be spent on capital projects. In other words, out of every N100.00 spent publicly this year, N80.00 is on recurrent and overhead and out of N4.91 trillion budgeted, 12% of it is borrowed and its 14% is returned to the coffers of the borrowers as “debts servicing”.

 Industrial Crisis In Public Colleges Of Education & Polytechnics:



As a result of the December 11, 2013 fresh agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the over five months industrial action embarked upon on July 1, 2013 by the latter was brought to an end. The ASUU/FGN disagreement that led to the strike was as a result of non-implementation of the 2009 Agreement, which included “Earned Allowances” for public university teachers amounting to about N92Billion. As expected, the Federal Government went to local capital markets and borrowed to appease the striking university teachers. In response to the above, the public tertiary institution teachers under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) went on indefinite strike in October and late December 2013 respectively.

 There are 297 universities and other post secondary school institutions in Nigeria as at December 2012. They include 37 Federal and 37 State universities as well as 50 private universities (124). Others are 22 Federal, two State and two private Monotechnics (26), 36 Federal, 48 State and 13 private polytechnics (97) and 17 Federal, 30 State and three private colleges of education (50), totaling 297 publicly recognized higher institutions in Nigeria. In other words, 36 Federal and 48 State polytechnics (84) as well as 17 Federal and 30 State colleges of education (47) have been on strike for the past five and three months respectively. While the National Universities Commission (NUC) Act of 1974 regulates universities in Nigeria, the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) Act of 1989 as amended in 1993 overseas the colleges of education. On the other hand, the National Board for Technical Education (NABTE) Act of 1977 regulates polytechnics and other technical institutions in the country.

Grievances Of The Striking Public Academic Institutions:

Public Polytechnics: 1. Renegotiation of the 2009 ASUP/FGN Agreement. 2. Non release of the white paper on the visitation panel to federal polytechnics. 3. Non establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission. 4. Non passage of the Federal Polytechnics Review Bill by the National Assembly. 5. Non appointment of qualified rectors at public polytechnics. 6. Dilapidation in the State owned polytechnics. 7. Need to address the discriminatory inclusion of polytechnics in the Integrated Payroll & Personnel Information System scheme. 8.  Structured and comprehensive funding of polytechnics in Nigeria. 9. Lopsided distribution of “Tetfund” grants and other interventions in tertiary sector. 10. Non full implementation of the salary structure approved for polytechnics in 2009. 11. Removal of discrimination of HND graduates in public service or during job search. 12. Non release of funds for the implementation of “CONTISS 15 migration and its arrears”.

 Public Colleges Of Education: 1. Infrastructural decay in public colleges of education and poor funding. 2. Non implementation of the 2010 COEASU/FGN Agreement. 3. Need to address poor conditions of service in public colleges of education. 4. Need to address the issue of brain drain or academic capital flight. 5. Illegal imposition of Integrated Payroll & Personnel Information System scheme. 6. Refusal by the Federal Government to fund peculiar and responsibility allowances as obtained in “Earned Allowances” of the public universities. 7. Refusal by the Federal Government to implement the migration of lower cadres as obtained in the public polytechnics. 8. Non accreditation of selected programs of the colleges of education in Nigeria, among others.
 

PART THREE
 
(Onitsha Nigeria, 1st day of April 2014)-On 26th and 28th of March, 2014, our organization, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety issued part one and two of this public statement. The two-part statement was titled: “Squandermania At The National Confab: How Nigeria Borrows to Squander Amid Protracted Industrial Crisis in Higher Education (1 & 2)”. This part three of it, which borders on suggestions and solutions, is second to the last part. In other words, the coming part four is the concluding part.
 
Suggestions & Solutions (1): It is a fundamental truth that one of the major challenges facing the economy of Nigeria presently is high or astronomical cost of public governance. Monumental wastage and corrupt practices are other factors. All these are cloaked in the layers of “clueless public policies and mercantilization of public governance in Nigeria”. These and related others are holistically responsible for the stunted performance of the country’s economy in the past 34 years. The healthy performance of Nigeria’s economy was briefly witnessed in the first quarter of 1970s to 1980 and in 1997(when Nigeria recorded a federal budget surplus of N47 billion). It showed a sign of recovery in 2006 after Nigeria’s exit from Paris Club of Creditors and consolidation of the banking system and collapsed again from 2007 till date. Apart from these short periods of slightly healthy performance, the country’s economy has since stocked in “poverty in the midst of plenty”, propelled by bloated governance costs, corrupt, mercantilist and visionless public policies and governance styles.
 
One of the solutions to the sorry state of the country’s economy is drastic and downward review and tackling of “allowance squandermania” in Nigeria. It has been discovered in the course of our investigation into the abysmal performance of Nigeria’s economy and good governance policies that public salary and pension scheme in the country is not a spanner in the wheel of the country’s economy, but allowance pay scheme. In other words, the country’s economic downturn has nothing to do with salary and pension package for her top public office holders and public and civil servants. Good a thing, while public salary and pension policy is statutorily and rigidly instituted with universal application, the public allowance pay scheme is flexible and subject to easy modifications according to the state of economy of a given social clime. When an economy begins to feed the few in a bloated manner and starves the majority socially, then there is not only a serious problem, but also an urgent surgical intervention is needed to reverse the trend.
 
“Public allowance squandermania” in this respect should be understood to mean any public earning outside statutory salary and pension that goes to any public office holder, public or civil servant in Nigeria, whether at federal, State or local government level, which includes “earned allowance”, “sitting allowance”, “traveling allowance”, “recess allowance”, “newspaper allowance”, “sabbatical leave allowance”, “leave allowance”, “constituency allowance”, “vehicle and house allowances”, “domestic, office and constituency staff allowances”, “terminal benefit allowance”, “retirement allowance”, “logistics allowance”, “professional & expert allowance”, “political aides’ allowances”, “gratuity allowance”, to mention but few.
 
 Using as a statistical example the annual wage pay of the country’s 11,788 elected councilors, deputy chairmen and chairmen in the 776 Local Government Councils, contained in “ the Salaries & Allowances for Top Public Office Holders’ amended Act of the Federation of 2008, it is shockingly discovered that out of a whopping sum of N592 billion (about $3.6B) spent on them in the form of “ annual salaries and allowances”, only N42 billion (about $260M) is spent on their salaries, while a whopping sum of N550 billion (about $3.42B) is spent on their allowances. This simply means that less than 8% of this huge sum is spent only on their statutory salaries, whereas the remaining 92% goes for their allowances. This is totally unacceptable to us at Intersociety.
 
Borrowing from the foregoing, it may most likely be correct to say that out of a staggering sum of N1.723 trillion (about $10.1B) budgeted for “real recurrent” (salaries, allowances and emoluments) for public office holders, public and civil servants of federal category in the 2014 budget proposals, less than one-third would go for salaries, whereas over two-thirds would be kept for their “allowances and emoluments”. This explains our call for the immediate reversal of such governmental thievery. This has also been responsible for acute statutory allocations to capital projects, which, in turn, is responsible for mass poverty owning to near-absent of social infrastructures, social welfare schemes and employment opportunities.
 
It is our suggestion that all public allowances in the country, irrespective of names called, should be cut down by 50% so as to recover enough money for capital development, provision of social welfares and turning the country off from acute borrowing and debts servicing policies. For instance, if the N550 billion for LGAs’ top officials annual allowances are halved, a staggering sum of N275 billion will be recovered every year. If approximately N1.5 trillion meant for allowances and emoluments of the federal public office holders, public and civil servants in the 2014 budget proposals is halved, an intimidating sum of N675 billion will be recovered and if N10 million meant for the payment of the gratuity of a Grade Level 15 public or civil servant retiree, is halved, N5 million will be recovered.
 
 It is also very important to inform the policy makers in the country and those attending the National Confab that there is need to streamline in the Constitution the number of political aides to be appointed by top public office holders and what will be paid them as allowances. This is because a situation whereby a minister has as many as 10 assistants with bloated public allowances for them is totally unacceptable. At the 469-member National Assembly of Nigeria, there are over 1,300 assistants alone, who are serviced monthly from Nigeria’s commonwealth.
 
 Apart from bloated ministerial cabinet size of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, there are over 500, if not 1000 assistants working under the President Jonathan, the Vice President, the ministers, heads of top federal departments and parastatals. At the States, there are between 100 and 1000 assistants in each of them. In the State Houses of Assembly and LGAs, there are thousands of such political aides attached to them. The amended Public Pay Act of 2008 also contained staggering amount for monthly servicing of these “inferior political aides”. In all, there may most likely be over 25,000 “inferior political aides” working for 17, 500 top public office holders in Nigeria, who draw their monthly allowances from the country’s commonwealth.
 
In 2002, when Nigerians went to sleep, the arrow heads at the Presidency and their co-travelers at the National Assembly immorally and criminally too, created and recognized through an unpopular Act of Parliament, 17, 500 top public offices and allocated a whopping sum of N755 billion annually for the upkeep of those manning them. As the likes of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAM, SAN, was contesting it, they gathered again in the wee hours of 2008 and jacked it up to N1, 113 trillion per annum. This marked the beginning of “public allowance squandermania” in Nigeria, which has also been extended and duplicated in the federal appropriations. The aspect of this thievery in the appropriations is called “real overheads”, where the likes of the Senate President and his office is allocated a whopping sum of N250 million ($1.55M) every three months in the form of “overheads”.
 
In view of realities on the grounds, which make it impossible for members of the National Assembly and the Presidency to popularly reverse this ugly and dangerous trend, the sacred responsibility now falls on the Conferees at the National Confab to revisit it and ensure its immediate and constitutional reversal. To this effect, the number of ministers at the Federal Executive Council and Commissioners at the State Executive Councils of the States should be trimmed down. The number of political aides for the 17, 500 top public office holders in the country should be trimmed down as well.
 
 The use of “special adviser” by ministers, federal and States speakers, senate president and their deputies and all other top public office holders in the country, other than the President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies, should be abolished and prohibited. The category of political aides to be allowed for other top public office holders, to be serviced from public wealth in Nigeria should begin and end with “special assistants”. The use of “senior special assistant” is not only tautological, but should also be eliminated. The President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors should be banned from using “senior special assistants”, “special assistants” or “executive assistants”. They should revert to the constitutionally stipulated “special advisers” and above, which must not be bloated.
 
We firmly recommend one “special assistant” for each of the 17, 500 top public office holders under reference, to be serviced monthly from Nigeria’s commonwealth under a constitutionally or statutorily stipulated monthly allowance. The President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors should make do with their constitutionally approved “special advisers and above. On the other hand, all the top public office holders under reference will be at liberty to recruit as many “inferior political aides” as their purses can carry them provided they are forbidden constitutionally and statutorily from servicing with from the country’s public wealth.
 

Signed:
 
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety
+234(0)8033601078, +234(0)8180103912
emekaumeagbalasi@yahoo.co.uk, botchairman@intersociety-ng.org
 
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
+234(0)8037114869

 
 
 
*Photo Caption – Ex-Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Kutigi, Chairman of 2014 Nigeria National Conference