Osinbajo Seeks National Debate on Governance Cost

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Yemi Osinbajo
  • Says present structure unsustainable
  • Cites current constitutional structure as challenge

Gboyega Akinsanmi

The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has admitted that the country is running a large and expensive government, thereby calling for a national debate on the cost of governance.

Osinbajo lamented that the federal government is spending a lot of money on ghost workers annually, a trend that should no longer continue.

He expressed these views at a webinar hosted on Zoom by Emmanuel Chapel on Friday, describing the country’s governance structure as “large and expensive.”

Before making this remark, former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, who was a panelist at the session, had asked a question on the cost of governance.

Sanusi, specifically at the webinar, had said there was a need “to reduce structural cost and make government more sustainable over the long term.”

Responding to Sanusi’s inquiries, Osinbajo affirmed the need to reduce cost, but said it might be a little difficult considering the structure of the constitution.

“There is no question that we are dealing with a large and expensive government. But as you know, given the current constitutional structure, those who would have to vote to reduce government, especially to become part-time legislators, are the very legislators themselves.

“You can imagine that we may not get very much traction if they are asked to vote themselves, as it were, out of their current relatively decent circumstances.

“I think there is a need for a national debate on this question and there is a need for the will to ensure that we are not wasting the kind of resources that we ought to use for development on overheads.

“At the moment, our overheads, as you know, are almost 70 per cent of revenues. So, there is no question at all that we must reduce the size of government.

“Part of what you would see in the Economic Sustainability Plan also and several of the other initiatives is trying to go, to some extent, to what was recommended in the Steve Oronsanye Report.

“We have to collapse a few of the agencies to become a bit more efficient in terms of how we use current MDAs and those that we do not need anymore, and also, generally speaking, trying to make government much more efficient with whatever it has.”

He cited the use of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and how it has helped to address the menace of ghost workers.

“At the moment, we know that given what has been done already, the size of the workforce that we thought we had probably isn’t true. And that goes for several of the services as well,” the vice president explained.

“As we bring the military onto the IPPIS platform, and as we bring the universities also onto the electronic platform, we will definitely be able to reduce some of the waste that we see at the moment.

“A lot of money is being spent on ghost workers and ghost entities generally. So, there is no question at all. We must do something about the cost of governance.”

Konyin Ajayi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and Chinny Ogunro, co-founder and managing director of Africa Health Holdings, moderated the event.

Other panellists were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former managing director of the World Bank and two-time minister of finance in Nigeria, and Donald Kaberuka, former president of the African Development Bank.