Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
By Onwuka Nzeshi and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called for the removal of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, for recommending that the Federal Government should sack 50 per cent of workers in the public sector as part of efforts to revive the national economy.
But as the NLC called for Sanusi’s sack, it was revealed yesterday that public servants spent N300 billion on the chartering of aircraft in 2011.
Sanusi had on Tuesday during the Annual Capital Market Retreat in Warri, Delta State, recommended halving the public sector workforce in order to reduce recurrent spending on salaries and entitlements for civil servants.
He argued that with less money spent on civil servants, there would be more money for capital infrastructure spending that would spur economic development.
Sanusi had advocated a compact and less expensive system of government that would reduce overhead costs.
But the NLC described Sanusi’s statement as a contradiction of President Goodluck Jonathan’s promise to create more jobs and reduce the high rate of unemployment in the country.
The congress, in a statement issued Friday and signed by its president, Abdulwahed Omar, accused the CBN governor of always making major pronouncements to pursue anti-people policies.
“Sanusi’s only understanding of governance is simply about saving money and not saving lives as his proposals are repeatedly devoid of human content and without consideration for the implications on the larger society.
“The burden that will come with a mass sack as high as 50 per cent of civil servants, in addition to the already saturated unemployment market, can better be imagined,” Omar said in the statement.
The NLC added that Nigeria’s economic problems are not caused by its workforce, but by corruption and lack of good governance, both of which would continue to affect the economy unless effectively tackled.
“Today, there are countless probe reports with names of those who have swindled our country of several trillions of both naira and other foreign currencies still living in Nigeria either walking freely around the corridors of power or directly holding public or political offices rather than being in jail,” the statement read.
Governance is about improving the quality of lives of the people and not destruction of productive lives, the NLC said, adding that the CBN governor’s call for the scrapping of the local governments showed that he is not fit for public office.
It reiterated that the local government structure is an important tier of government, which should be strengthened to enable it deliver its mandate of grassroots development through proper funding.
“Corruption has become a real burden on the economy and it should be the only priority item on the table of any serious government. Even if you sack all the workers in Nigeria, any amount saved from that will be stolen and the culprits will walk in freedom,” it added.
Sanusi, at the retreat, had further argued that 70 per cent of the nation's revenue is spent on the payment of salaries and entitlements of civil servants, leaving only 30 per cent for capital spending.
“What this means is that for every naira government makes, 70 per cent is consumed by civil servants. This is unsustainable,” he said.
Meanwhile, a mild drama played out Wednesday at the House of Representatives as lawmakers threw out a motion seeking to rein in government expenditure by reducing the cost of air travels incurred by civil servants in any given year.
It was also revealed that public sector officials had expended N300 billion in 2011 on aircraft charter.
Also Wednesday, a bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution to provide for the consent of the Senate and state Houses of Assembly for the removal of a federal minister or state commissioner failed to fly.
The bill was promptly withdrawn because members kicked against it, describing its possible application as cumbersome.
The motion on foreign trips, sponsored by Hon. Eddy Mbadiwe sought to limit air travel tickets for civil servants to not more than business class.
In the lead debate, Mbadiwe argued that the value of public resources lost through overseas air travel by public servants runs into billions of naira annually.
He expressed concern that officials of the federal and state governments spent a whooping N300 billion on aircraft charter in 2011, while the presidency is expected to spend N1.2 billion on travels in 2013.
Apart from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Vice-President, President of the Senate and his deputy, Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy, state governors as well as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the motion urged all other government functionaries to restrict themselves to the business class tickets instead of first class when they travel.
Mbadiwe described the huge funds expended on these foreign trips as a waste of resources and demanded that steps be taken to reduce them.
“It is the desire of Nigerians to see a less expensive and more efficient service delivery at all levels of governance. We have a responsibility to make sure that public funds are not wasted.
“Government can provide estacode for a maximum of a business class ticket but any public servant who desires to travel first class should be made to pay for the difference,” Mbadiwe said.
In a subsequent contribution, former Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, Hon. Musa Adar, argued that even the idea of government providing funds for public servants to travel business class was a waste.
According to him, in other climes, the business class tickets are usually reserved for businessmen who have the means and need to meet with other business executives while on board the aircraft while public servants usually travel in economy class cabins.
The situation in Nigeria, Adar said, had become ridiculous as public servants usually take over the business class while businessmen are confined to economy class.
He said that even some public servants have also abused the privilege of foreign trips as they usually travelled from one world capital to the other every day at huge cost to the public treasury.
He suggested a drastic reduction in the frequency of overseas travel for all categories of public servants.
Adar said there should also be a ceiling in terms of cost that should be borne by government after which such officials should sit back in Nigeria and do the job for which they were either elected or appointed.
The debate was, however, truncated when the Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, interjected and reminded the lawmakers that the said overseas travel were usually statutory entitlements and the cost in line with the recommendation of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC).
He advised the sponsor of the motion to liaise with the House Committee on Rules and Business to seek more information on what the legislature could do to resolve the issues raised in the debate.
In a matter of minutes, Mbadiwe consulted with the Chairman, Rules and Business, Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, the motion was immediately suspended.