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Divesting from the Petroleum-Driven Civil Service – 1

We don’t seem to have gotten over the consequences of the low price of oil yet. Good.  Our revenue in effect is dwindling.  Very good. The revenue being earned for the federal government cannot disburse enough subventions to the states and local governments. Extremely good. The civil servants, education institutions and medical personnel are agitating for one strike or the other. Ex…cellent.  Are you wishing for the collapse of the country? Nope. I am looking to its real rebirth. This might be nature’s way of opening our eyes to the resources that we have already been blessed with including other natural, agricultural and abundant human resources.

What was that you said? Some parts of the civil service are planning to go on strike. Really!  And when not on strike and fully at work, what exactly is their contribution to the national economy?  The civil service has become more of a distribution channel for Abuja welfare package, earned from the sweat of the Port Harcourt axis, propped up by foreigners, while importing our goodies via the Lagos ports of Tin Can and Apapa. 

To take out the petroleum sector of the economy, what exactly does the civil service primarily earn for Nigeria both at the national, state or local government levels? Apart from the Federal Inland Revenue Service – which is not money primarily made but collected by administrators from what has been earned – and the Customs and Excise – which is equally money collected from earnings that have taken place elsewhere – what other institutions make meaningful money for Nigeria with the petrochemical contributing seventy percent of our national revenue? Basically, without the petrochemical sector and the tax receipts we also get from it, we are almost nothing.

Once the money is earned, this is sent to the Abuja distribution centre before being forwarded to all tiers of government by the civil service.  All forms of contracts are offered for all and sundry by the very ingeniously administrative skills of the civil servants the end result of which is the importation via the ever-busy heavily congested Lagos ports. From this imported feeding frenzy is where the Customs and Excise makes its revenue and Lagos State earns its acclaimed internally generated revenue feeding off the country’s imported consumption appetite. And this is the economy as administered by the civil servants with hardly anything of added value to the national economic grid that forms the mantra for our biggest in Africa Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  More like grand delusional people with hardly any of our activities connected to the productivity level of the nation’s economy but lubricating a national welfare consumption state.

With the bounties from the petrochemical sector no more at staggering heights of over one hundred dollars per barrel and having hardly invested in a Plan B diversification drive, we now know the emperors and empresses have no clothes on and we have been running an illusory economy.  The non-payment of salaries at the national, state or local level really illuminates the true economic worth of the various civil service organs to the nation.  They have been riding on the back-sweat of the much maligned informal private sector and the output of the foreigners in the petroleum sector who are the real revenue earners propping up our economy.

While they are playing out their administrative non-productivity, to digress a little since they are connected, their legislative political masters in the National Assembly find it wise in being unable to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and other economically useful legislations for years on end. With esteemed fanciful speed and national interest, the best they can offer the nation is a sham of rushing through a raft of non-productive asinine bills at the tail end of the last political dispensation where their ‘leg is late’ in ever achieving anything of significance to the nation – stratospheric salaries, perks and budget padding notwithstanding. At least they dress well. What is the return on investment of the whole assembly rightly car-plated NASS with ‘N’ representing non-productive personification at the highest level. Like master like servant.

Where the civil service constitutes the largest bulk of employment in the country which is reflected in the huge annual budgetary allocation made for recurrent expenditure, it demonstrates a classic illustration of abysmal national productivity.  The ideal ratio between the public and private sector should be 1 : 3 where every public servant that is employed means three private sector employees are in the economy. If we can achieve a 1 : 4 ratio, then our efficiency must have progressed to the dreamy high heavens of meaningful national productivity.

To use my favourite state of example – Ekiti, as is typical of most states in the country, is just a civil service state with dreamy hopes of ever being a viable state. Meanwhile it is one of the best subsistence yam producing states in the country with undoubtedly other agricultural products in the state.  What has happened to the state so far? Plenty of roads have been built with also a highly educated population.  But in what way is that able to generate any meaningful revenue for the state? The roads are of productive value when most of the traffic is based on the movement of one product or produce earning revenue for the state. While the investment in education is of added value when it is relevant to utilising the resources of the state rather than producing the students most of them do not seek for employment in the state but ultimately join the rural-urban bandwagon brain drain train to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt (LAP).  Apart from the occasional breezing in to say hello to relatives or their burials and traditional weddings, that is it.   Those who do stay are in the education sector busy churning out more outbound LAP oriented graduates or they end up in the civil service waiting for petroleum dispensation bounties from Abuja. This non-viability template is a reflection of most, if not all the states in the country including the Abuja FCT.  The most honest accountable transparent system with the best well-intentioned integrity cannot shift this unproductive state of affairs to development without engaging the mass of the people in the various small businesses around the nation.

To be continued…

Dele Owolowo is an Author, Educationist, Trainer and Rural Entrepreneur with a widely travelled background.


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