“The period of military interference in politics in Nigeria also brought with it the enthronement of the Presidential system of Government which in my estimation accounts for many of the ills currently associated with Nigeria”
Nigeria has since 1914 gone through many phases in its political development. It has passed through the colonial era, the period of agitation for independence prior to 1950, the self-governance period of 1950-1960 the post-independence period of 1960-1966, the military era of 1966-1979, the period of democratic rule of 1979-1983, another military era of 1983-1999 and the current democratic dispensation which started in 1999. The colonial era brought about economic stability in the administration of the country. This economic stability continued in the period after independence as the country was administered on regional basis, as the founding fathers of the country, conscious of the realities of the time and the diversity of the ethnicities that make up Nigeria, strove to make that diversity a source of strength for the overall development of the Country. They therefore strengthened the Regional System of government and under them, the regions were able to develop economically and politically. Each region, in an atmosphere of healthy rivalry competed with the others in a bid to provide the basic amenities of life for the citizenry. They placed a huge premium of agriculture and were able to generate income sufficient to put in place long lasting policies and infrastructure many of which serve to this day, as a testament to the greatness of Nigeria. This however did not last as the military incursion into politics which started in 1966 brought with it a regression of the gains of the founding fathers.
Furthermore, aside from the brutish nature of their rule, a fact which is well documented, the period of military interference in politics in Nigeria also brought with it the enthronement of the Presidential system of Government which in my estimation accounts for many of the ills currently associated with Nigeria. The system which was copied from the American system of Government was firstly introduced by the 1979 Constitution. Since then it has been modified several times in a never ending bid to make Nigeria fit the system at all costs. I have always been a critic of the Presidential system and as a matter of fact, the suitability of the system for Nigeria is one issue on which former President Olusegun Obasanjo and I do not agree. It is simply too expensive to operate and is a huge drain on scarce resources. A pointer in this regard is the meeting, on the 17th June 2015, of all State Governors on the dire financial position of the states which has led to their failure to pay salaries and meet the most basic needs of the people. Over the past couple of months the states had all witnessed a reduction from revenue accruable to them from the Federation Account. Last year one of the Governors had warned that most of the states would soon get to the point where they would be unable to pay wages.
PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM AND HIGH COST OF GOVERNANCE
I have over the years stated the problems associated with Nigeria’s over reliance on oil revenue vis-à-vis the high cost of governance in Nigeria. I have delivered lecturers and written articles on the issue. I also, during the siting of the last Constitutional Conference devoted several articles in these series to discussions of how best the cost of governance could be reduced.
Nigeria at the moment operates a bicameral legislative system comprising of the Senate and the House of Representatives. At the state level, there are 36 Houses of Assembly and 774 local governments. The executive at the Federal level comprises of the President and a high number of ministers. At all levels, there are special advisers, personal assistance, secretary, orderly etc. Owing to constitutional requirement that each state be represented on the federal cabinet, some ministries have too ministers assigned to them. Interestingly, the Federal cabinet in the United States of America consists of about 20 persons much less than the number in Nigeria.
The states are also not left out as each state has an equally high number of Commissioners. At the federal level, the judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, and National Industrial Court. In addition each State has its own High Court comprising of a Chief Judge and a number of High Court Judges.
The effect of the above is that the cost of running government in Nigeria is astronomically high. It is reported that the Senate of Nigeria with 109 members has 54 committees and that the House of Representatives with 360 members has 84 committees. However, the Senate of the United States of America with 100 members and the House of Representatives with 435 members have only 21 committees each. Yet in Nigeria, each committee receives funding for its activities including salaries and emoluments for the members. It is estimated that it costs about N320 million to maintain a legislator per annum. According to a former minister, Federal legislators and their support staff at the National Assembly spend about N150 billion a year.
To support the executive, legislature and judiciary at the Federal and State levels, each state and the federal government maintains a civil service. There are also countless parastatals and agencies which end up performing the same tasks. The only difference between the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) is said to be the fact that whilst the former is concerned with the investigation of financial crimes, the latter is saddled with the responsibility of investigating cases of official corruption. Each body despite the similarity in their functions, receive allocations from the National Treasury to support their organizational structures and functions. There is also the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigerian Civil Defence Service Corps (NCDSC), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and numerous others saddled with law enforcement duties. Yet in this same country we have the Nigeria Police Force which constitutionally and statutorily is the number one law enforcement body but which has had its duties eroded by some of those mentioned.
To sustain a huge work force comprising of political office holders and career civil servants, the federal government of Nigeria expends about 70% of its annual budget. As a result of this government lacks the funds necessary for development. Several sectors of the national economy such as power, housing, health, education, transportation, etc have all been deprived of much needed funding.
How did we get to this point? I know for a fact that the cost of governance in Nigeria was not always this high? Where then did we get it wrong? I will examine these and more next week.
To be continued.
AARE AFE BABALOLA, SAN CON