For The Record: State of The Nation Address I

The Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy and Politics arm of The Muslim Congress (TMC) in its 8th edition of the Quarterly State of The Nation Address, at the weekend, took a critical look at the horsetrading between the executive and legislative arms of the government at the centre, expressing disgust at the unnecessary delay in passing the budget.

According to the committee of the Faith Based Organisation in the address presented by its chair, Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem, the criminal delay and recurring episode of padding the budget episode is saddened and retarding the nation’s economy into deeper recession.

Below is the full text of the Address:

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

April – July 2017 by TMC Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy & Politics

Presented by the Chair of the Committee, Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem, on Saturday, July 8, 2017.

 

The Restructuring Conundrum

It has become a sing-song that the only thing that can save Nigeria from break-up today is restructuring. Even though the country definitely needs to restructure, what exactly are we going to restructure and how do we go about the restructuring?

These are the critical issues that need to be looked at so we do not initiate a process that would eventually engender an irreversible break-up of the country. It will certainly be difficult to go back to re-enact the regional system as it was in the 60’s because the states that have been created cannot be easily merged again and the political offices that have already been created and occupied by individuals cannot be easily done in.

Regionalism is not desirable at this time and it could be a ploy by some agitators to first consolidate power before eventually seceding from the country once there is enough ethnic political cohesion and the control of their resources is firmly in their grip.

Since diversity has worked and continues to work as a great source of strength, in many other countries like America, Britain, China and India, just to name a few, it can also work in Nigeria. What the government needs to do is to devolve more power to the states in three phases of four years each making a total of twelve years. This is the gradual long-term restructuring.

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A restructuring would focus on the critical areas that would allow the states to improve on revenue generation, to improve the protection of lives and properties, and to improve on building critical infrastructure.

In the first phase of four years, the Federal Government would need to allow state policing, greater control of the education, health and transportation systems, and the generation and distribution of power by the states.

In the second phase, the Federal Government would need to free the local government from the apron-strings of the states by granting them autonomy. There would have to be an upward review of the revenue-sharing formula to 65 per cent in favour of the states.

The exclusive list should be drastically reduced while increasing the concurrent list. The third phase should be the time to stop federal ownership of inter-state roads and the federal character principle.

Full resource control should be the last item on the agenda when it is crystal clear that there are maturity and level-headedness on the part of the administrators of the states.

Nevertheless, we must realise that restructuring alone will not solve our problems. What we must take cognisance of is the fact that our mindset as a people remains our greatest resource because what we think and act upon eventually become our reality, our politics, our economy and our prosperity or poverty.

We need to positively activate our mindset and move away from all negative actions and utterances that have held the nation down for so long. It is only then that the nation can have a new lease of life for the development, peace, prosperity and unity that we so much desire.

Let The Hate Speeches Stop

The circulation of hate speeches by various ethnic groupings is something that does not benefit anyone but rather serves to create more enmity and further division which is not needed by the country at this time.

Irrespective of our feelings of grievances, we must comport ourselves with proper decorum so that we do not engage in actions that will further jeopardise our collective integrity as a people. This is the only country we can call our own and we must, therefore, protect it from anarchy which is the only thing that hate speeches can bring.

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The elders in each ethnic grouping must rise and condemn the ethnic speeches that are being circulated in their areas especially by the exuberant youths. The leaders should not allow the youths to hijack the reins of leadership especially when they have not learnt the art of wisdom, patience, endurance, insightful thoughts and political inclusiveness.

Let the youths be properly guided so that they do not complicate an already bad situation. The elders should show leadership and moderation towards the critical issues in the nation because we would still have to sit down and dialogue at the end of the day irrespective of whatever extreme measures anybody might have taken.

Let us allow wisdom, reason and the national interest to guide every one of our thoughts and actions. It is good that the Federal Government has not ordered the arrest of anyone at this time just so that the tension in the polity is not unnecessarily heightened.

But lovers and promoters of hate speeches must know that they stand the risk of arrest and prosecution should they continue this negative action.

When The Recession Is Aided By Budget Delay

When the 2016 Budget was delayed, we were optimistic that the next budget, the 2017 Budget, would be timely. But unfortunately, the 2017 Budget is even more delayed.

It has taken almost six months for the 2017 budget to be passed by the National Assembly. The delay is due to the lack of synergy in working together by the executive and the legislature.

However, the National Assembly should take a larger part of the blame even though it might have waited for some agencies of government and the inclusion of the second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja which was not reflected in the budget initially.

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Even though the president can spend from the previous year’s budget for a period of not more than six months, it is not advisable to continue with this trend because of the negative implications for the economy.

A delayed budget affects our present economic growth by resulting in job losses, low aggregate income, poor execution percentage, inability to implement the zero budget, low foreign direct investment and a longer-lasting recession.

It is noteworthy that the fiscal year in Nigeria begins on Jan. 1 and ends on Dec. 31. The executive and the National Assembly are supposed to work together to make this achievable even though the National Assembly has no time limit to pass the budget.

But there is a time limit for the president who must start the compilation in June and submit the budget to the National Assembly by October. The budget ought to be passed before the recess of the legislature in December so that the president can sign it into law in January. But this is a far cry from what is happening today.

In order to stop this embarrassing late passage, the president would have to present the budget to the National Assembly in October and the legislature should be given a deadline of three months after which the budget automatically becomes law.

It is common knowledge that the president submitted a budget of N7.28 trillion but the National Assembly increased it by N143 billion to N7.44 trillion. This has led to a disagreement between the two arms of government especially owing from the fact that the National Assembly cut the expenditure for certain critical infrastructure and inserted new projects of its own.

What we believe is that the National Assembly can reduce or increase expenditure but it has no right to create new projects of its own without passing through the executive. This is highhandedness on the part of the legislature.

…….. To Be Continued

 

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