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Can Our Governments Be More Irresponsible?



By Jide Afolabi

I have watched, discussed, analysed and written on Nigerian governments at all levels since independence till date. The common factor among all is irresponsibility. The worst of all of them is this 4th Republic dominated by two kleptomania parties – the ‘ruining’ All Progressives Congress (APC) and its terrible counterpart, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The primary function of any government everywhere in the world is the protection of lives and properties and ensuring good welfare for the citizens. This was further enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).

Nigerias Real GDP growth was estimated at 2.3% in 2019, marginally higher than 1.9% in 2018. There was growth in transportation, information and communications technology, and an improved oil sector. Household consumption contributed 1.1% to real GDP growth. Governments effort to lower inflation to the 69% range faced structural and macroeconomic constraints, including rising food prices and arrears payments, resulting in a rate estimated at 11.3% for 2019.

However, the nation continues to wallow in debts and poverty. Fiscal revenues below 7% of GDP and increased public spending widened the deficit, financed mainly by borrowing. At the end of June 2019, total public debt was $83.9 billion – 14.6% higher than 2018. That debt represented 20.1% of GDP, up from 17.5% in 2018. Domestic public debt amounted to $56.7 billion and external public debt $27.2 billion. The poverty rate is still high with over half Nigerias 36 states above the national average of 69%. High poverty reflects rising unemployment, estimated at 23.1% in 2018, up from 14.2% in 2016. Nigeria real GDP growth was projected to rise to 2.9% in 2020 and 3.3% in 2021. This was premised on the growth witnessed in 2019 and the projected increase in the Value Added Tax from 5% to 7.5% which took effect on March 1, 2020.

All the above figures are meaningless to poor Nigerians who cannot afford food and shelter for their families; and clothing, health and education for their children. At a time that things are extremely difficult for the people as we continues to battle with the pandemic Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), situation which had necessitated stay-at-home’, skeletal work, job losses, and unpaid salaries and allowances among others. But our ‘ruining’ leaders are busy making money out of the poor citizens. One would have thought that government at all levels would be more responsible and humane on the people. Alas! The reverse is the case.

More terrible are the security agents who are milking poor Nigerians dry. Someone even told me that one police officer was telling her that if any police did not make money during this COVID-19, such officer cannot make money again in the job. He went further to say that he had roofed his house out of the money he made from COVID-19 fraud. That is how stink our public officers are.

It is this same material time that the government remember to implement the Value Added Tax (VAT) increment from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent. It was this same period that the Stamp Duty was vehemently implemented, thereby increasing the already terrible inflation rate. Today, you pay 7.5 per cent on almost everything you do in Nigeria. For instance, if you make call, you pay it; send message, you pay it; browse, you pay it; go to mini marts, restaurants, supermarkets, you must pay it.

The government did not stop at that. You deposit above N10, 000 into your bank account, you pay stamp duty; when you withdraw, you pay it; and when you transfer, you pay it also.

It is this same period that the Federal Government through the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) – another harbinger of fraud is planning to be collecting 6 per cent Stamp Duty on the already high rents. Haba! Imagine such on Lagos residents who ordinarily on first payment for a house rent of N200,000 per annum pays about 380,000 due to Commissions, Caution Deposits, Agency Fee (even if the landlord is the agent) etc? Less we forget, the petroleum pump price they met at 97 Naira per litre is today N143 per litre. Kerosene is no longer affordable for Nigerians, ditto the gas. What of the diesel? Peasant Nigerians have even forgotten a product bearing that name.

In Lagos state, the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) Officers, made (and still making) many motorists cry. They appeared to be created to make people cry. None of you that make people cry would die without paying for it.

Today, inflation rate is at 12.40 per cent and unemployment rate at an unacceptable 23 per cent. Nigerians are poorer than before today. In fact, we became the capital of poor people in the world last year. How do you tax a poor man that cannot even provide basic things like food, shelter, and clothing for the family?

Just few days ago, we read of how some, if not all local governments in Lagos state asked Lotto shops to be paying taxes. As if that was not mad enough, I just heard that they want to be collecting tax from Alaaru (Wheel barrow pushers and those that help to carry loads). In the first instance, is that a decent job? Those that are into it, are they happy or proud of what they do? Yet, you want them to pay you so that you and your generation of vipers can have more to steal? Nonsense! You and your generation will end up like those poor Alaarus, Insha Allah.

Of what benefit is even our government at all levels? We provide our own security; give ourselves light; dig our boreholes or buy water; educate our own children by ourselves; and provide our own health cover. Upon all the billions of dollars that the nation makes annually, what are we benefitting from it High taxes, increase in VAT, electricity hike, epileptic power supply etc.?

One cannot but angrier walking down our streets and seeing legion of poor beggars from toddlers to teenagers to adults. Many people have died of preventable diseases. One would be forced to ask the question: do we have government in Nigeria at all?

Funnily enough, when it comes to transparency and accountability, they would either be fainting; forming sick or turn themselves to comedians. That is when we would be hearing, Off your mic. Its ok. Set awon were gbogbo (Set of mad people). Shame! From the executhieves to legislooters to the judisharing, all na the same! Set of criminals in authorities. Not only Gods judgment is coming upon you and your generations, the blood of innocent Nigerians that you have killed would speak much more than the blood of Abel. No one is asking you to change, just continue so that your damnation can come speedily and fully.

You are buying cars worth hundreds of millions of Naira when Nigerians cannot afford Raleigh bicycle. You are building mansions when Nigerians are sleeping under the bridge and at best, in uncompleted and collapsing buildings. You are spending money to reduce weight after you have overfed yourselves when Nigerians are going to bed hungry. You are sending your own children abroad for their education and patronizing the best private schools in Nigeria when you are closing down our public institutions and where opening, reducing the quality. The wrath of God is patiently waiting for you.

What about our banks? They are the grand Hushpuppies. One of the big commercial banks was besieged by customers recently because of the Stamp Duty deduction. The bank was forced to reverse the deductions but then, just few days ago, they deducted the Stamp Duty again. The smart ones among them would not even send you alert whenever they deduct your money. The only thing you discover when you make next transaction is that your balance has reduced. You would not know what the deductions were meant for. You will all pay for it at the right time. Criminals!

When last have we heard anything good about Nigeria a nation destined to be great; a nation predicted to be among the greatest on earth? You would not hear. The reason is simple our leaders at all levels are heartless. They have turned Nigerians to Hushpuppis. Why wouldnt Nigerians engage in criminal activities? Are our leaders not more criminal than those they lock up in cells and prisons for minor offences? Those that deserve to rot in jail are walking free. Criticise them, your life is in danger. Hmmmmmmmm!

Can’t you even learn lesson from death? Asiwere yin n ko oro jo, ti o mo eni to ma na (The fools are gathering wealth when he does not know who will spend it). This is not to say all our leaders are corrupt or bad. We have a few God fearing leaders among you. We can find them in the executive, legislative and judiciary; among the politicians; captains of industry and leaders of thoughts. We are not asking you to be perfect. We are simply saying provide the basic things for us and stop burdening us with taxes when there are no commensurate facilities.

Somebody asked, was Nigeria ever great? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Anyway, There was a country. Rest on, Chinua Achebe.

Jide Afolabi is a social commentator and good governance advocate.

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