The Jobs Nigerian Government(s) Refused To Create, By ‘Tope Fasua
…Nigeria is the most-mismanaged country in the world; the one where we find the most luxuries attached to so-called public officers – politicians, and top-civil servants – while the country continues to manufacture mass poverty… a toxic branch of economics, which emphasises selfishness, winner-takes-all, through the privatisation of everything, has mainstreamed in Nigeria and thinkers have a duty to challenge these…
The other day I researched into the tiny dreams and large, byzantine tastes of Nigeria’s successive political and military class when I compared our budget with those of other countries even here in Africa. I need to clarify that I drilled down as much as I could and settled on analyzing the national budgets. Each of those countries have regional/state and even local governments which have their own budgets. For instance, the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town budgeted to spend $4billion and $3billion respectively on their combined population of just over 1.5 million. In Nigeria, most states have simply usurped the functions of local governments while complaining of strangulation from the federal.
Nigerian leaders are committing a crime against humanity by bleeding the country to death and subjecting the people to poverty via their planlessness for the majority. A recent report even came out which indicates that Nigeria will become the global capital for poverty by 2018. I think we are already. I found out that in 2012, Professor Soludo had as a minor point in an article, the fact that Nigeria’s federal government budgeted $180 per person. However, we have progressively spiraled down, with the government budgeting $111 per person in 2017. With the increase to N8.6trillion (or $27.5billion) in the year 2018, we have a marginal increase to $152 per Nigerian, for a whole year (compared to $1900 for each South African, $1600 for each Algerian and $1500 for each Angolan). This is what the federal government plans to spend on each Nigerian, be it for infrastructure, education, defense, health and what have you. Half of that money will disappear, naturally, into people’s pockets. This, in a country which fames itself to be the largest economy in Africa. We have become the largest producer of mass poverty and it’s a big shame. The day is coming when this will boil over.
But that is not my concern today. Today, we should look at the fact that Nigeria’s public sector is plagued with two major issues:
1. It is way too small and ineffectual; in fact it is non-existent
2. It is corrupt and utterly fraudulent.
It is a globally-accepted fact that Nigeria’s public sector has serious issues with corruption. Back home, we daily see this manifested, not only in the wanton and almost universal manner in which public officials like the police, FAAN, Immigrations and Customs officials collect bribes openly, and what goes on in the ministries, we see the news in the papers on a daily basis. It’s almost as if they have no other preoccupation in our civil service than to cook up large heists. Our police was recently rated as the WORST in the world. Of late it’s the pensions scam that’s been in the news. Our top public officers – and their ‘lucky’ collaborators – dip hands into trillions of old people’s pensions. We’ve heard about these things too many times such that Nigerian have become inured and unshockable.
On a daily basis, deals are cooked up, contracts are marked up, duplicated and triplicated and paid out fraudulently to the accounts of smart Alecs. Public officials get what they don’t deserve and proceed to oppress society. The pitiable thing about public officials is that they cannot be seen with any of their acquisitions, and so the monies they corner in the billions and trillions, are sub-optimised; used to buy overpriced assets which are then not put to active use. There is a limit to the success of your investment when you cannot even identify with, monitor and supervise such openly. We have heard of those of them who inspect properties at 2 a.m. in the night because they cannot be seen doing that in broad daylight. The fact is that our big men now have many enemies, within and without, and social media – where everyone is a journalist – is keeping a check on them. We hope they will one day realize the futility of their plundering of the commonwealth.
The anti-corruption fight hasn’t started though. When it starts, we will also hear about how we intend to address the psychology of corruption. When you pay people peanuts in the civil service for so long, when you understaff essential services and refuse to orientate workers properly, they are bound to misbehave once in a position of advantage. The big question is; when do we start to reverse this ugly scenario?
If the public service is corrupt, the politicians move in like locusts and finish off the rest. Between these two entities, Nigeria is dead.
Nigeria’s Public Service Is Too Small
How can I say this? But it’s a fact. Despite the fact that Nigeria’s public service – at federal, state and local government levels – is filled with ghost workers, and it seems those who are real people there have nothing to do, still I posit that our public service is too small, and too many essential services unmanned and unprovided.
The following thoughts will cross the minds of most readers right now:
1. Private sector is the biggest employer of labour (so they tell us in business school right?)
2. Public sector jobs are outdated and inefficient;
3. A larger public sector means bigger corruption and inefficiency.
I will grant you some of the arguments above but not all. The first one is false at least. I have always maintained that the private sector is NOT in the business of creating jobs but in the business of MAKING PROFITS using the least resources. I am making a push against one of those false narratives which has become widely-accepted amongst us, but which I believe is very toxic to our system. I believe very strongly that the rhetoric imported from business schools and multilateral agencies, that says countries like Nigeria should instead promote entrepreneurship among its youths, and that we should shrink the public sector, is fraudulent, or in the least, premature. The evidence I got doing this small research points to the exact opposite. But our politicians have now successfully used this false narrative as crutches to escape responsibility while creaming off the commonwealth. We need to fight back.
Check this table below. I extracted this from International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistics. It shows that whereas the developed countries have large public sectors – with some of them employing 2 or 3 out of every 10 people of working age – failing, failed and poor countries, employ only between 2 or 6 out of every 100 people of working age:
Figure 1: Only tech-based far eastern countries employ as few in the public sector as most African countries
The FACT is that we in developing, failing and failed countries never had any solid public sector base to provide sanity and allow our private sector to build on. Therefore we build in vain today.
My takes are that:
1. Private sector enterprise is great and is the future, BUT only after you have developed a solid base in public service.
2. The effective and adequate manning of public services is not only absolutely essential to the development of the private sector, but indeed the very survival of societies. How can you get tourists or sustainable investors when your country is unsafe, unclean and unorganized? Our public schools still have a ratio of about 1 teacher to 200 children. Ditto our hospitals and even our policing. There is too much space for new employment if our leaders had sincerity and vision.
3. I wrote as much in two of my books even though it did not strike me as vividly then, that there were millions of job opportunities in the public sector, if we just put our economy side by side some of the other economies that work and check their manning levels in public services. I had pointed to the ENVIRONMENTAL sector in my last book ‘Change is Going to Come’, while in ‘Things to Do Before Your Career Disappears’, I spent time ruminating about where our large working population would be engaged in the age of Artificial Intelligence where almost every career is now in jeopardy. I believe the key is simply in the public sector at large.
4. We have been passing our youth through very harrowing times by closing this door against them and asking them to ‘go and start something’, ‘go and be on your own’. Many have tried, only to find that there is no support, and no clients.
5. The Adamu Fika report in 2010, concluded that Nigeria was spending way too much on 18,000 top politicians and civil servants, who cream off N1.17trillion (about $4 billion and precisely a quarter of every budget) from the system on a yearly basis. Almost N1trillion of that amount was spent on all sorts of allowances and entitlements, including the many big cars that are unique to the Nigerian public servant. Elsewhere we don’t see civil servants and political appointees running around in exotic and uber-expensive cars (of which we produce none). I haven’t been to any country where public officials carry on the way they do here. I believe the money they now spend freely is what should have been used to expand the service in the right places so that the people may be served and society can be a little bit saner. NIGERIA IS SIMPLY THE MOST-MISMANAGED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.
6. Indeed, a fairly large and effective public service is the only way of effectively reflating any economy and achieving balance. An economy that relies on its private sector to recover from shocks will only suffer more shocks and the private sector is wedded to volatility. To this extent, it is evident that Nigeria is on a downward spiral to its own extinction if something is not done urgently. I had recommended massive youth employment in the environmental sector before as a way of achieving several things including better security, food poverty reduction, patronage of local goods, patriotism and cohesion, more tourism dollars, lower public health bills among others.
7. An economy with a stable and effective public service will hardly go into recession or depression. And if it does, it will be short-lived. Why? Because the payment of salaries to public sector workers is a surefire way of reflating the economy. It’s a great TRANSMISSION MECHANISM. If 2 or 3 out of every ten workers got some cash flow monthly, the economy will keep moving. In Nigeria, most people are on their own ‘hustling’, while a large number work in rural areas as farmers and okada riders. Even Government workers don’t get paid because of the silly excuse that ‘crude oil is not selling’. As I’ve written here before – and in support of a thesis by no less than Senator Bola Tinubu – a sovereign country has no excuse waiting for Dollars before it pays it’s workers. It is plain wicked to so do. The right thing to do is pay your staff, in your local currency no matter what it takes. Nigeria is in the vice-grip of toxic economics. However, we are also aware that roughly 30 percent of the numbers listed in our public sector, are ghost workers, no thanks to the same big men and women who use that as excuse for their failures daily.
8. Perhaps the reason why our budget is low (or put in economic terms our FISCAL PRODUCTIVITY is dismal), compared with other African countries, is that we have a small but also fraudulent and cancerous public sector. Half of what is presently allocated simply disappears into corruption, maybe also because the problems there are so overwhelming that those saddled to solve them have since given up. The public sector is not meant to sit on a country’s commonwealth but to ensure that its potentials are maximised. I had written about this more than two years ago when the debate raged as to Nigeria’s lost N30 trillion Nigeria (as alleged by Professor Soludo and the then CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, now Emir). Below is what an old friend of mine, and presidential candidate in Cameroun, Professor N.N. Susungi had to say about our economy and its low budgets (driven by low tax compliance and inefficiencies):
“Forget about the GDP Growth Rate and Pay attention to Fiscal Productivity and Tax Revenues. These days when I hear about African countries with high economic growth rates, I yawn because those figures are so misleading. What is important is tax revenues generated by the government because that is the spending power of the country…. The power of the South African Economy is that it generates over $90 billion in tax revenues a year. Nigeria is supposed to be the 2nd economic powerhouse in Africa, but it can only generate $23 billion in tax revenues even though it produces and exports 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day while Angola generates up to $56 billion in tax revenues for producing around 2million barrels per day. Nigeria is not an economic giant. It is a large grape fruit which contains no juice. Cameroon’s GDP is $25 billion, but it only generates tax revenues of $5.2 billion while Equatorial Guinea generates $10.2 billion in tax revenues.”
We are feeding some bad economic chemotherapy to this country, and this bad, imported chemo, is shrinking the capacity, and draining the strength of this country, thereby leading to centrifugal forces trying to blow the country into smithereens.
First of all, the biggest employer in the USA is NOT Walmart. It is the US Department of Defense (DoD), which has over 3,200,000 employees (Navy, Army, AirForce, Marines, and countless Intelligence Agencies). This means almost 1 out of every 100 living Americans – including day old babies and very old retired people, work for US defense. This is probably why the USA has the world on lockdown today. That figure -3,200,000 – also translates to perhaps two percent of working age people in the USA. See below:
Source: Forbes Magazine
Because the US is keen on getting jobs for its people, and it is the global HQ of private enterprise, with a population of about 360million, Walmart and McDonald’s come in at third and fourth places. The Chinese, with a population of 1.4billion, are strong in defence, energy, crude oil and gas and postal departments, where a total of 6.5 million are employed, or 0.4 percent of their massive population is employed. Chinese economy is well diversified even if they don’t release much data. The spillover of their population is everywhere in the world, especially Africa, getting busy while we know not what to do with our own human resources. Between 20 to 40 percent of working age Chinese work with government according to available figures by Citigroup.
Only Japan and South Korea, of all rich countries, employs a low 7 percent of their workforce in the public sector. France has all of 36% and UK, 21 percent! The Japan/S.Korea figure tells us that perhaps at a certain stage of development, a technology-dependent country could reduce its public sector employment. In South Korea however, it is becoming an issue. Their new president won on the basis of job creation – public sector jobs. Nigeria’s Punch Newspaper carried a report recently, titled “When Graduates Become Janitors”. It is about South Korea, which has now realised its error in having a low ratio of public to private sector employment. I extract the below from the report.
According to a research paper released by Hyundai Economic Research Institute in April, the number of entrants for the civil service examination increased from 185,000 in 2011 to 257,000 last year, with graduates attracted by the security of civil service jobs…. Students and young graduates voted in droves for President Moon Jae-in who won the presidential elections in May, in part promising to ease youth unemployment by creating more jobs in the public sector. He described himself as the “jobs president” during his election campaign…. Moon has said he wants to convert contract workers to permanent positions and create 810,000 new public-sector jobs over the next five years, an increase of more than 60 per cent, which will cost the government $18bn…. The government in July implemented blind recruitment, scrapping educational background (to reduce an over-reliance on graduates from a handful of top universities), age, photographs (which led to a boom in plastic surgery), and height and weight statistics on applications for public organisations.
Let me reiterate my concern; because of the tendency to steal and plunder, the Nigerian government has very little plans for its people and is making us all live a very hard life. Most young graduates – and even secondary school leavers – who are out of work today should be gainfully employed. Organized countries around the world ensure a certain level of comfort for their people and position them in critical areas to ensure their national security. Nigeria’s approach ignores the possibility of living simple, decent lives and making do with one’s salary, like is done everywhere else in the world. Just as the older people are looking for big money to stash abroad, they have wired the younger ones to look for opportunities to ‘hammer’ through any fraudulent means. There is no middle ground. Get rich, or die trying. Countries with fairly large – and responsible – public sectors on the other hand, have through that process, taught their people contentment, patriotism, and responsibility to society. It’s no wonder Nigerians don’t feel Nigerian. Most people claim to be from their tribe first, and if Nigeria is lucky, they could be Nigerians second. Why? They don’t feel Nigeria has done anything for them lately. And they are kinda right, though they should be urgently rescued for today’s world has no space for tribal warlords.
Let us look at policing figures for a start, and this time, permit me to use a Wikipedia source:
List of countries by policemen numbers. See ratio of police by ‘100,000 people.
Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of police/civilians. How do we assure security?
Meanwhile, the figures shown above is almost half populated by the ubiquitous ghosts that every administration catches but nobody eradicates:
A 2011 Report about 107,000 ‘Ghost Police Officers. Fraud gets the better of us always
The recent report on policing was specific as to why Nigerian Police is the WORST in the world. Hear some:
“There are 219 police officers for every 100,000 Nigerians, well below both the index median of 300, and the sub-Saharan Africa region average of 268. This limits the capacity of the force to measure up to its law and order mandate…. In terms of process, legitimacy and outcomes, the story is not different which makes the Force fall short of the required standard.”
So Nigerian Police Force does not only have a corruption problem, they have a capacity problem. The numbers could easily be doubled so long as our big men don’t hijack them all for bag-carrying purposes, and so long as they don’t continue to be menace to the society.
Further evidences of public sector manning levels around the world, are shown below:
OECD Averages of Public Sector Employment as percentage of Labour Force (19 percent)
The above figure is for FEDERAL CIVIL SERVICE. It was supplied when the argument raged about tribes in the service. We pursue tribal issues but ignore the FACT that this is a ghost service that is both ineffectual and toxic. These figures are too paltry for our population and challenges!
In Nigeria it is ghost workers everywhere. The small figures are plagued by ghosts/evil spirits whom no one can exorcise.
The numbers keep growing. The VP announced this shortly after the Minister of Finance gave a figure of 33,000 ghost workers who share N143billion annually. Only a bunch of minions who work in the cash office are finally being arraigned. The ghost worker business involved the most powerful men and women in the country.
Every government discovers ghost workers who steal our commonwealth, but they never disappear. This was under the Jonathan’s government.
Paucity of Data
What exactly is the number of public servants employed in Nigeria. A 2005 figure based on work done by Dr Goke Adegoroye shows almost 2.3million. Even if we double that today, that is less than 5million. Our working population should be around 100-120million people, meaning that our public service employs far less than 5% of our working population, as against the OECD average of 21%. Almost half of the numbers are ghost workers anyway. Double jeopardy. We may be riled by Nigeria’s public service and its failures but let us check honestly. How many people do we know, considering the population of Nigeria – including people in the villages – who are employed in the civil service at any level? They are very few.
Still we have to look for growth area. With 2,118 staff in the National Bureau for Statistics, it is evident that they cannot cover a population of 180,000,000, and the vastness of Nigeria’s 923,000 kilometre square. The Office for National Statistics in the UK has at least 3,500 staff, and we are talking of a country where people are used to releasing data – something which is alien here. We can do much better, and employ more people in these areas. Nigeria needs more statisticians and data gatherers. More nurses. More doctors. More policemen. More park rangers. More sanitary inspectors. More civil defense people. More firemen. More street-sweepers. The list is endless.
Am I advocating merely for more people to be employed in Nigeria’s public service. Not at all. But I am saying that the government is not right banning employment in the public service – except if it takes the time to thoroughly evaluate the shenanigans going on there and if it is honest with itself. It may be an admission of failure on its part though, as successive governments have been unable to get rid of ghost workers, and none of them have been able to motivate workers out of their present lethargy and predilection for corrupt practices. I am also advocating that Nigerians deserve a much better life and we should be SERVED by our public service. I am emphasising the FACT that Nigeria is the most-mismanaged country in the world; the one where we find the most luxuries attached to so-called public officers – politicians, and top-civil servants – while the country continues to manufacture mass poverty. I am also saying that a toxic branch of economics, which emphasises selfishness, winner-takes-all, through the privatisation of everything, has mainstreamed in Nigeria and thinkers have a duty to challenge these thoughts.
How Many Public Servants Has Nigeria? Retrieved from; http://thecitizenng.com/how-many-public-servants-has-nigeria-guardian/
Defending Jobs. (2011). The Economist. Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/employment?fsrc=scn/tw/te/dc/defending
The World’s Biggest Employers (2015). Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/06/23/the-worlds-biggest-employers-infographic/#57223be686b5