At the Annual Capital Market Committee retreat held in Warri, Delta State, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Malam Sule Sanusi Lamido advised the Federal Government to downsize half of its workforce in order to maintain a sustainable economy. This recommendation drew the ire of many citizens, labour unions including members of the civil service. As always, Spaces for Change discussed this matter extensively in our discussion room, and this is how one of the angry discussants, Bologi Jimada reacted to the Central Bank chief's proposal:
Sule Lamido Sanusi (SLS) has always been a stormy petrel seeking attention with his antics. He knows which ears to sing to about the civil service; after all, both him and Ngozi okonjo Iweala have become the hatchet goons of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan's (GEJ's) government. How can he say those things without looking at his own CBN empire?
For as long as we refuse to cap salaries while creating all sorts of junk offices and agencies to duplicate what had always been the traditional role of the civil service, the rot will persist. Why will SLS pick on the civil service alone? SLS was only being clever by half, that is why he cannot confront the National Assemby (NASS) head on nor the Presidency over political appointees. Regardless of his outbursts, what percentage of our budget has been implemented since OBJ took over in 1999? I'm hearing a scant 40-50% in 12yrs. We make budgets, money comes in, yet government refuses to fund the budget, apparently preferring to build up foreign reserves to impress our big brothers in the west.
The oil and gas sector we all know is the most corrupt sector - both public and private. Can we in all honesty make a case for the huge salaries being paid in the sector while minimum wage paid in the main stream civil service remains 20,000? There is a lot to be done with the seemingly bloated civil service and this I quite agree is necessary to improve service delivery, reduce burden on the treasury and at the same time ensure that people are just not herded out of employment like cows led to the slaughter. The work force needs to be comprehensively retrained and dissipated into productive areas of the economy.
Why has the government - as represented by Sule Lamido and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala - neglected the industries even when it was dolling out money to the aviation sector? SLS made such a show of how money will be freed through all the banks for agricultural take-off. He went on road with it and I really believed he was going to do something. Between him, NOI (who of recent is also singing Agriculture and industry tunes) and the Agriculture Minister no one knows what is happening. Some farmers were offered N150,000 as loans for farming! After dissipating billions as loans, which many people have not seen, the average farmer can only get loans at close to 30% interest! We were told the fertilizer policy has changed and all sorts of innovation was said to have been introduced, yet many farmers could not access fertilizers. One can go on. No one is saying we should not bring down our recurrent bill, but let us sit down and asses everything in an holistic manner. Even the little that we are all grumbling that it is too small after the bulk goes on recurrent, what has happened to it? Has it been properly utilized by the same people complaining about the civil service?
We cannot do without the civil service, it is the only institution recognized by the constitution as the custodian of the people's commonwealth. We have to agree to take care of it so it can render proper service to the nation. And until we can create or stimulate the creation of new jobs, are we going to just throw such massive numbers of people out of jobs? History teaches us that when the masses become totally fed up, they will rise massively against the elites and shove all the fancy highfalutin and self conceited theories down their throats. We shall then know who owns the land.
There is a responsibility that goes with public office which compels every public officer to appropriate decorum in deportment, speech and behavior. SLS has no business issuing tirades against the government he serves; he should rather resign and do so. It is unfortunate that conduct of public office holders has degenerated to the extant that everyone feels it appropriate to denigrate or attempt to dissociate him/herself from the government they serve. There is a preponderance of these within the current government and we should not salute such behavior regardless of what is being said. There used to be a guide to administrative procedure and code of conduct for public officers which bars them from the kind of speeches SLS gives from time to time.
For SLS, it is more inappropriate because he has the wherewithal to effect change without coming to the market square with his story. The burden of fixing things also lies heavily with him. Secondly, what has SLS said that the likes of Sam Aluko have not said in the past? Way back in the early 80's, the government then (not sure if its Buharis) put a cap on civil service employment which lasted several years. In fact, I'm not so certain that ban was ever lifted in view of the sporadic and haphazard way employment into the civil service has become. This decision came about because the civil service was already bloating. Different goverments came with their ways of tackling employment problems. But suffice it to say that it had become a serious economic and social challenge for the government. States started recruiting on the side while accelerating promotions and transferring staff to the Federal Civil Service.
Most of what SLS has to say on the matter, he had already given the NASS a snapshot. I see all this as pure grandstanding, without pussy footing about a word to call it. No one is denigrating his scholarship, but SLS has always had the penchant for controversy and I don't say this lightly. I have known him since 1977 and i know his pedigree. So please lets not allow this discuss to slide into personal rhetorics against each other when we all possess enough intellectual savvy to discern the issues in play.