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Public Spiritedness

| December 27, 2012 More

This piece was inspired by a dream, In it, I saw an apparently mad woman amidst a crowd under the Obalende Bridge overlooking the old secretariat that is now derelict and a shadow of its old self. While people mobbed the newspaper vendor, speaking about all manners of subject in and outside the day’s edition, she grabbed a copy of The Guardian and handed it over to a youngster, collected a naira and fifty kobo notes from a pregnant woman.

“See you have been talking about the published names of new recruits into the Federal Civil Service. Since the vendor would not allow you read it here for free, why not just buy with her money. Her money cannot pay for pre-natal in any government hospital. Let her just walk into that hospital there (pointing to a hospital owned by one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides).

There, she should explain her own situation. I am sure they are public-spirited enough to know what they have unleashed on us all.”

Bemused spectators drawn from passers-by like me and the members of the Free Readers Association changed topic and stated discussing this woman state of insanity and the insanity in public offices. As if she was in a cue, she returned and announced: “Yes I am mad but I am not stupid like the people leading you and lack public spiritedness!”

What exactly is public spiritedness and does it matter in public service? How much of it do we see our leaders’ exhibit or is it limited to when they lash at critics and promise to do better next time around like the prodigal son of Edo State, who had to repeat her tenure? Is it limited to when disaster strike and they condemn our attackers or blame nature instead of their warped preparation for the challenges of leadership and governance?

I have watched the trend of the country rising debt profile by 61.48 per cent in two years, amounting to an average of N107.08bn every month for 24 months or a total of N1.285tn per annum. If the increment in debt profile is subjected to daily analysis, the Federal Government borrowed N3.52bn every day in the last two years.

Not done with the quest for questionable borrowing ostensibly to bolster critical infrastructure like roads, rail, health, education, agriculture and human development  the coordinating minister for the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has forwarded a portfolio of concessionary loans totalling $9.3 billion under the 2012-2014 Medium Term External Borrowing Plan and an additional $1.4 billion comprising a $300 million loan for water supply schemes in selected states, a $1 billion Euro bond and $100 million Diaspora bond which will be issued next year.

We have also been told why it has become necessary for Gov. Isa Yuguda is currently seeking a total of $171m foreign loan for Bauchi state. Kaduna State is seeking $234m loan to fund projects which include the Bi-Lingual Education Programme and the Urban Water Sector Reform Project. This is in addition to the state’s current debt stock of $182m that the late Ibrahim Yakowa inherited. Also in the league of foreign loan-seeking states are Lagos, Edo, Kaduna, Ondo, Yobe, Ogun, Cross River, Adamawa, Kwara, Niger, Enugu and Oyo.

We would also need another $300m for a low-income housing scheme, which will be financed by the World Bank to provide affordable housing for Nigerians. But why our public office holders want us to believe that they are more public spiritedness than the schizophrenic woman at Obalende, we have been told by government apparatchiks that the Vice President Lodge had to be hike to a whopping N16bn to meet his taste and other hideous considerations from its original N7bn.

Unlike the thinking of the insane woman, the government is not thinking of child and maternal health, there are no public libraries to cater for poor students, youths and the unemployed. The legion of crises does not engage the attention of our ‘public-spirited’ leaders and by tomorrow, we have skewed budgetary allocations in favour of recurrent expenditure.

The MTEF 2012-2015 targets 29.07%, 30.6% and 31.1% as percentages of the overall budget to be spent on capital expenditure in the years – 2013, 2014 and 2015 and the percentage of the budget dedicated to capital expenditure will not allow the country to meet the accelerated infrastructure upgrade expected in Vision: 20:2020 and the MDGs.

This capital investment pattern will deepen poverty and will result in economic stagnation. A country that seeks double digit growth rate must channel more resources to capital investment. The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (“NEEDS”) reforms had articulated the ratio of recurrent to capital spending to be 60%-40% from the year 2007 and onwards.

Even with the little resources available for capital expenditure, the budget is suffused with thousands of projects which available resources cannot pay for in the medium term. This has led to so many abandoned and uncompleted projects littering the landscape. Projects under the Ministry of Works clearly illustrate this anomalous situation.

A presidential committee has identified that over N10trillion will be needed to complete these projects. If the public officials cannot cut down their own expenses, what is the justification for the huge layout for servicing the public officers? It is definitely not about public spiritedness and no matter what the promise of Mr. President; the next two years hold only pipe dreams.

Category: Bauchi State News

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