This is an article borne out of thorough concern for a nation in distress like Nigeria. Our boat is about to capsize and our hard-earned reputation is about to be wiped off. There are problems everywhere as hunger and abject poverty remain the order of the day. Kidnappings and abductions are no more news and human life has no meaning with herdsmen at war with the innocent Farmers. The killings and political unrest continue. Nigeria is a blessed country with her citizens yet in search of the fruits of God’s abundant blessings! Nigeria is indeed at the cross-roads.
This is not one of those articles in search of the modalities for restructuring, reorganising or reordering of the nation. There is no doubt that restructuring and devolution of powers are essential ingredients for progress and development in Nigeria. Even with restructuring in place, if solid institutions are not established to curb and contain the ills of the Nigerian society at all levels and in all phases of life, we are merely joking. It is clear that as things are we are heading for a doom. The word ‘Institution’ as used in this article means – Laws, Processes, Frameworks, Strategies, Computer Programmes, Packages, Applications and Approaches, which can be bounding and all-embracing in keeping all citizens (without exception) under check. It is a sort of action/behavioural leveler which makes everybody equal before the law of the land. It is not a respecter of persons, immunity, impunity, tribe, religion, class, political interest, gender, language, dialect etc. It reminds all citizens that ALL their actions have serious consequences. The word ‘Institution’ is therefore used as an all-encompassing word to mean that everyone is equal before the established laws and other legal frameworks.
For a reminder about the efficacy of and previous experience with Institutions in Nigeria, the Buhari-Idiagbon Administration established and enforced that Institution named – War Against Indiscipline (WAI), in phases and it worked. Nigeria embraced and sipped in the various cultures of WAI which still remain with us until today. The culture of queueing and routine/regular environmental sanitation in States, are still very much in force in many (all) States. It worked because it was strictly enforced. Other examples of successful Institutions can be found in Lagos State.
The Lagos State Government which has become the cynosure of all eyes in Nigeria today is thriving and surviving because it has established effective Institutions for its success, despite its large population. Through its Institutional Reform for efficient service delivery, the Lagos State Government has implemented several reform schemes through the creation of functional agencies. Areas covered include – transport, resource mobilisation, urban environmental management, and sewerage and waste management. The specific agencies established are as follows – the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Lagos State Water Authority, Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Emergency Medical Services (LASEMS), Lagos State Ambulance Services, and Lagos State Microfinance Institution (LASMI). The establishment and effective implementation of these Institutions (Agencies) through legal enforcements and other strategies have contributed in making Lagos State – the best, cleanest and livable, as well as most buoyant among other Nigerian States.
Further, many private businesses in Nigeria are buoyant due to the entrenchment of strong Institutions or operational frameworks. One striking example of a successful business outfit is the Dangote Business Conglomerate. It has established and perfected the institutional frameworks which do not permit indiscipline, corruption, laxity, indolence, nepotism and dishonesty which are rampant in public (Government) establishments.
This article is particularly important for Nigeria and her peculiar damning and complex circumstances. The clamour for fragmentation and breakaway is ringing louder on a daily basis yet many of us are interested in keeping Nigeria one, in spite of the difficulties at hand. This is why the paradigm shift in the way we govern and the way we must be governed becomes expedient. Nigeria must catch up with the rest of the global village if her survival is to be guaranteed. We need to change our ways and the only feasible way is to develop and implement solid and reliable operational frameworks (INSTITUTIONS). Frameworks or Institution which have human faces, fairness, equity and justice, as principles are going to serve as pillars for success to our impoverished nation. A few Looters and Kleptomaniacs should not be able to hold the entire nation to ransom anymore.
Before a successful formulation and fabrication of Institutions in governmental environments and workplaces is possible, our first point of call is the re-examination of our current value systems. Where are we and where do we have to be at with regards to our value status? What is happening in families and in homes? What is happening in our local environments and societies? What is happening in Schools at all levels? What is happening in offices and workplaces – public and private sectors? Thorough and sincere assessments and answers to these questions will provide the reasonable and lasting solutions to the myriads of problems in Nigeria. Without the foregoing, Nigeria will not be able to cultivate new and appropriate sense of value required for progress, peace and development.
Nigeria has more than enough of deep ‘Thinkers’, eloquent ‘Speakers’, and prolific ‘Writers’ to make the best presentations to the rest of the world on the way forward, even as things are turning sour. The situation has become embarrassing to all of us, regardless of who we are in the society. There is also nothing new in workable solutions as we have heard them before. Somebody sometimes, and somewhere has written and suggested fantastic solutions which fell in deaf ears and deliberately so too! Often this is for selfish and greedy reasons on the part of our leaders, especially if the benefit is not going their way. Many fantastic solutions had been ignored in the past. If the gain is on the other side, good proposals will find their way in the trash bins! Unfortunately, such rejected proposals often resurfaced, however, they get transformed and distorted to bear another person’s name who eventually gets the credit (contract) to carry out such assignments! This is the height of fraud and corruption in high places, being our familiar characters and ways of life. All these must change and Nigeria must clean herself from these awful shenanigans for her to survive.
Nigerians need to be ‘born-again’ and decongest from improprieties and immodesties. We need to flush out all sorts of uncleanliness from our systems from – homes, offices, institutions at all levels, and societies as social wastage We need a paradigm shift in our value system and establishing viable Institutions remain the panacea to our myriads of problems. Neither the analogue politicians nor the digital youths in governance can redeem Nigeria without a total change and ‘re-birth’ of individuals. Our DNA has been contaminated and we all need to be reprogrammed for a better Nigeria. Otherwise…
Some advantages of institutional arrangements are that the workings of establishments and organisations are guarded by policies, structures, mechanisms, laws and consequences which are carefully thought out and strictly enforced. The practice, approaches and conducts involved in such institutional structures are programmed to happen without fear or favour. It is devoid of any nepotism or favouritism on the part of authorities and everyone is equal before the law. This new institutional should be the new normalcy and new order in our governance in Nigeria. Transparency and accountability should be the priorities in the workings of all systems at the micro and the macro levels. In recent times, Nigeria seems to be achieving some sanity through the introduction and adoption of two special Institutional frameworks – the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS). However, these two are still at their teething stages of implementations. One is not in doubt that the full implementation of the two schemes (Institutions) in all Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDA), the States and Local Governments levels, will purge Nigeria of the ongoing massive corruption and looting of the nation. The prevalence of excessive LOOTING of government funds and unbelievable presence of GHOST WORKERS on governmental payrolls in the economy have crippled Nigeria economy for too long. A few unscrupulous individuals had fed so fat at the expense of the impoverished majority. All these must come to an end.
The first step adopted by government in bringing an end to the looting was the introduction and use of Treasury Single Account (TSA) to collect and deposit funds for governments and parastatals. The advantages of the TSA cannot be over stated. It has helped in reducing the number of accounting officers in the system by ensuring more frequent inventories and auditing for early detection of fraud. The TSA is a financial policy in use in several countries all over the world for bringing about transparency in financial transactions of governments. By establishing a unified structure where all government funds are collected in one account, government is able to reduce borrowing costs, extend credit and improve its fiscal policy among other benefits.
The introduction of the Treasury Single Account policy therefore was also vital in reducing the proliferation of bank accounts operated by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) towards promoting financial accountability among governmental organs. ‘Remita’ is the name given to the new electronic collection agent. This integrated electronic payments and collections platform was developed by a company called the SystemSpecs. (http://www.systemspecs.com.ng SystemSpecs). Remita is currently doing wonders in curbing corruption and looting of Nigeria’s Treasury. For example, this TSA initiative was reported to have enabled the Federal Government of Nigeria to take full control of over 3 trillion Naira ($15 billion) of its cash assets as at the end of the first quarter of 2016! Recently, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun disclosed that the Federal Government has recovered the sum of N1.6 billion from just one individual’s account in a commercial bank which was made possible through Treasury Single Account…The minister also said the consultants also recovered an additional N400 million excess charges from one of the commercial banks into the TSA account… (Vanguard, May 4, 2018). These reported recoveries and savings through the TSA are mere tips of the iceberg. When the TSA is fully implemented in all MDAs, States, and LGAs, Nigeria will have no need to seek loans from anywhere anymore.
A second Institution currently in use in Nigeria and which is also doing wonders is the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The Premium Times of August 14, 2014 shows an alarming headline that the Finance Ministry and the Budget Office were also among the Agencies with thousands of Ghost Workers among the MDAs. These two offices, alongside sister departments- the Office of the Auditor General and that of the Accountant General, all responsible for managing government’s resources and checking abuse were among the agencies with the highest number of fake staff on their nominal rolls. A total of 46,639 ghost workers were uncovered between 2007 and 2012 in government ministries, departments, and agencies, and they accounted for N118.9 billion in losses to public funds, as reported by the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Premium Times, March, 2014.
Further, after integrating the payroll of the Nigeria Police Force into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the Federal Government of Nigeria has discovered 80,115 ghost officers on the force’s payroll (Victor Ekwealor in March 27, 2018, TECHPOINT). Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun said the government has saved over ₦68 billion on personnel cost though the full deployment of the IPPS in the payrolls of MDAs. Another positive impact of the IPPIS was that by December 2013, a mistake by one of the consultants handling the Federal Government’s Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) led to about 213 staff of the National Universities Commission(NUC) being overpaid to the tune of over ₦220 million…
…The Head of the Continuous Audit team of the Federal Government, Mohammed Dikwa, also said that N50 billion was saved so far through the audit of security agencies payroll…“Since we started the continuous audit programme… and over 43,000 ghost workers have been removed from the payroll of the federal government (Nigeria Security Agencies alone). (Premium Times May 24 2016)…
The building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions to achieve sustainable development is sine qua non to good governance and healthy development in Nigeria. The incoming government after the 2019 elections must therefore remember that ensuring strong institutions is a central challenge to development as well as pivotal in the control of corruption, indiscipline and several other ills of our society. Well-functioning public management systems, accountable organizations, strong legal frameworks, independent judiciary, vigilant and vibrant civil service will get Nigeria to the desired destinations of sanity and probity. Greed and selfishness, stealing and looting by unscrupulous Nigerians must stop so that all Nigerians can enjoy the blessings of our rich nation. We have been looted dry over the years! The national cake must get to the poor masses.
POSSIBLE NEW INSTITUTIONS TO BE DESIGNED AND DEVELOPED
Similar technologies like the TSA and IPPIS can be designed and installed in government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) to close the pipelines to corruption and fraud in Nigeria. Nigeria is blessed with Professionals, Specialists, Technocrats, Programmers, and Researchers who are able to come up with ingenious designs and frameworks which can plug many holes through which unscrupulous Nigerians have been able to loot and plunder our nation’s resources. It is also possible to purchase ready made packages and frameworks from other parts of the world instead of reinventing what already exists. Some areas which may need urgent attention are suggested as follows:
- Establishing a format for Constitutional Review by a second tier of representatives of all Nigerian ethnic groups and class apart from the NASS to correct inconsistencies bedeviling governance.
- Establishing an Institution NAME AND SHAME to kill corruption, through accountability, integrity and transparency. This may be built into systems and organs of workplaces (Customs, Immigration, Ports Authority, Federal Inland Revenue Services, Airports, Sea Ports, Licensing Offices, etc. to halt the ever-present bribery practice in some of these work environments).
- Strengthening of the whistleblower movement and getting every citizen to be at alert ie When you see something, say something.
- Establishing and putting up a legislation guarding the administration of loans and grants to deserving and qualified individuals based on merits. This omnibus Board should be manned by people of integrity who will not compromise at any level. The collection of agencies to be integrated should include -Application processing; Registered Professional Builders, Research Agencies, Construction Experts, Inspection Agencies, etc. All these agencies should be licensed and registered by government. This is the practice in corruption free countries of the world.
- Stopping the Internet swindlers and the Yahoo Gangs. These Boys should be halted (quashed) to desist from giving wrong signals to the gullible ones in the society. Internet fraudsters should be heavily punished to serve as deterrents to others. Anyone caught should be specially incarcerated (camped) and made to put their knowledge to good use for government.
- Politics needs to be made less financially lucrative and tempting. It has been seen as the quickest means to get rich without much labour. The governmental agency responsible for regulating the salaries, remunerations and benefits of Legislators and public office holders should review the remunerations guidelines and be more vigilant to control and guard the illegal hiking of salaries and benefits by the Legislators and Public Office holders. Politics should not be left as a do or die affair because of the jumbo pay packets. This is a serious lapse which must be halted. Responsible and respectable Nigerians should be allowed to govern, not thugs and hooligans!
- Making politics to be less lucrative and more service-based. Politicians must be mandated to perform some community functions as evidences of their service to the communities. Town Hall Meetings and Reporting Schemes for Politicians must be made compulsory. Score Cards must be developed for Politicians for community assessments of politician’s performance. Attendance Registers at plenary sessions must be marked and Quarterly Attendance reports must be issued to constituencies during Village meetings as evidence of proper representations. Evidence of active participation in plenary sessions should also be included in the score cards of politicians. How many Laws were initiated and how many were passed? Contributions to debates? Constituencies need all these as evidences of seriousness of our politicians. Part-Time politicians may even be better for Nigeria.
- Establishing a permanently blacklist of offenders and those found guilty of fraud and corruption. Barring them from public offices/political offices and activities as punishment.
- Establishing an Institution to streamline judicial practice at various levels of the court system to ensure appropriate and prompt punishments. Institution to set time limits for judicial dispensations of cases ie prompt dispensation of justice.
- Setting up of the Insurance systems to cope with the general indiscipline tied to driving ethics on Nigerian roads. Tracking and revamping of driving records to reflect safe driving, accident markdowns and subsequent warnings and loss of driving privileges for chronic offenders. This is as practiced in many developed countries ( UK, USA, Canada ).
- Enlarging the Police system – Federal and State Police for effective coverage in communities. Removal of flamboyant and excessive Police security allocated to significant individuals at the expense of the communities-wide coverage. Reduction in Presidential and Governor convoys and entourages to save costs and minimize wastes.
- Strengthening of the tax system to ensure appropriate taxation and tax evasions logistics, basically boosting the revenue collection systems in the Federal, States and Local Government Areas. Strengthening of the FIRS like the almighty USA IRS will increase Internally Generated Revenues at all levels of government.
- Ensuring the National introduction and implementation of TSA, IPPIS in all MDAs, States, and LGAs of Nigeria. These schemes and Institutions must NOT be restricted to Federal Government alone.
- Establishing a reliable national comprehensive data base for Nigeria by harmonizing/synchronizing the DL, BVN, PVC, National ID, Birth/Death Registries, National Passports, Phone Service Provider Biodata etc. These will, to a large extent contain and control fraud in the public and private sectors.
- Promulgating proper Laws for bringing an end to the culture of wasteful spraying and currency trafficking in Events Centers in Nigeria. Social venues to be Policed and offenders prosecuted.
- Re-acculturating the entire citizenry on the principles of punctuality, Working for day’s pay, and Industry Vs indolence. African Time should be brought to an end.
- Government Policing and controlling of irrational market fluctuations to stabilize/repair the economy and relieve people from poverty and hunger. Modality for Market regulations on appropriate pricing of commodities should be instituted to replace the arbitrary price dictations from traders
The above list is in no way comprehensive enough to contain all the anomalies which Nigeria is currently grappling with. It is expected that solutions cannot be arrived at in one fell swoop. If we take a gradual and consistent approach, our nation can be washed clean of many anomalies before too long a time. If and when effective machinery are put in place on some of the above list of possible Institutions, Nigeria will become another paradise on earth by His Grace and mercy.