ISSUES: Nigerians react to Osinbajo’s call for national debate on expensive govt

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during the webinar

Nigeria’s Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, participating in a webinar organised by the Emmanuel Chapel, called for a national debate to examine the issues around the size and cost of governance, said to be expensive and unsustainable.

His position was expressed on Friday, while responding to a question thrown at him by the former governor of Central Bank, and deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi.

The webinar moderated by Professor Kanyinsola Ajayi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Dr Chinny Ogunro, had other panellists in attendance.

At the webinar with the theme: “Economic stability beyond COVID-19,” Sanusi, in a follow up to his last Friday’s position that Nigeria’s governance structure had set it up for bankruptcy, asked the vice-president a question on what the current administration would do differently to address the perennial problem.

But Osinbajo responding said, there was a need for national debate to address the situation, contending that it could be difficult for the government to do something about its cost by itself but that it is something that must be done.

However, he informed that government had been able to cut waste through detection of ghost workers.

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Sanusi, in asking his question had observed that: “The greater Atlanta (in the United States) has a Gross Domestic Product that is higher than that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Atlanta is not the richest city in the United States.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful, but the annual sales of Tesla exceeds the budget size of our country, so should we not begin to cut our coat according to our cloth; should we not begin to look at all these costs and the constitution itself; maybe turn the legislators to part-time lawmakers, have a unicameral legislature instead of bicameral, have the local governments run by employees of the Ministry of Local Government Affairs? We just need to think out of the box to reduce structural cost and make government sustainable over the long term.”

While responding, Osinbajo said: “There is no question that we are dealing with large and expensive goverment, but as you know, given the current constitutional structure, those who would have to vote to reduce (the size of) government, especially to become part-time legislators, are the very legislators themselves. So, you can imagine that we may not get very much traction if they are asked to vote themselves, as it were, out of their current relatively decent circumstances.”

It was on this premise, Osinbajo said there was a need for national debate.

“So, I think there is a need for a national debate on this question and there is a need for us to ensure that we are not wasting the kind of resources that we ought to use for development on overheads. At the moment, our overheads are almost 70 per cent of revenues, so there is no question at all that we must reduce the size of government.

“Part of what you would see in the Economic Sustainability Plan also and several of the other initiatives is trying to go, to some extent, to what was recommended in the (Steve) Oransaye Report, to collapse a few of the agencies to become a bit more efficient and make government much more efficient with whatever it has,” Osinbajo said.

Meanwhile, Nigerians, who have expressed their feelings on Twitter, came up with mixed reactions to Osinbajo’s call for national debate.

Their views expresses below: