36 Ministers And The Failed Theory Of Cutting Costs

Umar Saad

by Umar Sa’ad Hassan

A lot of Nigerians wouldn’t have believed anyone who told them President Buhari would end up appointing 36 Ministers after he was sworn-in on May 28th 2015. Nigeria was being run at an outrageously high cost and this man’s message on every pulpit he stood to preach was ‘Change’. His then Vice-President Elect gave astonishing figures of how neck deep in debt we were and PMB himself not only promised to cut costs but also appeared to be fully acquainted with the need to do so when he said the

2015 budget was 90% recurrent expenditure and 10% Capital expenditure.

To state it analogically, a man who spends almost all his money on day to day living expenses isn’t on the right path because he has little left to make life-changing expenses.

In an article I wrote before we ushered in Mr President titled CUTTING THE COST OF GOVERNANCE which can be read here-http://umarfarukhassan.blogspot.com/2015/04/cutting-cost-of-governance.html, I advised against appointing Minister of States if indeed we are worried about costs. To say I am disappointed is only stating the obvious as there wouldn’t be 36 appointees if we didn’t still leave room for ‘Deputy Ministers’.Quite frankly, even before things got this bad, I never saw any need for them.

The same Constitution which provides for an indigene from each state to be appointed Minister also empowers the President in Section 147 (1) to establish such offices of Ministers as he deems fit.If you apply the right rule of legal interpretation, that supercedes the ‘Every State’ proviso to Section 147 (3) despite the presence of the Operative word-‘Shall’.Contrary to a widely held belief, Mr President isn’t obligated to have 36 Ministers in one fell swoop. There is no better ‘Deputy Minister’ than the Permanent Secretary.He, in conjunction with his Directors are enough to provide all the assistance any Minister could posssibly need. Believe it or not, the monies alloted to Ministers of State as part of our ‘recurrent expenditure’ over a 4 year period is enough to fund a tangible project worth remembering any government for.

There has been a lot of talk about diversifying our Economy as the President himself has said the 2016 budget will be geared towards that.But only few realize you need money to open other doors.To have a second means of livelihood means to invest towards that.We just can’t get into agriculture or any other source of income and expect to be major players overnight.We need to develop and have enough to survive on till it becomes a viable second means.And we can’t do this if we are struggling to pay salaries and ward off Petroleum Marketers. Please note that these salaries are not that of the Senators, Governors or the President but that of Civil Servants.

The recommendations of the committee set up by the Senate to review its entitlements looks set to die the ‘Nigerian Death’; gradually being ushered out of our consciousness and you wouldn’t argue much if the President said he was helpless over that but he certainly isn’t when it comes to the Ministers.

I had already started to dream of a Nigeria that would cut its coat according to its cloth before the lists of Ministers were submitted to the Senate and I envisioned us without a Women Affairs Ministry as all it does can be effectively delegated to others. A Nigeria without a Niger-Delta Ministry that has clearly outlived its usefulness.

I thought we would no longer laugh at the joke called the Special Duties Ministry and its sister in ‘Beautiful Nonsensicality’; the Ministry of National Planning.We might as well create a Ministry of Civil Defence affairs if anyone thinks its wise to still maintain the Police Affairs Ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they aren’t in anyway useful, all I am saying is that their functions can be properly carried out without them being in place. For someone who has always had that belief, to retain them during these trying times is Madness. Well, they are likely to still be around for a long time from the look of things and without any alteration to their structure if we are going to have Ministers and their Deputies.

With both sets of Lawmakers still commanding way more than N10 million a month, the President has effectively shot down all hopes of a drastic reduction in the cost of governance by appointing this many Ministers as all other measures would only amount to emptying a river with a cup.

Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.


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