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Editorial

Implementation of the 2023 budget

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Following failure of the Federal Ministry of budget to sanction budget implentation defaulters, ensuring full implentation and ensuring effective sanction for  2022 budget implementation defaulters will be highly appreciated.

President Muhammadu Buhari had signed 2023 budget into law. What remains is the implementation. The signing of the eight and the final annual budget of this Administration, the aggregate expenditure of N21.83 trillion is an increase of N1.32 trillion over the Executive Proposal for a total expenditure of N20.51 trillion.

Although, President Buhari explained that 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act would enable the administration to respond to havoc caused by the recent Nationwide floods on infrastructure and agriculture sectors .

The President must ensure it is spread on those areas as  indicated in the budget and  show abundant evidence to justify his claims.

The Minister of Finance , Budget and National Planning must in her duty, subsequently provide more details of this approved budget and the supporting 2022 Finance Act.

The amended fiscal framework for 2023 as approved by the National Assembly shows additional revenue of N 765.46 billion. It is now obvious that National Assembly and the Executive  will look for a way to capture some of the proposed additional revenue source in the fiscal framework. This must be rectified and on time too.

The lawmakers also increased the oil Benchmark price from $70 to $75 while daily oil production rate is expected to be 1.69million per barrel and  the rate at N435 per dollar.

Another area the budget was effected is that the National Assembly introduced new projects into 2023 budget proposal for which it has appropriated  N770.72 billion. The National Assembly also increased the provisions made by Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) by N58.55 billion but all this must be corrected  and judiciously utilised for the purpose it is meant for.

While revealing some of the new introductions to the budget, the President directed the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed to involve the legislature in revisiting some of these changes made to the executive budget proposal.

At the signing of the budget, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila disclosed that it is the duty of the lawmakers to increase budgetary proposal saying it is called separation of powers.

President Buhari made it known that his decision to sign 2023 Appropriation Bill into law as passed by the National Assembly was to enable  implementation without delay, considering the imminent transition process to another democratically elected government.

In all these, we have had the issue of ‘padding’ in the previous budget which did not augur well for the sanctity of our revenue and expenditure.

In 2023, the baton will change hands, a new president will assume office in few month. He will try to capitalise on what is at stake to continue where his predecessor stops.

This is our New Year resolution, we want the budget to be rectified where necessary, implemented and accounted for.

The government cannot afford to disappoint the citizens in this 2023.

We look forward to having a better nation.

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Editorial

Government playing politics with inflation

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With frantic efforts by the President Bola Tinubu administration to stabilise the economy, the inflation rate has continued to rise on a monthly basis without drastic measures.

Following the trends of inflation report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) one begins to feel that the government has been rather inactive in managing the inflation situation. We have been applying only the orthodox approach which is all about increasing monetary interest rates. As much as we have increased the monetary policy rates by 5.5 percent in the last 12 months, inflation has climbed rather steadily to 28.92 percent today, with a slight dip some months back, followed by steady rises.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has raised the monetary policy rate by 400 basis points to a record 22.75 percent from 18.5 percent. Members after the two-day meeting in Abuja increased the asymmetric corridor to +100 basis points /-700 basis points (Previously: +100 basis points /-300 basis points) while they also increased the Credit Reserve Ratio (CRR) to 45.0 per cent from  32.5 percent; and retain liquidity rate at 30 percent.

The CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso disclosed this at the 293rd Meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee in Abuja and said the increase of the anchor rate was to moderate the country’s soaring inflation rate, which stood at 29.90 per cent in January.

The decision of the MPC also coincided with the announcement by the CBN of the sale of foreign exchange to Bureau de Change (BDC) operators in the country at N1,301 per USD, according to a Tuesday memo signed by Hassan Mahmud, the director of the Trade and Exchange Department at the apex bank.

The resumption of the sale of forex to BDCs is happening more than two years after the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, stopped the sales to BDC operators in that segment of the forex market.

According to the memo, the move is part of CBN’s “strategic steps” to increase liquidity and strengthen the naira against “manipulators”.

However, the new aggressive stance of CBN in raising the anchor interest rate, which determines what the banks charge on facilities to customers, is being queried by Prof. Uche Uwaleke of the Department of Banking & Finance, Nasarawa State University, who said jerking up the MPR by 400 basis points in one fell swoop is simply overkill, suggesting that 200 basis points would have been better since they have another opportunity to meet next month to review impact

Precisely, a few weeks ago the NBS disclosed that the inflation rate in Nigeria gained 7.58 percentage points in 2023 when it increased to 28.92 percent in December 2023 from 21.34 percent reported in December 2022.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) reported by NBS showed that 28.92 percent in December 2023 is relative to the November 2023 headline inflation rate which was 28.20 per cent.

According to NBS, “Looking at the movement, the December 2023 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.72 per cent points when compared to the November 2023 headline inflation rate.

“On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 7.58 percentage points higher compared to the rate recorded in December 2022, which was 21.34 per cent.

“This shows that the headline inflation rate (year-on-year basis) increased in December 2023 when compared to the same month in the preceding year (i.e., December 2022).

“Furthermore, on a month-on-month basis, the headline inflation rate in December 2023 was 2.29 percent, which was 0.20 percent higher than the rate recorded in November 2023 (2.09 percent).

“This means that in December 2023, the rate of increase in the average price level is more than the rate of increase in the average price level in November 2023.”

NBS stated that the percentage change in the average CPI for the 12-month ending December 2023 over the average of the CPI for the previous twelve-month period was 24.66 percent, showing a 5.81 percent increase compared to 18.85 percent recorded in December 2022.

On urban inflation, the NBS report stated that “On a year-on-year basis, in December 2023, the Urban inflation rate was 31.00 percent, this was 8.98 percentage points higher compared to the 22.01 percent recorded in December 2022.

“On a month-on-month basis, the Urban inflation rate was 2.42 percent in December 2023, this was 0.19 percent points higher compared to November 2023 (2.23 percent).

“The corresponding 12-month average for the Urban inflation rate was 26.22 percent in December 2023. This was 6.83 percentage points higher compared to the 19.38 percent reported in December 2022.”

For rural Inflation, it said, “The Rural inflation rate in December 2023 was 27.10 percent on a year-on-year basis; this was 6.38 percent higher compared to the 20.72 percent recorded in December 2022. On a month-on-month basis, the Rural inflation rate in December 2023 was 2.17 percent, up by 0.18percentage points compared to November 2023 (1.99 per cent).

“The corresponding 12-month average for the Rural inflation rate in December 2023 was 23.25 per cent. This was 4.91per cent higher compared to the 18.34 per cent recorded in December 202.”

Unfortunately, the Whereas 2 percent – 4 percent inflation is considered to be healthy inflation (for matured economies), and we may run up to say 6 percent – 8 percent in our economy without any sense of panic, the Central Bank of Nigeria has set its inflation target at anything below double-digit. Let’s call that 9 percent. We are thus 13 percent above this target.

How else can we force down inflation? And what latitude can we entertain especially because high rates of inflation also usually come with high GDP growth rates? The contention for me is that we should target much higher rates of growth in our GDP than the 2 percent -3 percent that we are doing and projected to do presently. It’s actually quite depressing when one sees such projections. Can we accommodate lower double-digit inflation as a price for much higher GDP growth rates? The new administration has gone all out to promise a GDP growth rate of between 8 percent to 10 percent. How can we achieve this without letting inflation run away any further?

I believe it is achievable though but that will require us discombobulating where our 22.22 percent inflation is coming from. First off, growing the economy much faster simply means getting rid of inefficiencies, ensuring that people actually get productive for whatever salaries they are paid, improving capacity utilisation in industries, getting companies to grow, encouraging new productive ventures, and generating considerable productive buzz in an economy.

We can look at other economies that have achieved this to be able to get an idea of what it takes. Many such countries – like China, India, and even other African nations which have grown at about 8 percent for some years, such as Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Egypt, and Ethiopia – saw real investments in infrastructure, evidencing healthy growth rates. A focused leadership, resolute in enforcing a level of discipline, punishing and rewarding promptly to signal its direction, and with adequate performance monitoring of all sectors and its targets can put Nigeria on this same track.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, through its monetary policy committee (MPC), has adopted an orthodox approach permanently by continually increasing interest rates. Perhaps that’s the best the CBN can do, or else it is accused of extra-monetarism. The textbooks say once general interest rates are increased, inflation will slow down because people are better incentivised to save money, and to borrow less, thus money in circulation reduces and inflation follows suit. If we consider where Nigeria’s inflation is coming from – with a major portion stemming from food inflation – we will most likely conclude that we have cost-push inflation. This means that sellers are passing on the higher cost of bringing goods to the market.

However, if we are honest, we will find that Nigeria’s inflation is a multi-variable phenomenon — cost-push, illegal money in the hands of many people, bad data as a result of a large informal economy, inflation from our import-intensive economy, and price gouging by those who can exploit consumers. We should understand that Nigeria’s economy is a very loose system where people get away with all sorts. So, is there any direct intervention that can be made in the agricultural sector to slow down food inflation? That will require a careful and deliberate walk-through of the entire value chain. It is not enough to throw money at the problem by way of intervention funds, a lot of which goes to waste.

A multi-sectoral approach is required, with strong executive leadership. We have no excuse for food inflation to be so high on a month-on-month basis. If we could intervene and begin to work down food and other inflation, this will have an immediate effect on our overall headline inflation numbers. We cannot afford to leave every sector to the shenanigans of players in such a growing economy. Perhaps direct government interventions to assuage the agonies of our farmers and transporters will help to tame general inflation.

Policies to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of the economy, putting downward pressure on long-term costs – At the end of the day, competitiveness and better regulation of sectors within the economy, are what guarantee the strength of an economy. Deregulation of markets is not the application of laissez-faire policies where anyone does what they like, but better, more transparent, and more scientific policies and regulatory approaches. This will then ensure that sellers in an economy think twice before playing games. Overall, too, the leaders in an economy have to be able to reduce the rat race by which people chase more money and more advantages for themselves no matter whose ox is gored. In most of Europe, people have since gotten to that level.

A higher rate of income tax could reduce spending, demand, and inflationary pressures. This is another approach to curbing inflation. Whereas Nigeria may not raise taxes at this point, what we propose we do is get serious about enforcing government revenue. The CBN is increasing interest rates in a desperate but thus far futile bid to slow down inflation, whereas the fiscal sector merely wrings its fingers at our low revenue-to-GDP ratio. The former minister of finance must have given up since no support came from a disinterested president.

There is a large room for tax compliance in Nigeria. And we are not talking about just taxes, but every revenue accruable to the government – rents, rates, duties, fees, fines, levies, and what have you. We cannot run such a slack society and expect glory to abound. Also, there is no basis for reducing government expenditure at this point. Our people’s standard of living is still so low, such that the government must have a mindset to spend more – on education, health, security, infrastructure, electricity, and rail networks. However, the efficiency of this spending is what matters.

Are we getting value for money? Is the spending getting to the people? Are we empowering Nigerians? If viewed this way, we will not be powering up unproductive inflation, but rather growing the economy (GDP). The real problem we have had in Nigeria is low growth and very high inflation. Growth must ramp up, while inflation goes down. As difficult as it may look, this is the only way forward that can be achieved through sincerity and deep thinking.

Ultimately, the government at the center should collaborate with the state governments to put to the lasting menace of insecurity so all farmers have access to their farming activities and transport their food produce into the market. Infrastructural challenge is another nightmare that must be given urgent attention to boost economic activities in the country.

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Editorial

Education vs. Experience: What matters most in political leadership?

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The recent deliberation within the esteemed House of Representatives, pertaining to a bill that seeks to modify the minimum academic prerequisite for individuals aspiring to hold political office, has ignited a profound fascination in the realm of governance in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The bill, titled “A Bill for an Act to Alter the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to change the Educational Qualification for Elections into Certain Political Offices and for Related Matters,” aimed to raise the requirement from a first school leaving certificate to a university degree or its equivalent.

Although the bill was eventually withdrawn by the House, the debate surrounding it shed light on the importance of educational qualifications in political leadership.

Supporters of the bill argued that in today’s globalised world, it is absurd that the only requirement for all elective positions is a basic school leaving certificate. They emphasised the need for candidates to possess a higher level of education to effectively navigate complex issues and make informed decisions.

On the other hand, opponents of the bill voiced their concerns, stating that a university degree should not be the sole determinant of a candidate’s suitability for political office. They argued that experience, leadership qualities, and a deep understanding of the needs of the people should also be considered.

Additionally, they highlighted the potential exclusion of candidates from marginalised communities who may not have access to higher education.The debate surrounding this bill has brought to the forefront the question of how educational qualifications impact the quality of governance in Nigeria.

While the bill may have been withdrawn, it has sparked a necessary conversation about the importance of a well-rounded skill set and the need for a balance between educational qualifications and other essential qualities in political leadership.

Despite the opposition’s concerns about the education gap and the potential exclusion of certain individuals, their main argument against the bill was that academic qualifications do not truly measure knowledge. Some members suggested a compromise by increasing the qualification level for higher offices but not for local council positions.

However, these debates failed to convince enough people to move the bill forward. It seemed to be a divisive issue that could not gain enough support, even though it raised important questions about the quality of education and the significance of academic qualifications in governance.

It is disheartening to see that in this modern era of educational advancements, the minimum requirement for the highest office in the country is only a primary school leaving certificate. This speaks volumes about how low the standards have been set for a position that requires the highest level of information processing and decision-making. It is simply unacceptable.

While we acknowledge the importance of experience in leadership, it is difficult to imagine any organisation hiring a CEO with only a primary school education in today’s rapidly changing world.

We must emphasise the crucial role of education in politics, governance, and development. It is through a solid education that we can effectively formulate and execute policies. Additionally, problem-solving skills, which are greatly enhanced by a robust education, have been the foundation of civilisations for centuries.

These factors are the key differentiators between development and underdevelopment. However, the path to societal progress is not solely paved with academic achievements. It requires a strong sense of patriotism and a genuine desire to serve.

Without these qualities, academic knowledge becomes not just futile, but also a dangerous force that can wreak havoc on society.Interestingly, since 1999, many of our political leaders have boasted impressive educational backgrounds.

We have had presidents, governors, and lawmakers with degrees from prestigious institutions, some even from abroad. Yet, the overall quality of governance has remained disappointingly average.

In fact, corruption has grown exponentially while the standard of governance has regressed, if not deteriorated further. It is disheartening to note that a significant number of political office holders currently facing trial or investigation by anti-graft agencies are individuals with strong academic credentials.

We often hear stories of pre-independence and first republic Nigerian political leaders who, despite having limited formal education, excelled in their roles and served the people admirably. If the purpose of education is to mold individuals into responsible and service-oriented citizens, then higher education should enhance their contributions to society.

However, in Nigeria, the opposite seems to be true. It is no wonder that for years, the academic qualifications of many political office holders have been called into question.

Perhaps, if and when the debate resurfaces, we can hope that lawmakers will give more consideration to the urgent need for improving the quality of education in Nigeria. In our opinion, the discussions sparked by this bill should prompt a reevaluation of our educational system, aligning it with modern trends and demands.

Beyond the lamentation over the inadequacy of the first school leaving certificate, it is crucial to delve into the very foundation of our nation’s academic system.

The profound disregard that our educational system has endured over time, both in the past and even in the present, necessitates a thorough examination.

Merely obtaining a tertiary level certificate may not suffice in cultivating the kind of leaders our governance structure desperately requires to thrive.

Let us embark on a journey of creative exploration, peering into the intricate architecture of our academic landscape.

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Editorial

The need for public participation, consultation in establishment of State Police

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In the midst of growing consensus and demand for  state police across Nigeria, it is crucial to address  the concerns raised by certain stakeholders  regarding the decentralisation of civil security.

While there are legitimate fears that state governors may misuse their power to oppress political opponents, leading to conflicts over jurisdiction between federal and state police, and exacerbating ethnic divisions and discrimination nationwide, it is reassuring to know that the legislation on state policing can include practical provisions to prevent such abuses.

Recently, President Bola Tinubu and the 36 state governors convened an emergency meeting on February 15 in Abuja, where they agreed to legalise state police through an amendment to the 1999 Constitution, which currently grants exclusive authority to the Federal Government. Building on this momentum, the House of Representatives has initiated legislative work on the bill for state police, spearheaded by Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu.

The history of policing in Nigeria experienced its first fracture following the military coup on January 15, 1966, which toppled the civilian government. The coup leaders transformed Nigeria into a unitary state, dismantling the regional policing system established by the British colonialists.

Despite a brief period of civilian rule in 1979, the reintroduction of state police has eluded the political class until now. This moment presents an opportune time to rectify this historical oversight.

During the previous administration of Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2023), security breaches reached alarming levels, prompting the South-West governors to push for the establishment of the Amotekun corps, a modified version of state police.

However, President Buhari and his allies covertly and overtly resisted these efforts. Notably, former Kaduna Central Senatorial District lawmaker, Shehu Sani, has emerged as a prominent opponent of state police, refusing to endorse its establishment.In conclusion, as the clamor for state police intensifies, it is essential to address the concerns raised by skeptics. By incorporating safeguards into the legislation, we can ensure that state governors are prevented from abusing their power.

The time has come to rectify the historical shortcomings and embrace the establishment of state police as a means to enhance security and foster unity in Nigeria.

Southern Kaduna has become a hub of violence, with frequent killings, abductions, and arson by bandits. However, there are concerns that the ruling party in the state will exploit this situation to legitimize thuggery, oppress opposition parties, harass non-indigenous people, and engage in other corrupt activities. This could lead to a power struggle between the federal and state police forces, resulting in anarchy.

These fears are not unfounded, as there have been instances of former governors deploying security agents to target their political opponents, including the author of this argument. Some governors have also influenced the police to arrest journalists and critics on false charges.

This argument is supported by Salihu Yakassai, a politician from the First Republic Northern Elements Progressive Union, and Jubril Ibrahim, a professor of political science. They warn that state policing could lead to the proliferation of firearms, conflicts of interest in the security system, and pose a threat to national unity.Critics also argue that governors would struggle to fund state police.

This viewpoint is shared by Olusola Subair, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, as well as many other retired and serving Nigerian police officers. However, despite these valid concerns, they are not strong enough to dismiss the idea of state policing altogether. The current security system in Nigeria has completely broken down, making it necessary to explore alternative solutions.

Additionally, these counterarguments fail to acknowledge the widespread human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, extortion, torture, and interference in elections that occur under the Nigeria Police Force. Innocent people are often arrested for simply “wandering,” and many others are subjected to brutal treatment. With only 371,000 police personnel in a country of 220 million people, the shortage of personnel is worsened by the fact that a third of them are deployed for illegal VIP duties. This alone justifies the need for police devolution.

The year 2020 witnessed a wave of protests in Nigeria, known as the #EndSARS movement, which was sparked by the brutal treatment of young people by the police. Amnesty International reported that 15 lives were tragically lost during the attack on defenseless youths at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos by security agents.

This incident, along with the regular misuse of federal police by governors to suppress opposition and perpetrate heinous acts, highlighted the urgent need for change. One glaring issue that became apparent was the insufficient number of police officers in the country. Many communities were left without adequate police presence, allowing criminals to operate with impunity. The situation was so dire that the Governor of Katsina, Aminu Masari, expressed his dismay, revealing that only 30 police officers were responsible for safeguarding 100 villages in the state.

This lack of security had devastating consequences, as evidenced by the alarming number of lives lost during Tinubu’s first seven months in office and the gruesome Christmas massacres in Plateau State. The mayhem continued to spread, with Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Benue, Niger, and Taraba falling victim to vicious attacks by marauders. Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue even claimed that foreign herdsmen from Niger Republic had infiltrated the state.

These horrifying statistics only worsened under the leadership of Tinubu’s predecessor, Buhari, with a staggering 63,111 reported killings, according to SBM Intelligence. Former Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo repeatedly advocated for the implementation of state policing, recognizing that law enforcement is a local responsibility.

He emphasised that Nigeria, with its vast size, cannot effectively police the entire country from a centralized location like Abuja. It is perplexing that Nigeria stands alone as the only federal entity in the world without devolved policing. In contrast, all other 24 federal countries have embraced this approach, including Germany, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Sweden, and Switzerland, where policing is decentralized to regional or state levels.

In light of these circumstances, it is evident that Nigeria must embrace innovative solutions to address the pressing issue of security. Devolving policing powers to the states would not only ensure a more efficient and localized approach but also empower communities to take charge of their own safety. It is time for Nigeria to join the ranks of other federal nations and adopt a progressive and effective system of state policing.

The policing system in Canada consists of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and municipal police forces. The RCMP enforces federal laws and provides policing services in most provinces and territories. Municipalities also have their own police forces. Nigeria should learn from federal countries like Canada and the United Kingdom to improve security.

The issue of jurisdiction and funding should be clearly defined in the law to address concerns. The United States has the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which collaborates with various enforcement agencies to combat crime. Nigeria is facing a security crisis, and establishing state police forces could be a solution.

However, clear guidelines and limitations should be put in place to prevent undue influence. The payment of state police officers should also be taken seriously.

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