The following opinion article was originally published in Vanguard:
Residents of Abuja were enjoying the sanity, air and perfection being experienced in the city. The dream of the fathers and designers of Abuja was being re-established. Architects and planners rejoiced when meaning, expression and a ruthless approach was given to Kenzo Tange’s design of FCT Abuja (Kenzo Tange is the Japanese architect who designed the city of Abuja).
This ruthless approach was implemented by a Quantity Surveyor, a public servant par excellence, the kind of leader “most wanted” in our generation, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
Mallam Nasir El-Rufai does not hide his love for architecture and the built environment. Before some special assistants release their surface to surface missiles, I would like to clarify that I have never met El Rufai, not even when he was in charge of the FCT administration. El-Rufai earned my admiration and that of most thorough-bred professionals in the built environment for his boldness, understanding and commitment to ensuring that Abuja city was truly a city to compare with other capital cities of the world.
Corruption and the Challenge of Good Governance in Nigeria
Discussion Paper by Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR
The Companion National Discourse Organized by the Association of Muslim Men in Business and the Professions
Sunday, June 22, 2014
I am indeed privileged to be invited to speak to this august gathering of Muslim men and women that have excelled in their various professional and business callings in our nation. It is a refreshing change from the last few months that I have spent working as the Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the nation’s main opposition party! I must commend your association for summoning the courage to invite me, knowing that your decision may be considered as treasonable by an increasingly fascist and insecure federal administration. I hope you will find my ideas, views and opinions worthy of giving up your Sunday relaxation!
Let me start with some caveats. Since Saturday the 14th of June, I ceased to be a national officer of the APC, so any views I express here are sorely mine and not those of the political party that I proudly belong to. Secondly, as a responsible Muslim, patriot and professional, the views expressed will as much as possible reflect facts on the ground, draw on research done by others and derived from reputable publications and not driven by partisan politics. These qualifications are necessary because of the well-known national habit of politicizing and ethnicizing everything as a convenient excuse for crass incompetence, unprecedented corruption and totally bad governance – two of the issues we hope to talk about today!
It came as a great shock to the citizens of Nigeria to see President Goodluck Jonathan’s deeply offensive decision to go on the campaign trail to the Northern city of Kano shortly after the horrific Nyanya bombing in Abuja. To see Jonathan and his entourage singing and dancing with joy the very morning that more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped from a high school in Chibok, Borno State, is a clear illustration of this administration’s lack of respect for the Nigerian people.
To protest GEJ’s insulting visit to Kano, the musical artist Dauda Kahutu Rarara recorded a version of the Hausa folk song titled “Zuwan Mai Malfa Kano.” Zarewa was later placed under arrest yesterday by the State Security Service (SSS) in a clear violation of his rights to freedom of speech.
Below you can listen to the song “Zuwan Mai Malfa Kano” – and we ask you to share this information and music far and wide to raise awareness of the unlawful conduct of the current Nigerian government.
The All Progressives Congress is committed to a Nigeria that achieves its full potential and promise. We work towards a nation that is economically and socially vibrant, peaceful, just and secure.
The All Progressive Congress “APC” is A New Party for A New Nigeria.
The APC’s philosophy is the welfare of the common man, the assurance of a great future for the youth, and a decent quality of life of all. The APC is determined to give a voice to the youth, mekunu, the umu obenye, and the talakawa.
The test we have adopted for all our policies is: “Will this policy create jobs and benefit the youth and ordinary Nigerians?”
We are committed to nation where every citizen has the opportunity to work and earn a decent wage, and where the disadvantaged elderly, the disadvantaged disabled and the unemployed are assisted by the state.
A nation where the curse of corruption is no longer tolerated in our political, social and civic affairs. A nation that is economically and socially vibrant.
A nation that recognises our diversity as a source of strength.
A Nation we can all be proud of.
Below is our draft manifesto. We welcome your thoughts and feedback to help build the new Nigeria.
The year 2014 is already off to a dramatic start with allegations of massive fraud to the tune of about $20 billion (N3.6 trillion) being leveled against the NNPC for failure to remit oil revenue earnings for a period of 19 months. As soon as the revelations gained traction, the governor of the Central Bank was illegally removed, and as usual whenever Jonathan’s government is under pressure, the wanton killings of Nigerians escalated in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
Boko Haram and President Jonathan seem to be working in unison to ensure attention is diverted from the administration whenever massive cases of corruption are revealed. We saw this with the fuel subsidy protests of January 2012 and several other instances since then. Let us mourn our dead, grieve over the murder of our innocent children, but never lose track of the clear link between Jonathanian theft and the insecurity our nation suffers.
Back to the diversion of federation oil revenues: Under whose watch did the $20 billion disappear and into whose accounts have they gone? Should a government that claims to have the interest of its citizens at heart so brazenly loot public funds? Does the average person know the intricacies of how the budget is appropriated? These are questions that must command the interest of Nigerians as yet another cycle of wasteful spending unfolds.
In seeking answers to the above questions and in line with our tradition of annual budget analyses, we will begin 2014 with an assessment of the Presidency’s allocations. The Presidency has allocations of about N108.2bn. It includes the State House (N33.4bn), the offices of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (N63.2bn) and Head of Civil Service of the Federation (N11.6bn). Indeed, the offices of the National Security Adviser, the Independent Corrupt Practices, Salaries and Wages, Sports and Planning Commissions – and all federal executive bodies can be considered part of the Presidency, though under separate budget sub-heads.
This week, we will look at the ‘Presidency – State House’, while the offices of the SGF and Head of Civil Service will be examined in ensuing weeks. The State House is an important budget subhead that overlooks 14 agencies, some of which are central to Nigeria’s anti-corruption, transparency and disaster preparedness.
In 2013, the Presidency – State House supervised 11 MDAs. This fiscal year, two new operation departments have been created, confirming that this administration is only interested in increasing the size of its already bloated bureaucracy. As the current budget proposal shows, government seems to have cemented a policy that allows wasteful proposals and a very heavy recurrent allocation.
In 2014, the Presidency would spend N33,406,722,566 or 0.7% of the federal budget. On the surface, the amount would represent a decrease of 10.3% or N3, 855,660,039 when compared to the N37, 262,882,605 that it got in 2013. Of this sum, N12.7bn or 38.3% of the budget is apportioned to personnel costs or staff salaries in 10 Departments and agencies under the Presidency. N12.2bn would is for maintaining existing structures and people, effectively bringing the recurrent budget to N25, 016,720,760 or 74.8%. In other words, contrary to the government’s promise to bring down the recurrent budget, it is quietly, but consistently increasing it.
Capital provisions for the Presidency this year would be N8, 390,001,806 or 25.2% of the total budget. There is a reduction in the capital budget of about 41.8% from the N14.4bn 2013 figures. With provisions like these, what immediately becomes clear is that the 2014 budget is a budget of salaries, traveling, tea and coffee for the privileged few that would in no way guarantee any real progress or help Nigerians redress growing poverty and destitution.
Total allocations across agencies reveal the following: State House HQ 26.1%, State House Operations (P) 8.9%, State House Operations (VP) 1.3%, National Boundary Commission 1.9%, Border Communities Development Agency 1.2%, Office of the Special Assistant MDG’s 0.5%, NIPPS, 4.3%, Bureau of Public Enterprises 6.7%, National Emergency Management Agency 3.8%, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission 30.6% and the Bureau of Public Procurement 3.8%.
Similarly, NEITI has 3.3%, National Atomic Energy Commission 6.6% and the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President 0.4% of the total MDA budget. As is evident from the above, the highest allocation of 36.3% goes to the State House alone whose only responsibility is catering to the President and his largely ‘missing-in-action’ deputy.
Analyzing the capital budget further, it becomes clear that this government is insincere in its fight against corruption. How can it justify the allocation of N3.7bn or 44.5% of the Presidency’s total capital allocation to the State House and a paltry N1.4bn or 16.8% to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission? It is even more pathetic when one considers that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) gets a miserly 4% or N339m allocation for capital expenditure in the 2014 fiscal year.
The budgetary provisions can be seen in clearer perspective if you consider that the State House intends to amongst others, spend its capital allocations on building and furnishing guest houses, purchasing vehicles and buses, procuring sauna baths, massage beds and renovating horse stables while the BPP, NEITI, EFCC and NEMA, all agencies which render essential anti-corruption and disaster management services get fractions of its allocation. A closer look at EFCC will suffice to illustrate the sorry state of affairs.
Beyond a shortage of funds, the EFCC faces the challenges of a legal system that grinds slowly and unsurely, resulting in prolonged litigation and outright loss of cases due to poor investigation and evidence gathering. This reality should ordinarily lead to increased funding for legal services under the commission, but President Jonathan simply cannot be bothered.
In 2014, the EFCC would get N283.6m for the services of lawyers and for prosecuting financial crimes. While this is an increase over the 2013 allocation of N100m, it is a classic example of perverse prioritization when you consider that the State House intends to spend N320.2m on honorarium and sitting allowances alone and N267.7m on welfare packages while EFCC has difficulties paying for legal services. NEITI which is the transparency watchdog of the oil industry with less than N70m for capital projects is similarly constrained, while NNPC diverts $20bn without appropriation!
As concerned Nigerians, we should ask important questions like: if the fight against corruption is sincere, why does the State House get an allocation for sitting allowances that is higher than the legal services allocation of the EFCC or NEITI’s capital budget? Why does the Presidency also think that welfare package for a few State House employees is more important than the oil revenue transparency and anti-corruption drive, assuming it can be called that?
To use the NEMA as another example, with Nigeria’s insecurity issues, threats of global warming, flooding and other unforeseen disasters, why is the agency not getting higher allocation for research and development? Instead, nowhere in its paltry N339m capital provision is there a line item for this kind of contingencies. The consequences could be unpreparedness for disasters which would only lead to an increase in the number of internally displaced Nigerians.
Even if the contingency budget under the service-wide vote is resorted to, the time-lag in accessing it and then complying with the provisions of the Public procurement Act 2007 would hamper the operations of NEMA and impact the timeliness of its response to disasters. Even more bothersome is the fact that for both local and international training in 2014, the agency would get some N60.6m, while at N173.3m the State House would get almost thrice that amount for refreshment and feeding alone.
Zoologist or not, President Jonathan must be living on another planet to assume that he is responsible for wildlife conservation and animals, when more than 70% of Nigerians live in abject poverty, insecurity and inequality. How else can one explain spending N100m in tax payers’ funds on wildlife conservation and animals in the fiscal year 2013 and in the 2014 budget proposal? Does Nigeria still have a ministry of environment?
To put this in proper context, in 2013, the Villa spent N7.5m on wildlife conservation and intends to spend N37.5m in 2014 on the same purpose. Upgrading and maintaining the State House zoo would cost Nigerian tax payers some N8m. The renovation of stables cost N7.5m in 2013 and would set the nation back some N15m in the current fiscal year. In addition to all these, we would spend a generous N14.5m for the purchase of two very lucky animals.
Almost every item in the Presidency’s budget proposal redefines the term ‘wasteful’. For instance, there is a provision of N1.5bn for the upgrade of facilities, but the proposal cleverly leaves out details of the facilities to be upgraded. If the budget is finalized as it is, the government would spend N23.7m on the purchase of laundry equipment, N50m on the reconstruction of perimeter fence and gate house for the state house and N310.5m on vehicles purchase. Most ridiculous is the spending of N218.3m on generator fuel. The Presidency should simply get connected to the national grid and experience the much touted ‘improvement’ in power supply if it believes its own fairy tales.
Misappropriation of public funds should not be treated with such levity if there is going to be a more even distribution of national income and if there is any hope of closing the wide gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria. The populace must not fall for the deliberate distraction tactics of this government whenever their failures manifest. Public accountability must be paramount on the minds of those vying for political office as well as the electorate. The $20bn diverted must be accounted for in full to the 36 states and the FCT as well as the 774 local governments that make up our federation. We must demand accountability and insist on it.
The government – beginning with the Presidency – needs to urgently reduce wasteful spending by trimming unnecessary costs and eliminating wasteful provisions to free up funds for investments in human and physical infrastructure. The Presidency should set standard for probity and sensible spending. Unfortunately, the Presidency’s current budget proposal shows no indication of any real progress or positive change, only the jamboree mentality that has become a hallmark of Jonathan’s government.
The Presidential Economic Team of 2003 to 2007 which I was privileged to be a member had a running joke – that the NNPC was an independent federal republic on its own totally separate from and way superior to the Nigeria we all worked for! This joke was our way of criticising the way and manner the NNPC not only sells crude oil as an agent on behalf of the government of the federa-tion as in its enabling law, but even then felt entitled to spend as much of the proceeds of sale as it deemed fit. The NNPC had begun then to be a law unto itself, outside our national laws and above the constitution, hence our joke. Recent revelations of oil revenue leakages have confirmed that this is a joke that has turned into a macabre reality. Our nation’s finances are in grave danger of becoming zero due to the conduct of a rogue institution that has become more powerful than its principal under Jonathan’s watch.
For a country dependent on oil revenues for most of its income, Nigeria cannot claim to have exer-cised the closest scrutiny on this vital resource. At least not in recent times. As bad as this gross neglect has been, it is surpassed by the failure to seize the moments that have also been pre-sented to the country in recent times to restore some sanity and integrity to the collection and re-mittance of revenues. The conversation around the sudden explosion in the fuel subsidy payments from N300bn in 2009 to over N2 trillion in 2011, the protests around the removal of petrol subsidy in January 2012, and the subsequent investigations into the scandal regrettably did not coalesce into a new deal on revenue management or sanctions for the beneficiaries of the obvious fraud!
Below is the full copy of the memorandum from Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the Senate Committee on Finance concerning the non-remittance of oil revenues to the Federation fund.
On Saturday the 30th of November, I was privileged to be invited to review a pioneering work on girl-child education in Northern Nigeria by a female academic that I have known from childhood. I was surprised at this invitation because I am neither an academic, nor an expert on gender issues and the subject of education. Apart from my four- year stint as minister of Abuja, I have never even come across the challenges of girl-child education in a formally academic and experiential way. I thought it useful to share this book review on this column.
Let me first warn that I am likely to be a biased reviewer because the husband of the author, Sani Maikudi, has been and will remain one of the most important persons in my life, having been my mentor since 1972 when he began to look after me in Barewa College, Zaria. He has never ceased to look out for me. Once again, I thank my senior, mentor and professional guide Mallam Sani Maikudi, for being there for me always these forty-odd years and counting.
Without doubt, the disparity in access to education is both a national and global phenomenon. It is merely more serious in the North than other parts of the country. For many in my generation from the Northern part of the country, the issue of girl-child education (or lack of it) is something we have seen every day manifesting as street hawkers and child brides, and experienced in our families when our sisters do not go to school while our brothers do, and on reflection – we see half of our population that is being forced to live sub-optimally by not having access to education. And in spite of efforts by successive governments in Northern Nigeria, near equal access to education for both genders continues to elude us, among many other uniquely regional challenges like comparative under-development, human insecurity and escalating youth unemployment.
Many in Nigeria today may not remember the name of Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, but if there was any opposition to the military regimes of the eighties and nineties, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) under him definitely represented a voice of resistance to those governments’ excesses. At a time when many people kept silent in the face of human rights abuses, Okogie faced down the military government and told them some home truths. It didn’t matter if the victims were Muslims or Christians; it didn’t matter whether they were from the north or south; CAN fought for all Nigerians. Okogie had the moral authority to act, and did so with dignity, to the admiration of all of us.
Okogie’s bravery was not unusual for CAN leaders; if anything, in the turbulent history of this country, there is a proud tradition of leaders of CAN who spoke for and stood by the people of this country. They used their moral authority to defend the rights of all Nigerians even during the most brutal military dictatorships or corrupt and inept civilian administrations. The courage of the likes of Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, the Reverend Sunday Mbang and Cardinal John Onaiyekan, for instance, are shining examples of faith in action, with compassion for the oppressed and chastisement for the tyrants.