RESTRUCTURING GOVERNANCE INSTITUTIONS FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
President Muhammadu Buhari,
I write with great excitement and open mind as an ardent follower since 2003. I must confess to the fact that you carry on your shoulders, heavy burden of expectations to fix all of the country's problems with the magic wand. And as such, Nigerians do not only hope and trust but also see in you, beacon of shining light that will "CHANGE" Nigeria from the doldrums of decadence, despair and degeneration to the hill crest of affluence, greatness and excellence. Therefore, the APC led government cannot afford to disenchant Nigerians by bungling this singular great opportunity which enjoy massive support.
Be that as it may, government needs to develop the culture of comprehensive engagement to explain to Nigerians, how the decline in foreign exchange earnings is impacting on the economy and how the TSA savings is being utilized to savage situation. Effective communication in these areas would make people understand and exercise patience with the government so that disgruntled elites don't exploit the communication gap and incite populace against the government.
As this administration settles down to lay the building blocks in putting the Nation on the pedestal of development, there comes the clarion call for restructuring of the federation. Recently, at different fora, this call has been very vocal from the Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar who is also a big wig in the governing APC.
Whether the call for restructuring is with genuine intent or politically motivated, it is pertinent to note that Nigeria's elaborate Presidential system of government at both Federal, States and Local levels consumes significant amount of the Nation's hard earn scarce resources needed for development with the 70-80% recurrent expenditure of the National budget.
If the report credited to the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and fiscal Commission [RMAFC] is anything to go by, the over One Trillion Naira [N1tr] said to be cost of salaries and allowances of our Political office holders at all levels of government is mind boggling.
In light of the foregoing, it has become expedient to mown these structures in order to minimize cost of running government to the barest and free up resources for National development.
Taking the above into account, there is need to take a look at the following for consideration.
1a. GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE
The present Six  geo-political zone structure being used as bases for some political appointments should be given Constitutional backing. With that in place, Ministerial appointments, Composition of some board members of Parastatals should be based on geo-political zone instead of State as presently enshrined in the Constitution. Also, election of Members into offices of the National Assembly should be based on geo-political zone instead of State as currently being practiced. The idea behind this arrangement is to see the reduction of our legislators to One-third [1/3] of the present number.
b. The three  Senatorial districts in the States should be renamed geo-political districts and equally be given Constitutional backing. This should serves as bases for political appointments and election of members into various State Houses of Assembly with the one-third formula.
c. Federalism is a business between government at the Centre [Federal] and that of the federating Units [States]. This explains why the creation and imposition of Local government as the third tier has been a complete facade because unlike in other countries such as the UK, South Africa etc. where Local government provide services such as electricity, roads, water, schools, hospitals etc., Local governments in Nigeria are not viable to perform such functions but only the States have capacity to carry out such projects in different communities all over the country. As a result, politicians and officials see the federal allocation to the 774 local governments in the country as largess for sharing in order to corruptly satisfy their personal aggrandizement.
In respect of the above ugly development, it is economically cheaper to simply convert the Local governments to Area development councils [ADC] under full States management and control so that career civil servants can be deployed to run them. This measure would Save resources for the provision of basic social amenities in the rural communities and by extension help create jobs and curb the growing problem of rural-urban migration which is a major cause of population congestion in our towns and cities.
The exchange rate is a critical tool used for determining the health of an economy. For obvious reason of excess demand over the supply of foreign exchange, the Naira continue to experience volatility in the exchange market despite the introduction of flexible exchange rate regime by the CBN. While the CBN tries to intervene in the exchange market using its monetary instruments, there is need for the government to marshal corresponding efforts with strong fiscal measures in order to achieve stability in the exchange rate of the Naira. Particularly, the speculative demand for foreign exchange and round tripping as well as other economic vices in the parallel market should be permanently dealt with.
Adding to the pain of the Naira is the insidious payments in Dollars for business transaction consummated within the economy. A good example is the payment of school fees in dollar denomination to some secondary schools, owned by foreigners in Nigeria. Another example is in the Oil sector where payments for the supply of gas to manufacturers is done in Dollars. Again, government needs to institute corporate governance code and step up enforcement of laws governing businesses in Nigeria by ensuring that except those with exemptions, payments for business transactions done in the country must be in Naira.
Nonetheless, much bigger issue is that of multi-National companies operating in Nigeria that are engaged in moving huge profits out of the country using the heading "Capital allowance" and declaring only little Profit left to the tax authorities. Government must review the country's tax laws in order to halt this fraudulent practice.
Taking into account the exchange rate situation, the government need to create an exchange rate window to incentivize Investors willing to establish industrial plant like the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Company. This would attract massive investment inflows and job creation.
In addition to these, it is an incontestable fact that provision of Infrastructure such as Power, railways, roads etc. is fundamental to economic development. But infrastructure like roads must also have an enduring legacy. Therefore, it is important for the government to make the use of Cement technology a National Policy for road construction in view of the incessant failure recorded on Asphalt constructed roads and its attendant cost. Also, government must leverage on railways for cargo transportation in order to save road infrastructure.
Going further on the economy, Diversification into Agriculture and Solid minerals is unequivocally the way forward to move away from being a mono-Product export Country. But at the same time, Industrialization is also a Child of necessity in the diversification drive.
To achieve this end of Industrialization, the government needs to take its foreign Investment drive to Moscow. The ultimate goal would be to inter alia secure the commitment of the Russian government in the completion and operation of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex to come to reality as well as Nuclear technology development for both Medical and Power generation purposes. The Russian government of today is looking for avenue to become a player in the economic sphere of Africa like the US, UK China and India. This might be that golden opportunity for Nigeria rake in foreign direct investment from Russia.
Another serious issue affecting the economy is dearth of visible growth hampered by lack of production and insufficient government spending. And like South Korea and Indonesia wriggle their way out of recession by massively borrowing sum of $58b and $25b respectively from IMF to overcome the Asia economic crises in 1997, Nigeria MUST either borrow massively or sell some National assets to garner enough funds to inject into the economy most especially in area that will drive industrialization such as Power, Iron and steel. The campaign for Citizens to buy Made in Nigeria goods shouldn't be a mere slogan but for the government to lead by example in taking the initiative to make it a policy of first option to patronize locally made products in order stimulate production and entrench culture of patriotism on the psyche of Nigerians to proudly consume locally made products so as to boost the economy and create more jobs.
Also worthy to note is the problem of multiple tax system which continue to affect the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Being in the technology driven world, the government needs to develop a single tax collection platform in which at a given period, the tax revenue is shared among the various tiers of government on agreed terms.
Furthermore, the present state of the economy with rising miserable index, high unemployment rate, spiral inflation and recession, it will be suicidal for businesses if VAT rate is raised above the current 5%. But government should rather expand the tax net to cover more items and at the same time strengthen compliance enforcement in order to increase revenue generation. In the same vein, the proposed 9% telecommunication services tax should not be an addition to the already existing 5% VAT but a replacement for it; so as not to create burden of multiple taxation which is already a problem.
Allied to the foregoing, debate about the structure of Nigeria's economy cannot be complete without mention to the role, banking sector plays. From empirical facts, the Nation's commercial banks are not positioned to support SMEs and finance the real sector of the economy at a single digit interest rate, let alone scaling down the interest rate to a threshold of not more than 5%. The experience from Nigeria's banking sector is that of over dependence on public sector deposits for its survival.
Sequel to the withdrawal of public sector funds through the implementation of the TSA policy by this administration, the Nation's financial institutions are now faced with the challenge of weaknesses in liquidity which is further compounded with high rate of non-performing loans. Therefore, it has become absolutely necessary more than ever before for the CBN to push for another round of Bank recapitalization through merger and acquisition. This process should see the emergence of a Nigerian bank with the strength of a global player that is not only able to finance growth and development of SMEs and the real sector at a lower single digit interest rate but also capable of financing Mining and partaking in the management of the Nation's foreign reserve like the South Africa Standard Bank [SASB].
Going further, a close look at the policies of this government since inception, it is crystal clear that Nigeria is undergoing a rebirth. So, it is necessary for the government to design a 50 year development plan which should be backed by law so as to avoid distortions or jettison by future administrations. Such a working document would guide next succeeding government to consolidate on achievements of previous regime while addressing shortcomings as well.
When such document is in place, governance would be made easy, accountable and it would further defuse the intense struggle for political power because the interest of every segment of the country would have been taken care of in the development plan. This would serve as "The Buhari Marshall plan for Nigeria".
Above all, this government is in dire need of a sound Chief Economic Adviser who is conspicuously missing in the economic management team. But care must also be taken to avoid pitfall of past governments whom appointed big name lexicographers; flaunting heavy academic credentials but delivered very little to help the government and the country at large. In this regard, such a person should be a big brain and not necessarily big name; versatile Economist with in depth knowledge of Nigerian economy. He/She should also be armed with empirical data to interpret impact of government policy decisions on economy performance and the ability to make accurate economic forecasts.
Elaborating more, the debt burden of States economy as an integral part of the overall economy is also worrisome in view of the inability of 27 out of 36 states being unable to pay salaries due to variety of factors aside the short fall in federal allocation. Despite bailout, most of these governors rely on immunity clause in the constitution to commit litany of financial recklessness.
To buttress the point, Former President - Olusegun Obasanjo had averred that these governors live like emperors. Other reasons include lack of transparency, wide spread corruption, over bloated payroll with ghost workers and pensioners, too many leakages in the collection of internally generated revenue [IGR], excessive commitment to bank loan at high interest rate, execution of white elephant project like building of airports, donations to religious groups and associations as well as senseless sharing of resources to members of Houses of assembly in order to appease them from raising impeachment threats. It's high time these governors are told in clear terms to respect extant Labour laws and let payment of workers' salaries take preeminence over frivolities.
Considering the enormous problem of these states, the federal government should not only outline conditions for accessing bailout package but also assist in developing payroll system that will enable these States to permanently eliminate the problem of persistent ghost workers.
The major issues are insurgency in the North-East, killer herdsmen, cattle rustling, ransom kidnapping, militancy in the Niger-delta etc. There is no doubt the Nigerian military have made significant progress in securing the North-East with the collaboration of the civilian JTF whom have the best understanding of the environment and terrain, playing a pivotal role in the success achieved so far.
It is also very vital to adopt similar template in the Niger-delta by engaging some of the ex-militants to partner with the military in achieving efficient intelligence gathering, oil pipeline security, job creation and ultimately, end the menace of pipeline vandalism with its commitment cause of environment pollution and adverse effect of significant loss in oil production and revenue to the country.
Also very key, the 13% derivation accruing to the oil producing States is like giving blank cheque to these Governors to squander resources. Therefore, a clause expressly stating that "13% to go to the oil producing community" instead of oil producing state as enshrined in the constitution is highly desirable. This would restrain the militants whom often use neglect of the oil producing communities as pretext to attack the Nation's economic lifeline to now direct grievances to their respective Governors for resources accountability.
Furthermore, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the hands of different militia groups and criminal elements constitute a major threat to internal security of the country. This development has increased activities of robbery, ransom kidnapping, killer herders, rustlers, cultism and other related crimes. Therefore, government should with all sense of urgency constitute an internal security mechanism with the mandate of mopping up these arms and weapons and to also block all entry points in to the country.
As a way of strengthening internal security apparatus, the government should consider training Nigerian prison officials in the handling of fire arms and response to jail breaks which have become the order of the day.
In addition, government need to come up with clear guidelines on the setting up and operation of community security outfit otherwise known as Vigilante since it has become practically impossible to provide security to police every community in the country. The security guidelines would assist the security agencies on how to relate and establish partnership with the Vigilante in order to nip crime in the bud.
An educated society is said to be a rich society. But, for the education sector to be meaningful, the bedrock which is the primary and secondary level must be on a very sound footing. The school feeding program introduced by this administration as a way of attracting more children enrollment away from the streets is very laudable. However, the learning environment under dilapidated classrooms coupled with lack of instructional materials, laboratory equipment, dispirited teachers and their irregular salary payments, promotions remain a huge challenge.
In light of these circumstances, it is therefore very necessary for the federal government to take over the affairs of teachers' salaries and training in order to give both primary and secondary education a solid foundation.
While the initiative of the federal government to employ fresh five hundred thousand [500,000] graduate teachers is highly commendable, it would also be a welcome development if the government can as well commit the National Youth Service Corps [NYSC] scheme into teaching so as to pool adequate teaching manpower to raise the quality of teaching standard to meet up with the digital education development.
Also, as both federal and states government collaborate on rehabilitation of schools, frantic efforts must also be made to revitalize our moribund technical colleges which is the foundation of science and technology education development.
At the tertiary level, besides the problem of lack of adequate facilities, funding etc. corruption, use of outdated curriculum and lack of research based teaching to meet industry requirements remain the fundamental factors responsible for the production of low quality graduates. This explain why no Nigerian university is ranked among the one thousand  universities world ranking in 2016.
The time has come for Nigeria to radically reform her tertiary education system in line with what is obtainable in US, UK, Europe and other parts of the world. In this vein, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, School of Nursing and other allied institutions need to be made "Degree" awarding Institutions just like the Nigerian Defence Academy [NDA], Nigerian Police Academy, Nigerian Maritime Academy now Maritime University, Nigerian Petroleum Institute now Petroleum University.
With the above mention in place, the country can now have unified up to date academic curriculum for these various tertiary Institutions running different degree programs. It would as well lessen admission pressure which force the Universities to admitting students above limit of their carrying capacities.
More so, it would bring an end to the unholy discrimination against HND Certificate generally, in terms of underemployment and career progression. A disturbing dimension is the extension of discrimination to the National Open University of Nigeria [NOUN]. Their Degree programs is perceived to be of low quality despite approval from the National Universities Commission [NUC]. And on top of that, Law graduates are barred from attending Law school and at the same time, graduates within the service age bracket are also barred from participating in the NYSC scheme. Like the campaign to kill corruption, discrimination in all ramifications also, must be eliminated.
Investment in this area is such that developed and even developing economy like RWANDA is seriously reaping from and creating jobs for her teeming youth population. However, Nigeria is still grappling with the issues of capacity building, creation of enabling critical Infrastructure such as Power, laying terrestrial fiber optic cable and under-utilization of communication satellite.
While the government tackles the Power problem with full strength, it is equally instructive for both Federal and States government to jointly resolve contentious issues of multiple taxation and Right of ways [RoW] which continue to hinder the laying of fiber optic cable round the country by infrastructure companies in order to achieve the much talked about broad band penetration and high speed internet service.
On top of the above mentioned challenges, is the sad story of Nigerian Communication satellite which was re-launched into space after an initial launch failure in 2007. Lamentably, the country is unable to reap from the benefits of this huge investment because the Nation was shortchanged in the design which was deliberately made to carry a single signal. This shortcoming tend to perpetually compel Nigeria to connect to foreign satellites which have multiple signals and thereby, making the country to spend hard earned foreign exchange.
Since the government is readily embracing electronic platforms for doing business [e-government], it is necessary for the government to negotiate design and launch of another communication satellite that would make Nigeria earn foreign exchange from other countries connecting to it.
On capacity building, the National Information Technology Development Agency [NITDA] training programs should be expanded to include technical professionals whom would drive innovations needed to develop the ICT Industry. Technology incubation hubs should be created in the six  geo-political zones to be powered by these technical professionals whom would create solutions that would shape the economy.
Government's decision to return to the good old policy of Former Health Minister, Late Professor Olukoye Ransome Kuti's Primary healthcare development is a gateway to providing affordable and qualitative health service to the rural communities. The Long neglect of Primary health is responsible for the congestion and over stretching of facilities in our secondary and tertiary health Institutions.
In order to make the primary health centers function optimally, our various health training Institutions like Schools of health technology which provide manpower requirements for management of facilities at the primary health level should be upgraded with modern equipment to enhance standard health practice. Also, facilities and drugs provided in these health centers should carry special government inscription stamp on it; in order to eliminate the problem of diversion and sale to dealers in the market.
Another challenge in the health care system is that of exponential growth of our population which continue to undermine efforts of government in trying to provide adequate medical facilities to cater for all citizens. Therefore, government must summon courage to hold the bull by the horn and raise shoulders above the primitive doctrine of "Have many children as you can and God will take care" and come up with strong policy on population control such that Citizens are well enlightened to know the need to only have children their resources can conveniently support. One of the causes of corruption in Nigeria is the fact that people create families far larger than what their legitimate income can accommodate.
In a related development, the federal government should consider reintroducing the weekly environmental sanitation exercise in order to significantly improve the poor sanitary condition of living in both urban and rural communities and by extension, reduce the growing rate of diseases associated with poor hygiene and very dirty environment which affects mostly women and children.
7. ELECTORAL MATTERS
The use of PVC and card reader technology in 2015 general elections was the turning point in the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria's electoral history. Therefore, National Assembly must speed up the process of giving this electoral cutting edge technology legal backing so as to forestall its use, becoming a subject of legal contest in the courts after conduct of elections.
Besides the aforementioned, it is also very necessary to critically examine the performance of the card reader machine in view of cases of incessant failures observed during the conduct of elections.
There is need for INEC to call the attention of the manufacturer of the card reader machine to subject the device to laboratory examination with the view to correcting all defects observed during its use and to guarantee optimal performance in its deployment in the conduct of future elections.
In all, INEC must leverage on technology to make electoral process more transparent and credible, particularly in doing away with the use of "result sheets" which have become the rigging instrument in which Politicians try as much as possible hijack and fill in false figures so as to win elections at all cost. This unacceptable practice usually lead to cancellation of election results with its consequences of conducting rerun elections which have a huge financial implication of extra budgetary expenditure on INEC.
In as much as there are electoral contests, aggrieved party in elections would always explore judicial option to seek redress. Therefore, the Electoral Act should be amended to allow INEC to conduct a rerun election within budgetary provision instead of 90 days' time line. With such law, INEC do not need to be under pressure to seek for out of budget funding to conduct its rerun elections.
8. WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION
Corruption had being the endemic virus plaguing good governance and sapping resources since independence. In fact, it has been said to be the major factor responsible for the collapse of the First and Second republics. It became institutionalized by one of the Military regimes in Nigeria. And since the return to democracy in 1999, corruption was already drifting the Nation's progress and development towards the abyss.
But contrary to the believe in some quarters that no leader can rescue Nigeria from the shackles of corruption, this government has demonstrated exceptional and unprecedented "Political Will" to the acknowledgement of Leaders round the world, that it can confront and tame the hydra headed monster of corruption with an uncommon momentum and zeal in a fight to finish mode. However, this tremendous effort and determination to fight corruption seem being frustrated by the Judiciary whom have allowed trials to delay and prolong endlessly.
In view of the unfolding chicanery dynamics of the judiciary, government must speed up and conclude the frame work to set up Special Court to handle and conclude these corruption cases within reasonable time. In addition to that, the jurisdiction of this Special Court should be expanded to handle cases of Electoral Offenses as well as Failed Contracts. Very importantly, the Asset declaration form should be designed to carry strict liability clause that "whoever fills in false or misleading information risk going to jail".
Furthermore, in order to make the anti-corruption war entrenched in the grassroots, there is need to remove the Immunity Clause against criminal prosecution enjoyed by State governors. And also, separate office of the Attorney General and that of Minister/Commissioner of justice, as this will allow independent prosecution of corruption cases; free from bias of political interference from the executive arm of government.
Also very key, the EFCC and ICPC should be merged to form a single, strong and well-coordinated Anti- graft Institution with the capacity to efficiently operate in the States and Local governments which are apparently centers of wide spread under reported corruption.
Finally, the National Assembly must be made to transparently include details of its budget for incorporation into the National budget. Nigerians are fed up with the secrecy shrouded in the National Assembly budget and want to see the breakdown. The annual ritual of gladiator contest between the Executive and the Legislature over budget scrutiny with its consequent delay in passage and implementation impacts negatively on the economy and should be brought to an end in the interest of the Nation. It is imperative for the Executive to approach the Supreme Court to challenge Powers of the Legislature in inserting strange items into budget prepared by the Executive.
In conclusion, this government against all odds, has shown finesse, frugality and prudence in the management of meager resources available to address myriad of challenges; although there are rooms for improvement.
May God give this administration the wisdom and guidance to sail the Nigeria vessel safely out of the woods enroute the promise land.
Engr. Abubakar Mundir, Mcpn
[True Buhari Follower]
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