A former Minister of Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, on Monday said Nigeria had expended over N1tn on the National Assembly members in the last eight years.
Ezekwesili, in a keynote address she delivered during a one-day dialogue session on the ‘Cost of governance in Nigeria, “ organized in Abuja by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre with support from the Federal Public Administration Reform Programme in the UK, lamented that “82 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary cost goes for recurrent expenditure.”
“Since 2005, the National Assembly members alone have been allocated N1tr,’’she said while also lamenting that “82 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary cost goes for recurrent expenditure.”
Ezekwesili, who noted that “ a research conducted in the United Kingdom identified Nigerian legislators as being the highest paid in the world,” said banks earned N699bn as interests last year on loans secured by the government.
Mrs Ezekwesili, who was also a former minister for Solid Minerals and former World Bank Vice-President for Africa Region, challenged civil society groups to demand for a mini-national dialogue on good governance and to pressure for the release of the Steve Oronsaye report on Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies.
“There should be effective demand by civil society groups of the report of the Oronsaye report. You should also demand a mini-national transparent dialogue because it touches on the heart of good governance”, she stated.
She pointed out that one major mistake former president Obasanjo made was wading into democracy without first, doing away with “militaristic ethos and principles.”
“There is a drawback to the military era. One major mistake of the government under which I served was that we simply got into democracy and did not spend reasonable time getting every citizen; every leader and every institution to do away with militaristic ethos and principles from their minds,” Ezekwesili added.
She suggested part-time lawmaking as a panacea to the problem of legislation in the country.
“Things will improve through part-time legislation. It will also reduce the number of people who will go to the National Assembly. You must have means of livelihood so that you won’t have to depend on public funds,” she said.
She called for an open debate of governmental policies before they are implemented, saying: “When I was in government, I was totally debating public policies. We must debate public policies as a nation because if we don’t do so, we will make silly mistakes because we don’t involve the stakeholders. So policy debates must be encouraged.
“The culture of personalising policy dialogues must stop. When you have a problem, you don’t leave the problem and begin to chase other matters.
“I feel sorry for any person who is fairly okay in this nation and doesn’t care about the poor because there will be an implosion. Whatever treatment that is given to the poor and vulnerable in the society must matter to everybody because except we have social inclusion in the society, we stand the danger of implosion. This has happened in other countries which ignored the vulnerable people.”
Condemning the cost of governance in Nigeria, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Ibrahim Rafsanjani In his speech, said, “There is a recent media report of our National Assembly members being the highest paid in the world. The size of the cabinet at the executive level, including the retinue of superfluous aides and special assistants, is alarming. The fact that the ten planes in the Presidential fleet gulp N9.08bn annually is something that must be looked into.”