The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety is shocked and alarmed over the reported squandering of a whopping sum of N7Billion (about $45M) by the Federal Government of Nigeria at the ongoing National Confab. The shocking huge sum is being shared among the 492 delegates to the Confab on the basis of “N4Million per delegate” monthly, which translates to N12Million per delegate for three months the Confab is expected to last. Our dependable sources disclosed that N1, 4Million has already been disbursed to each delegate as at Saturday, 22nd day of March, 2014.
This is said to have covered “the preamble allowances” of the Conferees. The sum is part of the bloated monthly allowance of N4Million. The bloated monthly allowance under reference covers hotel accommodation, meals, transport and sitting allowances. There are reliable speculations that the Confab will be deliberately or “technically” extended beyond three months to create room for further squandering of public funds. It is most likely that the Federal Government of Nigeria will end up squandering N10Billion ($62.5M) or more. Already, long and unnecessary adjournments have set in. Five days adjournment granted to the Conferees just ended.
From our extensive investigations, the N7Billion being squandered at the Confab is borrowed. Further findings indicate that a whopping sum of N5, 9Billion, out of the said bloated sum, will be squandered on the 492 delegates on average of N135, 000 a day, while the remaining N1.1Billion will be lavished on other costs associated with the Confab. The N135, 000 (about $850, 00) daily pay for each delegate is equivalent of monthly block pay wage of a Grade Level 12 civil servant and above and more than ¼ of a block monthly salary of a public university professor (N450, 000) in Nigeria. There is no member of the 492-member Confab that legitimately earns daily business profit or public pay of N135, 000, not to talk of a whopping sum of N4Million a month.
As if that was not enough, some Conferees like Alhaji Hassan Adamu; a former ambassador, have the temerity to reportedly agitate for inclusion of the Conferees’ retinue of aides in the scandalous allowance jamboree. Shockingly, too, most of the so-called “24 Nigerian CSO” delegates to the Confab, including three out of the four pastoralist activists, who said “they are representing Southeast zone”, have also gone dumb and blind over the matter. The likes of Mr. Mike Ozekhome appear to have applied infantile and unsound logic to justify involvement in sharing the widely condemned bloated allowance. His likes reportedly argued that “if the N4Million is rejected by each of them, Nigeria’s pervasive corruption situation may make it grow wings and disappear from government coffers”. They also reportedly claimed that their own share of the bloated and widely condemned allowance “will be given to the poor”. This reason or excuse is totally rejected by us at Intersociety.
Borrowing To Squander: It is a truism that Nigeria borrows to squander. It is also a truism that the country has over the years, steadily recorded and still records monumental revenue shortfalls, warranting her reckless and crude borrowing policies. The monetary obligation met over the protracted public universities industrial disputes that ended few months ago over the 2009 ASUU/FGN Agreement, was met on the basis of capital markets’ borrowings, not from non-borrowing revenue reserves.
In totality, it is correct to submit that the bloated sum of N7Billion being squandered at the conference under reference, is borrowed from the local capital markets. This is more so when the 2013 and the 2014 real and proposed budgets of the Federal Government of Nigeria contained huge deficits. For instance, the 2014 budget proposal of N4, 9 Trillion (about $30.1Billion) including SURE-P proceeds of N268Billion, contained a total huge deficit or borrowing package of N911.6Billion (about $5.7Billion). The official borrowing figure in the appropriation proposal for 2014 is N571Billion. In the 2013 budget of N4, 99 Trillion, another whopping sum of N727Billion was borrowed. While N591 Billion was spent on “debts servicing” in 2013, the sum of N712Billion is to be spent on same in 2014.
The idea of borrowing to squander has tragically become a norm in Nigeria. Out of every N100, 00 spent publicly in the country, it is tragically observed that N80.00 out of it goes for recurrent or non-productive expenditure. This explains why out of the 2014 budget proposal of N4, 91 Trillion, a whopping sum of N3, 5 Trillion is being spent on recurrent expenditures. This includes N592Billion spent annually on 12, 788 Local Government top executives in the country involving chairmen, deputies and councilors.
Whereas the capital cost of the budget gulps a paltry sum of N1.1 Trillion, its personnel (real salaries, allowances and emoluments) gulps a staggering sum of N1, 723 Trillion. The remaining N2, 43 Trillion goes for non debt and non personnel recurrent expenditures called “real overheads”. In other words, the sum of 1, 723 Trillion spent to service the salaries, allowances and emoluments of federal civil and public servants in Nigeria is greater than the sum of N1. 1 Trillion budgeted for capital expenditures or provision of social amenities including fixing and maintenance of critical infrastructures. It also means that the sum of N2, 43 Trillion spent on running and maintaining Federal Government machineries is twice greater than the sum of N1.1 Trillion spent on capital expenditures.
The collective and individual silence shown by most of Nigeria’s CSO’s delegates (except few like Tunde Bakare and Olisa Agbakoba), whether imposed, nominated, selected or elected, is roundly shocking. Except few like Pastor Tunde Bakare and Olisa Agbokoba, who commendably rejected the bloated allowance and vowed not to collect it, others have kept mute or sanctioned such fiscal recklessness on the basis of “share the money after all our politicians have been eating it from left, right and center”. By refusing to condemn this fiscal “ovambe”, the affected CSO’s National Confab delegates have no moral standing both now and in future to challenge the Federal Government’s crude economic policies including reckless borrowings and pro-corruption policies.
They have also become accomplices of moral economic and financial crimes by making themselves beneficiaries of roguery financial and economic policies of the present federal government. “Where does the money come from?” “Is it from borrowing or missing oil billions?” “Is it from the 2013 spent budget or the 2014 un-passed budget?” “Is the allowance not too bloated considering the sorry state of the country’s economy?” These should have been the frontal questions of the country’s CSO’s delegates at the Confab, who always portray themselves as “social saints” and “best shadow public managers” both locally and internationally. This is more so when it is on record that the Federal Budget of 2014, in law and in the eyes of the populace, is still “an appropriation proposal or bill”.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk