John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria’s High Cost of Governance

by John Campbell
December 17, 2012

Nigeria's central bank governor Lamido Sule Lamido speaks at conference on banking reforms in Nigeria in Lago 11/02/2010. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)


Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s courageous governor of the Central Bank, has once again called attention to the high cost of government in Nigeria.  He claims, credibly, that at least 70 percent of government revenue is spent on the government itself. In a comment that will hardly endear him to the political class, he called for the downsizing of government by half. Sanusi bravely pointed out that it was not just civil servants that receive government salaries.  He said, “this is a country where we have 774 local government councils; in each council you have a chairman, a vice chairman, and maybe ten counselors.” Each receives a government salary, as opposed to other countries where local governments are paid by revenues raised in their locale.

For Sanusi, the fundamental problem is the constitution, and its requirement that state resources and jobs be allocated to each of the states to uphold the principle of “federal character.”  Hence, each state must be represented in President Jonathan’s cabinet–which means a cabinet of thirty-six ministers and thirty-six ministers of state.

Sanusi was made central bank governor by President Umaru Yar’Adua, Jonathan’s predecessor. A Muslim from the North, he is regularly speaking truth to power, including within the national assembly, which he has accused of wasting his time. Not a member of Jonathan’s inner circle, he is likely protected by his justifiably high international reputation and because it is difficult to fire a governor of the central bank.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by ernest Nnagbo

    Liked by the private business elites and any true progressive, he speaks truth amidst an extremely currupt federal government, he is terribly hated by the currupt political class and business men that profit from government business

  • Posted by Wyseman

    It is pathetic though this continuing characterisation of African along tribal and religious line. It is as though, it is meant to maintain status quo of the divide and rule tactics of the impreliast. You see a Nigeria and you tag him along religious beliefs is just not right. You talk about Sanusi, and each time people read your stories and they’ll say, he is from the North, a muslim…..and while at it, his identity…..of been a Nigerian is lost. Even the the very issue you are talking about is subsumed under all these retrogressive comments no matter how good it is.

    Africa, Nigerians especially dont need this characterisation now. If you try and write on issue without it, you will see how much it will help us instead of further killing us.


  • Posted by Charles Houssou

    Brilliant, brash and very gutsy, he sometimes comes across as immature in the maaner he makes some rather incendiary comments, such as linking Boko Haram attacks to the derivation policy. I like, though, that he takes on the clowns in government. Fearless? He comes from the royal family in Kano(actually in line for the throne), and so nobody would dare touch him. Maybe this, more than his ‘international reputation’ protects him.

  • Posted by Zainab

    One thing about Sanusi is his consistency in what he believes in. He is an economist (I would say centre-left ideologically, if one is so inclined to place him on the political spectrum) and he has always advocated for a leaner and more efficient government. Now this entails a wide range of things, and depending on the issue he chooses to speak about, the timing, his approach and the extent to which the media decides to “sensationalise” whatever he says, he is seen as pro-people or anti-people.

    Take for example his proactive support for the removal of fuel subsidies earlier this year, which earned him the wrath of the people – the middle class and the masses, even among his fellow “northereners” – who felt he had done a u-turn from his “radical” pro-people stand on things. However, till date, Sanusi is unapologetic and insists fuel subsidies are “unproductive”, preferring subsidies for agriculture and education. His words.

    Now coming to the issue of cutting the size and cost of governance. At first the media and Labour Unions (deliberately?) took what he said out of context, and Nigerians were about to call for his head. When he clarified and reiterated his position in the media, most Nigerians reasoned with him. The truth is the cost and size of government HAS TO BE PRUNED DOWN, in terms of political appointees, remuneration of elected office holders, and cutting down the size of the over-bloated and extremely inefficient public sector. Sadly, the call will probably fall on deaf ears. Public sector recruitment is a key instrument of patronage in Nigeria by many, regardless of party affiliation.

    Finally, on the issue of Sanusi retaining his position as Central Bank Governor, the dynamics will become more intriguing next year at the end of his tenure, whether or not President Jonathan will decide to renew his tenure — to retain Sanusi who as you rightly noted, has astellar international reputation or to cave into many (powerful) pressures to fire one of the few credible technocrats.When the time comes, it is certainly bound to create its unique firestorm which will rage on for a while.

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