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Nigerian Youths: Historic Challenge to Nation Building by Salihu Moh. Lukman April 29, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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Nigerian Youths: Historic Challenge to Nation Building

Salihu Moh. Lukman

“If you wanna be somebody, if you wanna go somewhere, you better wakeup and pay attention” was the message of Whoopi Goldberg to her exuberant young students in Sister Act. At a time when everything was crashing, lawlessness became pleasurable, conventions no longer tenable and all initiatives end up producing negative outcomes, something different was needed. What? And how? These are issues that needed very practical, not hypothetical responses. In the context of a rigid Catholic setting and without really planning for it, a Whoopi Goldberg, acting as accidental Sister Mary Clarence, who on account of running from a criminal gang found shelter in a Catholic school offered unique and ingenious services that saved the school from closing.

That is the situation Nigeria require today. It is a situation that is best reflected in the lives of our young people – Nigerians under the age of 35, people born between 1978 and today. Unfortunately, these are category of Nigerians who have never experienced anything near a functional society, a society with guaranteed water, power, healthcare delivery, quality education, etc. Many, although born in our so-called urban centres, have never witnessed water flowing from public water source. They have never seen electricity from PHCN (NEPA) uninterrupted for up to 6 hours, sometimes less. Hospitals have regressed from what Gen. Buhari while overthrowing Alh. Shehu Shagari in December 1983 described as consulting clinics to public mortuaries and in the circumstances therefore most Nigerians when they are sick look for Babalawos of all types of miracle/magical healers across all religions rather than go to hospitals. The narrative is endless and pathetic. It basically mirror the lives of the exuberant youth in Sister Act, requiring something different to pull Nigeria out of its current mess.

One of the major challenge is the expectation that government initiative is what is needed to produce something different. In the circumstance, there is a dominant attitude among young people concentrating energy towards contracting relations with government, largely because of the notion of government being a reservoir of “free money” on account of which being in government or close to people in government may not be more than access to “free money”. And since our curriculum of education at all levels is increasingly becoming abstract, government for our young people is fictional and at best obtainable in foreign, mainly European, North America and in some ways Asian and South America countries with emphasis on China and Brazil. It is hard to explain to this category of Nigerians that our educational institutions were among the best in the world in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, our Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ibadan, University of Ife and University of Nigeria Nsukka were in the league of Cambridge and Oxford. This is now Tales by Moonlight as even graduate from these universities produced in the 1960s and 1970s have to (or believe they have to) garnish their qualifications with some, often short term (in some cases one week) certificate qualifications obtained from leading commercial educational centres, mainly in the US.

Since the notion of government is that it is a reservoir of “free money”, politics simply means being part of the team that lead to the reservoir and eventually control it. The leaders of this political teams are mainly ‘successful elders’, mostly these graduates of 1960s and 1970s with few among them products of the 1980s and rarely any of the 1990s. These ‘successful elders’ provide the finances largely based on personal aspirations for political offices, if you like aspiration to control part of the reservoir. Being a reservoir therefore it just means unregulated supply, not tied to any projected outcome other than transfer of ‘free money’ to ‘political loyalists’, which are often unreceipted. Because of the absence of projected outcomes, almost everything goes. Qualification is first and foremost raw courage and formal education, as they often say in human resource language, it is an advantage but not a requirement.

In the context of Nigerian politics whereby the major preoccupation of politicians is not about winning the support of citizens but preparing to rig mainly through ballot box snatching, writing results of elections, voter intimidations, etc. and against the reality that many Nigerians are unemployed or under employed with poor means, our young people become a major source of patronage. Based on this reality, it can be argued that politics is today the biggest industry, perhaps more on account of the amount of resources being expended but hardly on account of employment. It is an industry that is in the real sense worse than the informal sector of the economy. No records are kept, nobody engaged has anything near formal contract.

In terms of our young people, it is an industry that destroy virtually everyone on accounts of the dirty job of ballot box snatching which requires some levels of insanity on the part of the individuals carrying out the task. Insanity produced more by substance abuse. Alcohol are weak and not attractive. Like some officials at federal levels have promoted certificates from Harvard, etc. as attracting some jumbo pay package, at our local levels, the equivalent of Harvard is drugs and substance consumption by young people which enables them to execute all the dirty work for our politicians.

As a result, we have in our major cities serious cases of abuse of young Nigerians, resulting in high disorientation, psychological and psychiatric incidences among young people. Unfortunately, these are incidences that have assumed a reality of normalcy. Those affected are regarded as normal human beings with many protected by powerful politicians and sponsored to offer ‘protection’ to these politicians, which may include violent conduct.

This is predominantly our unfortunate reality today around which majority of our young people find themselves. This is a situation created by the generation of Nigerians that had good education provided exclusively by public schools, Nigerians that enjoyed good healthcare services while growing up, in summary, Nigerians whose humanity was guaranteed by a state that was responsive and responsible to all irrespective of status. Unfortunately, years after, these Nigerians have collapsed into a hobbesian state of mind and downgraded citizens, especially Nigerian youths to nasty and brutish condition thereby shortening their lives. It is a situation whereby our leaders regard government as their private estate and every other citizens, apart from members of their family, are animals that deserve no dignity. It is just about crude obedience without any decorum, more to produce a political victory resulting in taking control of position in government.

In the circumstance, our youths are coerced or drugged to playing very critical dirty role. Can this be halted? Is it possible to create a new reality similar to what we have in this country in the 1960s and 1970s? If the common saying that “the youths are the future” is anything to go by, negative answers here simply means that Nigeria is doomed. Already, the signs are evident and traumatising.

Perhaps, we need to remind ourselves that Nigeria as it is today is a product of inspiring interventions of young Nigerians into politics of the country. Names of people like Samuel Akinsanya, Ernest Ikoli, Kofo Abayomi, H. O. Davis, Adeyemo Alakija and even Nnamdi Azikiwe were young Nigerians who in 1933 formed the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) that challenged and ended the political dominance of the National Democratic Party led by Herbert Macauley. By October 1938, the NYM won elections for the Lagos Town Council. The same year, they launched the Youth Charter and in it they articulated their demands, which included opposition to the British indirect rule.

One of the important attributes of the membership of NYM was its diverse orientation, comprising leaders of other groups such as students, trade unions and other associations. Rather than being a source of division, it strengthen them. They utilise their diverse membership in these various groups to build an effective national campaign for Nigerian independence. A major plank of strength was their ability to give new radical orientations to Nigerian trade unions, students organisations and other associations based on which the campaign against British indirect rule and for Nigerian independence was given an active life.

Up to today, the political legacy of the generation of Nigerian youths of 1930s still has expression in our national life. It was a legacy that is manifest in especially the radicalism of Nigerian trade unions and students movement. More fundamentally, it was a legacy that was stimulated by levels of formal education. In many respect, it could be argued that the collapse of formal educational system in Nigeria since the mid 1980s accelerated the process of extinguishing radicalism out of Nigerian youths. Partly, as a result of poor access, but more on account of crash of standards, the energy, vibrancy, adventure and aspirations of Nigerian youths are weak, shallow and peripheral, if any at all.

Like the Nigerian leaders, aspirations is limited to material acquisition, which hardly go beyond cars, houses, marriage (in the case of men) and pilgrimage. It is hardly about development in terms of production, services, etc. which come with the requirement for infrastructural development. Everything is about personal consumption without even the modest effort to attempt to influence the source of supply. Against the background of high oil revenue in the country therefore it is possible to earn without labouring and many Nigerians accept this reality as normal.

A reality that is apparent is that such a perspective leads to the destruction of all organisations. With politics mainly about individual aspirations, organisational objectives are limited to the promotion of individuals. This could include sabotaging organisational activities resulting in death of organisations. On account of this, many organisations have crashed, some of our militant and radical organisations have lost their edge. New form of radicalism, very close to, if not terrorist, have emerged. Our old radical organisations have lost their youthful colouration either on account of completely being run by old guards or become appendages to interests that regards young people only as tools.

Organisations such as the Nigerian trade unions and student movement, which since the 1930s served veritable national political agenda have been reduced to legal expression with hardly any substance with respect to meeting the expectations of members. That is the unfortunate state of Nigerian trade unions and student movement. It is a situation in which even their primary responsibility of improving the welfare and lives of members has been compromised if not sacrificed. It is a sad complex reality that leaves Nigerians with virtually hopeless situation. It is a situation that requires something different!

As a nation, we need new organisations. These new organisations must have clear vision and driven by committed and selfless Nigerians. Above all, the organisations must be political. The truth is that as a nation, there is a deficit of national youth organisation with a clear political objective. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), which played that role in the 1980s and early 1990s is today a commercial enterprise. None of our parties has bothered to develop framework for tapping the energy of Nigerian youths. The approach has always been short term, limited to using young Nigerians, often drugging them, to promote the personal aspirations of politicians.

Producing something different therefore should translate into getting any of our political parties to develop a clear framework towards the organisation of young Nigerians on a national scale. For such a framework to come with potential of contributing to pulling Nigeria out of its current mess, it has to have a component that seek to mobilise Nigerian youths around a demand for quality educational delivery, mass employment and social welfare programmes. These are issues that should be developed into charter of demands similar to those of NYM of 1930s and NANS of 1980s and early 1990s.

Like the NYM, it should have strong political objective. With more than 60 million Nigerians being young people below the age of 35, majority of whom are today unemployed, such a political demand has potential to produce the winner of any election if backed by strong organisation. A major drawback has always been that it is very easy to express all these but very difficult to get anything started. This is where our opposition parties negotiating the current merger to produce APC can produce superior commitment and to that extent as part of the rollout plans for APC produce a national youth political framework.

It can be readily predicted that this will not happen if initiative is to come from the leadership of the parties. What will make this to happen will be a situation whereby some young Nigerians are able to take the initiative and develop the framework and some organisational strategy. In order for this to be effective, it has to be nationally oriented. For instance, as part of the strategy to give the framework and strategy national coverage, in order to promote the demands for quality education, mass employment and social welfare on a national scale, seek to produce party youth leaders who are guided by the organisational strategy at all levels. In addition, since the challenge of achieving the implementation of these programme require budgetary allocations, it then means some representation in the legislative arm of government. Could such a framework and organisation come with a commitment to ensuring some minimum number of APC candidates for House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly in all states? Also, could the framework and organisation include strong mechanism for delivery?

These are not questions that should be answered with hypothetical answers. They require practical answers with clear vision, leadership and organisation. They are not answers that can be satisfactorily answered based on virtual activism. APC just need to shape the way forward and reincarnate the glorious achievements of Nigerian youths of the 1930s.

Nigerian shall be born again!

The Cost of Governance: Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai April 26, 2013

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The Cost of Governance: Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency
By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

In December last year, the National Assembly Joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) asked the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to justify the N5.7bn budget for overheads and personnel for its staff of 249 for 2012. Out of the N5.7bn, a total of N4.95bn had been released. Analysis of the PPPRA budget further showed that N2.1bn was earmarked for regular allowances, and had been released and utilized even before the end of the fiscal year. What kind of work is the PPPRA doing to justify paying 249 people nearly N6bn in just one year? Why should government pay each staff an average of a lavish N23m annually?

While it is true that the political leadership makes policies, the bureaucracy and agencies of government are tasked with implementing those policies, and in certain instances, also initiate policies in public interest. Considering the poor level of implementation and recurrent reversals of public policies in the country, it is little surprise that Nigerians have been left with the short end of the stick. Yet while the quality of governance is abysmally low, the running cost of our MDAs remains one of the highest in the world.

Since the beginning of the examination of government by this column, we have focused on specific policy areas. The message, if anything is that save for a handful of exceptional CEO’s not of MDAs, this president, nor his coterie of advisers have done a decent job of formulating sound policies and focused implementation. Indeed, what seems to come across very clearly is that the Yar’Adua-Jonathan administrations have systematically destroyed organizations, systems and processes in order to expedite the unmatched plunder of resources that is going on with impunity. Whatever the truth may be, it would be worth our while to examine some government agencies to see what Nigerians pay for the personnel, policies and processes that have only led to growing poverty, ballooning unemployment, division, hatred and general decay. It is actually a fair question to ask if Nigeria still has a functional government.

Let’s consider the facts. It is a fact that unemployment in Nigeria is at an alarming 29.3%, a figure which has risen steadily since the Jonathan government started administering Nigeria some three years back. With government neglect and non-implementation of policies and budgets, Nigeria’s life expectancy of between 47 and 52 years, shows no signs of improving anytime soon. About 43% of our adult population is illiterate in all languages and do not have access to adult education. The country’s minimum wage is a paltry N18,000 and at nearly N7trn, Nigeria’s debt stock is going out of control. In an economy with all these ills, it is also a fact that a few public servants earn a monthly salary of N1.8m or an annual salary of about N23m that our legislature approved for PPPRA in 2012.

The PPPRA is an offshoot of the Petroleum Products Pricing Committee, which came into existence through the recommendations of the Special Committee on the Review of Petroleum Products Supply and Distribution in 2000. However, it was not until February 2003 that the Bill for its establishment was passed into law and assented to by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in May the same year.

Dr Oluwole Oluleye was the agency’s pioneer Executive Secretary and served for six years (June 2003 – July 2009), Mr Abiodun Ibikunle succeeded him and served from July 2009 to February 2011. Most recent are Engr. Goody Chike Egbuji (February – November), and Mr. Reginald Chika Stanley (November 2011 to date).

Among other functions, its prime responsibilities were to moderate volatility in petroleum products prices, while ensuring reasonable returns to operators; determine the pricing policy of petroleum products; regulate the supply and distribution of petroleum products; establish a data bank through liaison with all relevant agencies to facilitate their making of informed and realistic decisions on pricing policies and establish parameters and codes of conduct for all operators in the downstream petroleum sector.

Nearly a decade since its establishment, would we say long queues have disappeared from our fuel stations? With the very volatile fuel pricing situation, are things not even worse off now? How has the regulatory agency contributed to better pricing of petroleum products for Nigerians? Can it be sadly concluded that the PPPRA Act itself creates as many problems as it solves?

There is some serious limitation regarding the membership structure of the PPPRA. While the Act itself provides for membership of the top operational level of the agency amongst special interest groups like NACCIMA, MAN, NLC, PENGASSAN, Transport owners, Nigerian Media, NIM, NNPC etc. There does not appear to be a direct representation of the proverbial ‘common man’ whose good the regulatory agency should be serving.

Another lacuna is that the Act neither mentions nor addresses the existing powers of the Minister of Petroleum Resources and NNPC to regulate the downstream sector. This is in spite of the fact that the NNPC Act 1977 contains provisions empowering the minister, through the department of Petroleum resources to regulate the sector, including fixing petroleum product prices. Furthermore, the MPR/DPR has sole regulatory authority over technical standards, refining, and logistics in the sector under the NNPC Act. The conclusion therefore is that Nigeria currently has at least two regulatory authorities for petroleum products with responsibilities overlapping.

We may then ask what parameters or codes of conduct has the agency established for downstream operators? None. Except you choose to consider the stunning revelation before a Lagos High court in January last year by Mr Zamani, Assistant General Manager at the PPPRA Lagos zonal office, that the PPPRA only receives photocopies of documents required for processing subsidy claims and the fact that their relationship with marketers is based on ‘trust’. Is it not also under this regulatory body that worse cases of trillion Naira subsidy fraud in 2011 and 2012 have been found? Does this not all point to the ineffectiveness and lack of capacity of the PPPRA?

In 2012, the agency was allocated some N5.7bn which was 9.8% of the Petroleum Ministry’s total allocation of N59bn. Its entire allocation was for recurrent expenditure, with N76m for overheads and N5.7bn for personnel cost. One would notice the same trend in the 2013 budget; the Petroleum Ministry is allocated some N60.8bn and with a budget of N6.2bn, the PPPRA alone took about 10% of the entire sum.

In 2013, the cost of running this agency would increase by some 7% over 2012 figures. 98% of the Agency’s N6.2bn budget would cover personnel costs; plainly put, maintaining the staff of PPPRA in 2013 would cost a hefty N6.1bn representing an increase of 7% over the N5.7bn 2012 provision that the Legislature queried. Overhead expenditure is allocated some N69m and capital expenditure allocated a very pitiable N100m which would be used simply for the purchase of office furniture and fittings.

Is it not evident from these figures that this agency is only concerned with paying and receiving extravagant salaries at the expense of over 112 million Nigerians who live on less than a dollar a day? One would even wonder what good comes of all these Senate committee hearings if they cannot bring about desperately needed change like cutting recurrent costs and raising capital expenditure in MDAs.

The PPPRA as regulator has failed the oil industry and Nigeria woefully. It has become a major participant in all corruption cases plaguing the industry from price fixing based on questionable templates to its involvement and indictment in the trillions of Naira lost to oil subsidy scams.
Incidentally, the Orosanye Committee which was instituted by the Federal Government in August 2011 to amongst other things review previous reports on the restructuring of parastatals and advice on their relevance since observed that the 26-member board of the PPPRA is very unwieldy and should be reduced to a more manageable size of 7.

It also observed that with the ultimate enactment of the Petroleum Industry Bill, (presently in the National Assembly) and/or removal of the subsidy on petroleum products, the PPPRA would cease to exist. Considering this, the report recommended that the PPPRA and Petroleum Equalization Fund be merged into a single department in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources; and the bridging process of distribution of petroleum products be fully automated in order to eliminate abuses.

There is certainly a need for a regulator in the downstream sector, but this regulator must bring together the strands of regulatory authority that presently reside in the MPR, DPR, NNPC, PPPRA and create a single new regulatory authority that incorporates the institutional know-how of both the PPPRA and DPR within an empowered and more credible organizational and statutory framework. Can the Petroleum Industry Bill when passed provide that? Only time will tell.

HUNGER IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY by Nasir @elrufai April 11, 2013

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Hunger In The Midst Of Plenty
By Nasir Ahmad Elrufai

A good proportion of young people today were taught from primary school that agriculture is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Agricultural Science as a subject is part of our educational curriculum and therefore taught at all levels of education. In spite of the constant emphasis on agriculture as a core aspect of the Nigerian economy in paper, the sector long since ceased to be the main revenue source since the oil boom of the 1970s.

Agriculture is extremely important for the sustenance and development of a nation. Apart from its subsistence uses, it is potentially a huge employer of labour for a country as Nigeria which is blessed with abundant arable land. Agriculture is a means of boosting the GDP and export profile of a nation thereby also contributing to its foreign exchange reserves. The advantages are innumerable; it is therefore atrocious to know that this sector of the economy is not given the priority it deserves.

Israel is the poster child for a nation that has turned the odds in its favour agriculturally. More than half its land is desert and the climate is unsuitable for agriculture, yet, it is a world leader in agricultural technologies and a major exporter of fresh produce. Only 20% of Israeli land is arable yet it produces 95% of its nutritional requirements.

Nigeria on the other hand, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2011 statistics, has a total land area of 91,077,000 Hectares with an agricultural area of 76,200,000 Hectares. In simple terms, about 83.7% of the land in Nigeria is arable, out of which less than half is currently under cultivation. Not only do we have vast amounts of arable land, we also have favorable weather for year-round cultivation of crops.

In spite of the foregoing, Nigeria does not produce enough food for internal consumption. In fact, 2010 FAO statistics placed Nigeria as the 5th highest importer of rice in the world, 10th highest for wheat and 18th highest for sugar. Sadly, these are all products that can be grown locally and if managed properly, can be exported in the near future.

It is more saddening to know that Nigeria once shone in its agricultural sector around the post-independence era right before the oil boom. This was the period when agriculture was not as mechanized and technologically advanced as it is now. All these factors notwithstanding, Nigeria competed satisfactorily in world exports. The only produce which is still being exported reasonably and which Nigeria has consistently remained in the top five of world exporters is cocoa.

Nigeria was also the largest exporter of groundnut between the early 1960s and 70s. Devastatingly, there was a decline from around 1974 till date; these days, Nigeria does not feature among the top 20 groundnut exporters. The story of palm oil and kernel exports is not much different. Nigeria, which used to be the largest exporter, has hardly appeared among the top 20 exporters since 1980.

For a country blessed with so much food production endowments, the 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI) scored Nigeria at 15.7. This index assesses all available data on hunger, undernourishment and the pattern of food consumption within countries, and the higher the score, the more serious the nation’s hunger challenges. According to the ranking, the score of 15.7 for Nigeria therefore indicates a ‘serious’ hunger problem in the country. Ironically, nations like Iran, Libya and Jordan which are substantially desert nations scored less than 5 on the GHI, indicating the near absence of hunger and malnutrition.

What exactly is the problem with past and current governments that the issue of food security – the adequate production and availability of food within the country is treated with such levity? Could it be that the daily provision of about N1m for each of the three square meals in the villa has deluded our leaders from the hunger that abounds just outside the walls of their abode? Are our leaders so disconnected from the citizens that they do not appreciate the hunger and malnutrition problems that many households face daily? Let us look at the 2013 federal budget for some answers or lack of them.

The 2013 federal budget makes a total provision of N81.68bn (1.7% of the total budget sum) for agriculture. Our previous analyses of states’ budget indicated that their typical budgetary provisions are only slightly better than the federal government’s – ranging from 1% to 7% of the total budget. Consequently, whatever we can deduce from the federal budget also largely applies to the states, and the federation as a whole.

In the 2013 federal budget, the sum of N48.73bn (about 60% of the total agriculture provision) is proposed for capital expenditure while N32.95bn is earmarked for recurrent expenses. In 2003, one of the most prominent decisions arrived at during the African Union (AU) Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa was the “commitment to the allocation of at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years”.

Ten years after that declaration, Nigeria’s federal budgetary provision for agriculture is less than 2%, while the state’s average about 4% nationally. This is simply outrageous and unbelievable! While the agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP is laudable at N13.41 trillion in 2012 (the highest non-oil contribution to our revenues), the latent unexplored endowments indicate that slightly more attention given to the sector will restore it to its pride of place in the economy.

Scrutinizing the budget further, it is worrying to see how the largest proportions of the funds are earmarked for recurrent spending. This column believes that the agricultural research institutes ought not to be federal responsibilities even in distorted federalism – they properly belong to the state governments or in some cases under the relevant geopolitical zone, and not the federal government. The spending patterns of these institutions only confirm that position. For instance, the Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN) has a total allocation of N1.16bn; its capital expenditure is N92.88m while the recurrent cost is N1.06bn. In other words, the capital expenditure of RRIN is about 9% of its recurrent expenditure. Fortunately, we ranked 14th in the year 2010 in terms of global rubber exports. In spite of this, we believe that if the funds were tipped more in favour of capital expenditure on research and development, extension and technical support services, we may just move up to be among the top five sometime soon.

Many more of these lopsided expenditures abound within the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. The National Institute of Freshwater Fish has a total allocation of N845.7m. Its recurrent expenditure gulps the bulk of the amount at N649.13m while the capital expenditure is N196.6m. Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service’s total allocation is N1.2bn, N275m of which is capital while recurrent is N918.93. One wonders what deliverables accrue to the nation and citizens from all the huge recurrent spending!

One MDA stands out for being different – the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN). This MDA further buttresses our point that more spending in favour of capital expenditure improves the performance of the sub-sector. Out of its N1.74bn budgetary allocation, CRIN intends to spend N973.56m on recurrent expenses and N765m on capital expenditure – a more sensible ratio. While the recurrent expenditure is still higher than the capital vote, the difference is modest and the percentage of capital expenditure is higher than most of the other MDAs. The likely outcome of this focus on capital investment (supplemented by better quality governance at states’ level in the geopolitical zone) is that Nigeria is still a top ranking cocoa exporter today.

For the agricultural sector to be restored as the mainstay of our economy, the spending priorities of the federal and state governments must genuinely reflect a national commitment to the sector. At the federal level, allocating less than 2% of the budget to agriculture, while the best states are allocating some 7% of their budgets for the same, is insufficient to enable us attain the food sufficiency we direly need, much less position us to be a major exporter of cash crops. The AU target of 10% of budget applies particularly more to the state governments where most of the actual cultivation and production of crops take place. Agriculture must be made a priority bearing in mind that our oil is a non-renewable, finite resource that will be exhausted sometime in the future, or replaced by greener or cheaper alternatives.

The budgetary allocation figures also need to be tilted sharply in favor of capital expenditure. Agriculture is a practical and ground-based profession. The enormous personnel costs incurred on redundant government employees add little or nothing to the development of our agricultural sector. Those monies budgeted for the research institutes need to be invested on the real or pilot production sites (farms) and the acquisition of the seedlings, fertilizers, chemicals and equipment required to make them boost crop output. Better coordination with infrastructural MDAs, aggressive investment in storage capacities, low-interest loans and greater extension and support services should command the attention of agricultural policy makers at states’ and federal levels.

Studies indicate that every US dollar spent on agricultural research produces nine dollars’ worth of added food in developing countries. Agricultural research which successfully drove the first Green Revolution in Asia can also do same in Nigeria. Obviously this does not refer to wasteful expenditure on personnel cost, engaging in excessive domestic and international travel, purchase of un-needed SUVs and other pea-brained budget heads that constitute the bulk of typical MDA recurrent expenditures. Worthwhile investment in biotechnological hardware, software and attracting the best and brightest minds to agricultural research will pay off in the medium to long term. Nigeria must attain food sufficiency so that the paradox of hunger in the midst of plenty will no longer apply to us.

COUNTING THE COST OF NIGERIA’s WATER By Nasir @elrufai April 5, 2013

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Friday Column
Counting the Cost of Nigeria’s Water
By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

Not many Nigerians may know Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and fewer still would have any reason to. Born in 1772, he was an English poet who lived long before any notion of Nigerian nationhood was forged, but his most famous work, ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ which was written in 1798, aptly describes the Nigerian situation: ‘Water, Water Everywhere, Not a Drop to Drink’.

Through a press release on the 28th March last year, Sarah Ochekpe, the Minister of Water Resources said that the country would require some $2.5bn (about N396bn) to provide potable water for 75% of Nigerians. It is 2013, barely 2 years to the Millennium Development Goals target of providing water to the 75% of the populace and official release from the ministry puts the percentage of Nigerians with access to safe drinking water at only 32%.

If this picture is not bad enough, at a briefing in Abuja just before the Presidential Summit on Water, the Minister confirmed that Nigeria will not meet the MDG goal on adequate water supply by 2015 if the country is not willing to commit an annual budget of some N360bn for the next 3 to 5 years.

Consider the impact of the nation’s water situation on our health indices and you would see where exactly this government is taking Nigeria. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about 361,900 people die yearly due to poor water and sanitation conditions in Nigeria, while the UNICEF estimates that 194,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhea yearly. Gruesome as they may be, these figures are the direct impact of federal, states’ and local governments’ continued neglect of this all important sector, and the Jonathan administration shows no signs of providing leadership that will turn the tide.

In light of these figures and the very little success that has been achieved in water provision, this column would today examine the federal budgetary provision for the water resources ministry with a view to addressing very pertinent questions like how much of the ministry’s N30.4bn 2012 capital budget was implemented? How much of Nigeria’s 267 and 92 billion cubic meters of surface and ground water respectively are currently targeted for the use of Nigerians? What were the gains of the much talked about Presidential Summit on Water? Has any progress been made in implementing the Water Road Map? What should the National Assembly be doing in this vital area of our national well-being?

In 2012, the ministry’s total allocation was N39bn or 0.82% of the Federal budget. N8.6bn (22%) was set aside for recurrent spending while N30.4bn (78%) was voted to capital expenditure. This sectoral ratio exceeds the 70% we have always advocated as the minimum for capital expenditure. The 2013 budget reveals an even better picture; the total allocation is N47.8bn consisting of a capital allocation of N39.8bn (83%) and a recurrent expenditure provision of N7.9bn (17%).
In an administration where costs seem to continuously escalate, the Ministry of Water Resources deserves some commendation as it is one of the few ministries with a reduction in its recurrent budget. The personnel cost for 2013 of N6.4bn is a reduction of about 6.2% from its 2012 N6.8bn figure. According to 2013 Capital Expenditure plans, some N17.9bn would be used to complete various irrigation projects across the country: 24 projects in North Central Nigeria, 21 projects would be completed in the North West, 18 in the South South, 11 in the South East, 9 in the North East and 7 in South Western Nigeria.

However, examining the figures closely, one notices that there is a 2013 provision of about N122.7m to complete the Zobe Dam in Katsina; there was a similar provision of the same figure allocated to the same project in the 2012 budget. Simply put, budgeting (and spending?) on this project in 2012 and 2013 would add up to N245.4 million. Incidentally, this same project was awarded at some N52m and was brought to about 80% completion by the Shagari administration by December 1983!

In February this year, the President announced the intention to host an overdue Water Summit with the theme ‘Innovative Funding of the Water Sector in Nigeria’. Unfortunately, Mr. President himself could not make out time to attend this all important summit; he was however represented by the much ‘freer’ Vice President Namadi Sambo. The highpoint of the occasion was the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the Bank of Industry which would enable private investors in the water sector access loans with very low interest rates. This is an interesting development, and it is hoped that the MoU will be developed further to provide another source of funding the implementation of the water road map which President Jonathan launched with much fanfare in 2011..

The water road map has as its main objectives a 75% water coverage by the year 2015 which would increase to 90% in 2020. This might lead discerning Nigerians to question, if between 2011 and 2013, we have not recorded an increase of even ten percentage points of coverage, what hopes do we have of achieving moving from our dismal 32% coverage within the next 2 years?

A more realistic forecast must be made. According to the Water Sanitation And Hygiene (W.A.S.H) 2013 report, at our current rate of progress, the water target of 75% coverage will be achieved in 2033, 18 years after MDG target of 2015.

When the decay in the nation’s water infrastructure is considered, neither the executive branch nor the federal government cannot be wholly blamed for this massive failure. The states’ and local governments bear most of the responsibility for the failure to ensure reticulation of potable water in our urban and suburban areas. The legislative arms of the states and federal government must be held responsible for part of the failure.

The national and states’ assemblies have a substantial say in appropriation decisions, so must be held responsible for any under-funding of the water sector at federal and states’ levels respectively. The legislatures’ law-making powers have not been diligently discharged as well. For instance, the bill for the establishment of a National Dam Commission has since been presented to the National Assembly. This bill which would establish a commission whose sole responsibility is maintaining and upgrading dam infrastructure is worth revisiting, revising if need be, and passing into law. It is obvious that if a bill like this is passed and the commission set up, the pitiable state of Nigeria’s oldest dam, the Kainji dam would probably be reversed.

In spite of our combined 359 billion cubic meters, our inland water systems of about thirteen lakes and reservoirs both of which have a surface area of between 4,000 and 550,000 hectares, Nigeria is still classified as a ‘water short’ country. From all indications this government neither has the vision, nor the political will to bring Nigeria out of its present crisis. Thus, the sad reality is that more Nigerians may die from water related illnesses, while the ministry continues with its current budgeting practices. For most Nigerians, the words of Coleridge, ‘water, water everywhere not a drop to drink’ rings true today, as when it did when it was first written over 200 hundred years ago.

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