from Africa in Transition

Nigeria’s High Cost of Governance

December 17, 2012

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Politics and Government

Heads of State and Government

Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s courageous governor of the Central Bank, has once again called attention to the high cost of government in Nigeria.  He claims, credibly, that at least 70 percent of government revenue is spent on the government itself. In a comment that will hardly endear him to the political class, he called for the downsizing of government by half. Sanusi bravely pointed out that it was not just civil servants that receive government salaries.  He said, “this is a country where we have 774 local government councils; in each council you have a chairman, a vice chairman, and maybe ten counselors.” Each receives a government salary, as opposed to other countries where local governments are paid by revenues raised in their locale.

For Sanusi, the fundamental problem is the constitution, and its requirement that state resources and jobs be allocated to each of the states to uphold the principle of “federal character.”  Hence, each state must be represented in President Jonathan’s cabinet–which means a cabinet of thirty-six ministers and thirty-six ministers of state.

Sanusi was made central bank governor by President Umaru Yar’Adua, Jonathan’s predecessor. A Muslim from the North, he is regularly speaking truth to power, including within the national assembly, which he has accused of wasting his time. Not a member of Jonathan’s inner circle, he is likely protected by his justifiably high international reputation and because it is difficult to fire a governor of the central bank.