Delegates to the National Conference yesterday overwhelmingly voted in favour of the recommendation that the number of ministers and other political appointees should be pruned because they have constituted a drain on the lean resources of the government at all levels.
This was after exhaustive deliberations on the recommendations of the Committee on Public Finance and Revenue, which had argued in its submission that the appointments of several special advisers, special assistants, personal assistants, and other aides to elected and appointive officers in government, are a serious drain to available funds.
Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the conference’s deputy chairman, who presided, had in calling for a position on the issue of reduction in the number of appointees reminded delegates that it is a constitutional issue to which they responded that the constitution would have to be amended in this regard.
Accordingly, after making sure that delegates fully understood the implication of the recommendation said, “That the retinue of political office holders should be reduced” to which an overwhelming majority gave resounding yes in favour of the proposal.
The committee, headed by former governor of Kebbi state, Alhaji Mohammed Aliero, had raised eye brows against the present practice whereby the president appoints a minister from each of the 36 states of the federation as well one each from the unconstitutional six geo-political zones to bring the total to 42, stressing that it is unwieldy.
Peoples Daily observed that delegates had repeatedly decried the large retinue of political appointees describing same a huge drain on the lean resources available for government stressing that payment of these officers contended seriously with the core needs of the society including basic social and economic amenities.
Accordingly, delegates after delegates spoke against the creation of unnecessary offices created by presidency for the president, vice president, and ministers allowing an unwieldy retinue of appointees, most of which do little or nothing yet earned considerable salary.
In a debate that 147 persons contributed, delegates, a good number of them former top political office holders, openly decried the wastage and attributed the paucity of funds for capital projects in most states and local government areas, to the high retinue of redundant appointees.
Meanwhile, delegates also voted in a favour a recommendation limiting the federal government borrowing to bonds and within a date line. The conferees had insisted that most external loans taken in the past had been diverted to unfruitful ventures noting that subsequent loans to be specific public interest and in fact impact making ventures.
They cited $10bn loan taken in 1975 but which yielded $72bn interest that Nigeria had to strain its lean resources to a breaking point to be able to pay under the Obasanjo second term.
They, therefore, cautioned against further mortgaging the future of Nigerians unborn by reckless procurement of excruciating external loans.