The recent statement of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, during the swearing in of new Commissioners, slashing 50% of his salary for the next two years and use of current official vehicles brings nostalgia. In 1962, the Premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, late Sir Ahmadu Bello, announced a six year development plan for the North. In order to achieve the strategic objectives of the development plan, within the resources available, he reduced by 10% salaries to all Ministers and other political officials, and abolished many of their allowances.
Many will also recall that in 2020 as part of the Covid-19 response measures, the former Governor, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, ordered all senior appointees and top civil servants in the state to “donate 50 per cent of their salaries” to fund the provision of relief items to vulnerable people in the state. Indeed, there is no gainsaying that we are in desperate times with increasing demand for desperate measures as well as demonstration of leadership by example.
It is in this light that the Governor’s statement, in a bid to empathize with the current challenging economic situation, should be appreciated. The Governor was reported to have stated, “I will donate 50% of my salary to the Trust Fund for the next two years. This is part of my sacrifices towards reducing the cost of governance in Kaduna State, and to better the lot of the poor, underserved and vulnerable in our State.”
Furthermore, the Governor warned that, “we are therefore in a period of emergency. This is a time for belt-tightening. Austerity measures have been unofficially declared.” As well as that, “we will take firm measures in Kaduna State to cut down on the cost of governance. We must, as political leaders, show our people the way. We must avoid an ostentatious lifestyle. We must not be telling our people to make sacrifices while we are busy living in opulence.”
However, to demonstrate the Governor’s seriousness and commitment to transparency and accountability, it will be important for the administration to declare how much in total the 50% salary slash will amount to in two years. This will enable the residents to better appreciate the significance of the sacrifice of the Governor. More importantly, the Governor needs to urgently mandate the immediate review of the 2023 approved budget to ensure re-allocation to strategic priorities in response to the current difficult realities.
Instructively, among a few examples, the State allocated a meager N1.4 billion, approximately 0.4% of the total 2023 approved budget of N376.5 billion, with capital expenditure getting a disturbing N750 million, to the entire agriculture sector. While allocating N3.9 billion for procurement of motor vehicles under the Ministry of Finance. Also, why should we at this dire time be allocating N877.7 million to Citizens’ Engagement and N559.6 million on Entertainment and Hospitality under the overhead cost of the Government House.
For a State that already has 70% incidence of multidimensional poverty as well as combined unemployment and underemployment of about 67%, the administration needs to review its budget to reflect the current priorities. Even though the State has allocated N15.4 billion for social protection, it needs to balance the distribution, as Old Age (pension) has the highest chunk of 59%; while 22.0% went to Social Protection programmes, 7.4% to Housing, 7.8% to Survivors and 3.6% to Social Exclusion.
In summary, beyond the laudable personal sacrifices of the Governor and other political leaders, more importantly, there is the urgent need to review the 2023 budget to re-allocation resources to strategic priorities that directly has to do with poverty reduction, ensure value for money in service delivery and enable social accountability through openness and proactive disclosure of information.
Lets engage, ask the right questions and hold the government accountable.
Yusuf Ishaku Goje