Last week, a group of legal luminaries reportedly declared that President Muhammadu Buhari does not need to appoint a minister from each state of the federation to satisfy the provision of Section 147 of the 1999 constitution. The lawyers made this declaration, agreeing with the Ahmed Joda-led Transition Committee (TC) recommendation that the size of the Federal Executive Council should be reduced, decrying the widespread misconception that the president is under obligation to have at least 36 ministers in his cabinet.
We cannot agree less with the position of these lawyers, considering the need to reduce the cost of governance at this point which cannot be over emphasised.
In fact, it would be a welcome development if President Buhari is to accept and implement the said recommendation reducing the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) which consume more than 70 percent of the federal budget through recurrent expenditure. This is germane if President Buhari must have enough resources to deliver on his electioneering promises to Nigerians.
There is no gainsaying that the cost of running government in Nigeria, not just at the federal but also at state level is too high, due to the ostentatious life style of political office holders. It is unfortunate that Nigerian politicians see political offices as meal tickets rather than an opportunity to serve.
This was why, Dr. Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, Chairman, Investigation Panel on Election Violence and Civil Disturbances in 2011, recommended that former President Goodluck Jonathan restructures the National Assembly by making members of the two legislative houses sit only on a part-time basis. The report noted: “What these legislators take from the public coffers under the guise of allowances, whether in terms of their oversight function or travelling or any other allowance, cannot be justified by the relevant provisions of the Constitution in this regard”.
Just recently, the media was awash with the news of an outrageous N17 million allowances allocated to the federal legislators out of which N9 million was slated for wardrobe allowance. Besides, Nigerians are wondering if political office holders need the large fleet of cars in their convoys. Do governors need private jets? Do they need the stream of aids attached to them? These end up bloating government expenditure.
The truth is that with the current economic disposition of the country, these are not sustainable and contradict the economic indices in a country where majority of the citizens live below the poverty line. Certainly, government must address, as a matter of priority, areas of waste so as to free funds for meaningful developmental ventures.
To do this, we urge the President to implement the Steve Oransaye report of 2012 which is a comprehensive blueprint on the fundamentals of reducing the cost of governance that the TC reportedly has also highlighted.