6 December 2012

Nigeria: Sanusi - I Won't Stop Talking

Photo: Vanguard
Vanguard newspaper illustrates the concern.

Central Bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi yesterday replied those who criticized him over his comments on the huge cost of governance, saying he will not stop speaking on the defects in the economy. Sanusi was reported to have said last week that with at least 70 per cent of government revenue being spent on the government itself, the economy will be better off if 50 per cent of workers were fired.

Since then he has been under sustained criticism from legislators and labour unions who even called for his sack.

But Sanusi, who was speaking at the Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, said yesterday that he will keep on making a case for changes that would see the cost of governance go down in spite of his critics.

He said his job was not to make anyone happy but to provide good fiscal and monetary policies.

"The day we stop to talk because of fear of what will be reported, it means this country is dead. My job is not to make people happy. If you are not happy, go to your wife," he said.

He blamed the constitution for creating too many political offices which guzzle lots of public funds in salaries and emoluments.

"These are issues we have to address; they are political issues; as a country, we have a constitution that makes it impossible for us to develop," he said.

"Salaries and wages are paid not just to civil servants. This is a country where we have 774 local government councils; in each council you have a chairman, a vice chairman and may be 10 councilors.

"Take a state like Kano. Kano used to be one state; it is now Kano and Jigawa; when it was one state, you had one governor, may be nine or 10 commissioners. Now what do you have? That one state has become two states, two governors, two deputy governors, 40 commissioners, and may be 80 legislators, only God knows how many special advisers and assistants.

"This is not about NLC or TUC or the president of the National Assembly; it is about us as a country deciding whether this constitution we have chosen makes sense."

Sanusi spoke in reaction to a question from the audience during the debate on 'Deregulation, Regulation, Cost of Financial Services, and Financial Inclusion' at the last day of the economic summit, organized by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.

He said it has become a tradition for the Nigerian media to sensationalise any public comments he made.

Sanusi's remarks were filled with 'ifs', 'whats' and 'whys' which drew applauses from the audience.

On the constitution, he said, "The constitution says there must be a minister from every state. Let me ask, as educated and intelligent human beings, what is the connection between the number of states and ministers? If you have 50 states today, we have 50 ministries, you have 100 states, and you have 100 ministries? What kind of rubbish?"

The CBN governor said he believes government's role is to take care of the people. "Now if the government is spending 70 percent of its revenue on itself, and 30 percent on the people, is sacking the Central Bank governor the solution? Now they are amending the constitution. Why do we need 500 legislators? And why is it that no Africa country has adopted this model of government?" he queried.

He said Nigeria's greatest challenge, greater than corruption, lies in the promotion of mediocrity and sectionalism instead of merit.

"What kind of nonsense that a person due for promotion is denied on the basis of no vacancy to be filled from his state of origin? That could be done at the level of recruitment. We have been able to enthrone mediocrity.

"I have always said that the greatest challenge that we have in this country is that we do not give importance to merit. Forget corruption, go to China, they steal money. In Malaysia, there is corruption. They employ people who are qualified and know their job."

He linked the violence across the country to poor management of the country by leaders. He said the textile industries in Kaduna and Kano used to employ over 600, 000 people but that now that they are out of jobs their children are out of school.

"We talk too much of where is this man from, what church he goes to. Rubbish! Rubbish! Why don't we ask the right questions? How many megawatts of electricity are we generating? How many kilometers of roads have we built? What percentage of kids passes English and maths in schools in O' level. We are not compelling the politicians to appoint people who can deliver. And I think, for me, there is a tragedy," he said.

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