FG saves N125bn from first-class travel ban By Jide Ayobolu

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The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, recently said that between 2016 and 2017, the Federal Government was able to save the sum of N125bn through reduction in travel allowances, sitting allowances and other recurrent expenditure such as office stationery. She said the amount was saved through the activities of the Efficiency Unit, which was set up by the ministry to reduce the cost of governance.

The unit had issued circulars to Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, advising them to take advantage of the quantity discount of between five per cent and 50 per cent when booking for air tickets.

This is expected to reduce the amount spent on overhead by the government. Giving a breakdown of the amount, the minister stated that the sum of N91bn was saved from reduction in travel allowances between 2016 and 2017, while the balance of N34bn was saved from office stationeries.

A further breakdown of the N91bn for travel allowances showed that the government saved N34bn in 2016, while the 2017 fiscal period had N57bn.

For office stationery, Adeosun said the sum of N24bn was saved in 2016, while the 2017 fiscal period had N10bn.

Adeosun stated, “The Efficiency Unit has embarked on several cost-cutting initiatives that have influenced the issuance of circulars to all the MDAs by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, and the National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission.

“The issuance of these circulars has led to better management of certain recurring processes and activities relating to travels, sitting allowances, souvenirs and others, resulting in savings.

“The government has saved N34bn on travel and transport for 2016 compared to 2015 figures, and a further N57bn on same travel and transport in 2017 compared to 2016. Again, on office stationery and computer consumables, the government saved N24bn in 2016 as against the previous year and a further N10bn in 2017 compared to the 2016 expenditure on the same line item.”

On the fears expressed by the International Monetary Fund about the ability of the government to repay the country’s N21.7tn debt, the minister maintained that there was no cause for alarm, adding that the nation’s debt was still sustainable.

Adeosun said the government was not worried about the country’s rising debt as the debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio was still low compared to other countries.

For instance, she noted that compared to Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio of 20 per cent, Ghana’s was at 68 per cent; Ethiopia, 50 per cent; and China, 250 per cent.

The minister added that unlike the previous government that borrowed to pay salaries, the focus of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was to invest massively in infrastructure.

She said as of the time that the Buhari administration took over in 2015, oil prices were very low and as such the government was constrained in allocating funds for capital projects without having to source for loans.

Recalled that, the federal government has directed all its directors-general, managing directors and executive secretaries to start flying economy class on all local and international flights. A previous directive issued in April 2016 banned ministers and other federal government officials from flying first class.

The latest circular, dated November 2, 2016, reads thus: “In view of the ensuing budgetary and fiscal challenges faced by the federal government arising from low oil revenue, it has become necessary to review the Guidelines for Local and International Travels as provided for in Circular Ref. No. SGF. 6/S.2/X/545 of 31st March, 2016, with a view to further prune recurrent expenses on travels and tours.

“Accordingly, government has decided that all civil and public servants in the rank of Directors and below in federal ministries, departments and agencies as well as Chief Executive Officers (Managing Directors, Executive Secretaries, Directors-General, etc) of federal government parastatals, agencies  and institutions are henceforth to travel on economy class for both local and international travels. Similarly, all non-executive chairmen and members of federal government boards of parastatals are henceforth to travel economy class.”

The circular makes an exemption for ministers, permanent secretaries, presidential aides, service chiefs and “relevant” heads of armed and para-military services who are still allowed to travel business class. Lawal said there should be “immediate compliance” with the directive“For avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that government will monitor the implementation of this directive and any breach will be met with appropriate sanctions,” he said.

In his commissioned report a few years ago, Professor Anya O. Anya warned the Federal Government that the country was spending over 70 per cent of its total revenue on public administration. Of the balance of 30 per cent, which should go to capital projects, at least 15 per cent is lost through policy slippages and widespread public corruption. Large bureaucracies tend to provide more opportunity for graft and public corruption.

They constrain growth. It can, in the circumstances, be seen why vital infrastructure projects, such as roads and electricity supply cannot be executed in the country.

Nigeria runs 37 separate governments, consisting of the federal and state governments, one of the largest in the world. At the federal level, the president is constitutionally obliged to appoint a minister from each of the 36 states, plus Abuja. In effect, he has to appoint 37 ministers. This constitutional provision should be reviewed.

At the state level, the situation is pretty much the same. The governors are constitutionally obliged to appoint not fewer than 12 commissioners.

But in actual fact, at both levels, the president and governors find a way of circumventing even these large constitutional limits by adding a coterie of special advisers and other numerous idle aides. In addition, the country has to run over 700 local governments with the same overstaffing as the federal and state governments.

When you factor in the vast expenditure on the National Assembly, it is a prescription for economic and financial disaster at all levels of government.

The Buhari led government has been working round the clock to ensure that the suffering of Nigerians are assuaged and ameliorated, by laying a solid foundation for a greater and better tomorrow. The campaign of calumny against the government of President Buhari has been largely predicated on ethnicity and tribal particularism as well as politics of vendetta, especially by the opposition party that roundly defeated at the polls after many years of misrule, bad governance and monumental fraud.

The other point which cannot be waved aside is the fact that, one of the cardinal policies of this administration is the war against corruption, and since this government came on board, never like before, it has consistently waged relentless war against graft in the country; and the high and mighty are not spared; now in a surreptitious manner, corruption is fighting back in a very dirty and desperate manner.

It is germane to observe and rightly so that, since the present administration came on board under the leadership and watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, the president and his team has worked relentlessly to bail out the economy from the recession in which it is presently enmeshed, an economic situation which is self-inflicted as a result of bad governance, mismanagement, corruption and apparent lack of accountability of past leaders in the country.

They dissipated the scarce financial resources of the country on conspicuous consumption as well as hedonistic and epicurean lifestyles; and refused to save for the raining day. It is this multifaceted errors of the past that the present government is trying to put right, unfortunately, the present government has been severally criticized by those who created the economic challenges in the first place, particularly members of the past administration, who mercilessly plunder and pillage the resources of the country on selfish individual desires, thereby neglecting vast majority of the people.

With the body language and mannerism of some members of the present administration, it is obvious that they are not on the same page with the president in truly salvaging the country from economic ruination and quagmire. For instance, members of the national assembly, with all their economic preachments and sanctimonious claims, they have rapaciously refused to cut down on their illegal and immoral fat salaries and allowances, yet, they want Nigerians to make sacrifices, while they feed fat on the sweat and toil of Nigerians.

As the government is working hard to resolve the fundamental economic contradictions with the economy, people who have illegitimately enriched themselves by pilfering the national treasury and are presently undergoing trails, are clandestinely sponsoring violence against the Nigerian state and painting the country black in both local and international media.

This is contrary to some spurious and erroneous claims in some quarters that this government is idle and doing nothing about the socio-economic miasma in which the country is presently enmeshed, unfortunately this unfounded and baseless claim is gaining currency because of the hardship Nigerians are presently going through.

Those who created these problems are now behaving like the much needed messiah to rescue the country from this crisis, but what did they do for the country and the people for 16 years when they were in power? The gang-up and conspiracy against the Buhari led government is because of the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration, hence, their inability to make cheap money and fleece the country of funds needed for development. Undoubtedly, this government is working hard and even world leaders know this fact, hence the need for all Nigerians to rally round the government and move the country forward; and stop the issue of violence, blackmail, vendetta, corruption and anything that can inhibit growth and development in the polity.

It would also be recalled that, the Federal Government, recently kicked against moves by the Senate to create two new agencies with functions already being performed by existing establishments and rejected the bills making provisions for them.

The rejection of the bill by the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, came at the public hearing held by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on four different bills.

The rejected bills include the one on Revised Laws of the Federation Bill, 2017 (SB. 391) sponsored by Senator David Umaru (APC, Niger East), who is the Chairman of the Committee and the one on National Commission for Peace, Reconciliation (Establishment etc) Bill, 2017 sponsored by Senator Shehu Sani, APC Kaduna Central. Represented by an Assistant Director in the Legal Drafting Department in the Ministry, Mr. Patrick Eta Eyoh, the AGF said the intendment of the Bill on Revised Laws of the Federation, if allowed to sail through, would impinge negatively on the functions of Nigeria Law Reform Commission.

The AGF noted that section 5 of the Nigeria Law Reform Commission Act saddled it with the responsibility of law revision exercise which the new bill primarily sought to achieve.

“This, to us in the Justice Ministry, is not necessary, to avoid creating an agency for functions already being carried out by an existing one legally,” he said.

Speaking further, AGF hinged his rejection of the Bill on National Commission for Peace, Reconciliation (Establishment) 2017 on the fact that the National Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution was in place to carry out functions relating to peace and conflict resolutions within Nigeria and Africa.

He said: “Our take on these two bills is that they should be jettisoned since their intendments have already been taken care of by existing agencies legally put in place.

‘’If they are seen not to be carrying out their functions efficiently and effectively, we are not against the National Assembly by way of legislation, strengthening their capacities to function better.” He, however, supported the two other bills, which are the one seeking for Emergency Powers Act, sponsored by Senator John Owan Enoh (PDP Cross River Central) and Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2017), sponsored by Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, APC Oyo Central.

This government is committed to prudently managing and stopping waste and leakages in the system, there will be no room for duplication of offices and responsibility; the Buhari led government has shown that, it is its desire that everybody benefits from the goodies that the change mantra will bring to the country and not just a few people.

Therefore, the present administration in the country should be commended and not vilified by the people, all that the government needs at the this time is the cooperation, support, solidarity, patience and understanding on the part of the people and anybody or group of people that wants to constitute themselves into a cog in the wheel of progress should be viewed as economic saboteur and should be dealt with, in accordance with the provisions of the law, after all, Nigeria is greater than anybody or group of people, and we should all join hands together and make it great.

Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State

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