Alex O. Atawa-Akpodiete
During his campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari promised inter alia, to fight corruption, fix the economy and crush Boko Haram. It is glaring that for President Buhari to really salvage Nigeria, he must be bold and courageous to do things that the political elite and Cabals will not want. However, sixty days after taking over the reins of the affairs of the country, there is still no Secretary to the Federation (SGF -which is the engine room of government), economy still in doldrums, and Boko Haram is still on a rampage in the North East.
The following are ten (10) things the President must do to propel the country forward.
(1) FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL. This administration must be bold and courageous enough to eliminate fuel subsidy effective January 1, 2016. By giving advance notice, it will enable people to plan and provides opportunity to put in place palliative measures, while negotiating with the Nigerian Labour Congress and other expected recalcitrant entities. The subject has been a thorn in the flesh of previous administrations and a drain on our annual budget.
(2) MERGER OF MDAs. Several ministries and agencies have similar or overlapping functions. Some obvious candidates for merger actions includes: merge Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other related Offenses Commission (ICPC); merge Federal Road safety Corps (FRSC) and Nigerian Civil Defense Corp (NCDCS) into the Nigerian Police Force (NPF); merge the Amnesty office into the Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs. Some of these MDAs are superfluous and waste of our resources. The mandate can be handled under one body.
(3) PROBE OF PAST ADMINISTRATIONS. Fight against Corruption was a major campaign promise of President Buhari. So, he must probe all past administrations from 1985 (or at least 1999) to present, with the view to recovering stolen funds, not witch hunting. If the President focuses on just the past Jonathan’s administration, some may question whether he is afraid of his former military colleagues. Of course, former President Goodluck Jonathan should have probed the administration of his predecessors and it may become an albatross to the current administration. Nonetheless, as part of the strategy, this administration should offer immunity to corrupt officials/civil servants who are willing to return all stolen funds and testify against their co-conspirators.
(4) BOKO HARAM. The President needs to immediately declare war on Boko Haram, evacuate as many civilians as possible and bomb Sambisa forest, with the aim of recovering the missing Chibok girls and annihilating the sect and its sponsors.
(5) CORRUPT JUDGES AND LAWYERS. We must insist on the rule of law and equity especially in the judiciary by sending a warning to all judges, justices and lawyers that those who are used for forum shopping, corruption and delay of cases will be disciplined and prosecuted. This applies not just to election matters but corruption proceedings.
(6) REDUCTION OF SALARIES AND ALOWANCES. The President should submit a bill for the reduction of salaries and allowances of all lawmakers, elected officials and political appointees. Disclose to Nigerians the exact amount of salaries and allowances of every elected politicians and political appointees. If there really must be change, our lawmakers must become part-time, with sitting allowances. In the past sixty days, they have met for less than five days, even counting the days they went to exchange blows and carry chairs, while trying to steal the mace. As part of cost-saving, all politicians should not be entitled to new vehicles. The existing ones are okay. In fact, there should be no jeeps because it forces them not to identify with the plight of the citizens plying the bad pothole-filled roads. We can help indigenous manufactures by using only made in Nigeria vehicles for government business.
(7) SECURITY VOTES AND USE OF POLICE ESCORTS. Additionally, eliminate security votes and use the money towards equipping the police and military. It is a waste and a conduit pipe for some persons. We should make it illegal for politicians (excluding President, Vice President, Governor, and Deputy Governor) to have police personnel with them. Let the police go back to the stations and street patrols. Send the message emphatically that NASS and House of Assembly members, Local Government Chairmen, SA, and Commissioners have no business having police escorts. All Nigerians are entitled to have security and not just politicians. If they are forced to be without these police escorts, these politicians will make sure the country is safe for everyone.
President Muhammadu Buhari
(8) ABOLISHING MINISTERS AND COMMISSIONERS. The President has stated that he will not appoint Ministers until September. The President’s actions have saved us millions already in salaries, cars, accommodation, allowances and impresses of Ministers. In fact, President should submit a bill to amend the 1999 Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria to remove the requirement for Ministers at the federal level and Commissioners at the State level. The Permanent Secretaries (PS) in every Ministry is capable of running the MDAs. They can report to the President or the respective Governors weekly.
(9) PILGRIM BOARDS. Eliminate both the Christian and Muslim Pilgrim Boards. Government has no business sponsoring religious trips. Will the government now be sponsoring witches, wizards and native doctors to their pagan mission to India or wherever they want to hold annual conventions or initiation ceremonies?
(10) CHANGE OF CURRENCY. The President should consider changing our currency again. This will be the most innovative and drastic fight against corruption. Those who have kept their loot in Naira, hidden at home and underground safes, will either have to bring them out or lose them. I am aware that some politicians and civil servants keep our stolen money in foreign currencies, but a majority still keep their wealth in Naira, especially large denominations (500 and 1000 notes). A resolution giving them sixty days to exchange the old for the new will witness days of groaning, moaning and gnashing of teeth. We may end up creating a new class of regular politicians. The innovative BVN registration and cashless policy will converge to expose many people.
The problems affecting Nigeria arguable have been existing since the First republic. So it will take some time to be solved, especially since they have been compounded with each successive military and civilian regime. We commend our President for some of his laudable decisions to date, including moving the military command responsible for quelling Boko Haram to Borno, replacing the defense chiefs, refusing to meddle in the affairs of the National Assembly, and of Course stepping up the corruption fight to such extent that it has sent shivers down the spine of many corrupt persons.
Nonetheless, His Excellency should still do more, but must proceed with caution because we know what happened to the last messiah. At the end of the day, even those he came to rescue were shouting, “Crucify him, Crucify him!”(John 19:6, Luke 23:21). Humans are very fickle and unappreciative.
Rev. Atawa-Akpodiete, a public Affairs Analyst and Consultant, writes from Asaba. Contact him on 08138391661 or Profatawa@gmail.com