For many years, self-righteous private sector players have looked down on Nigeria’s civil servants, seeing them as icons of employed joblessness. Hardworking civil servants have suffered for long under this despicable tag. Respite has now come the way of the civil service, as the national assembly has gobbled up all laziness-themed awards for 2016. With outstanding performance in the first quarter, the rest of the year is irrelevant. The “ayes” have it—our reps have won.
To the average Nigerian, a civil servant is a duly employed staff of the three tiers of government who reports to work at 10am, writes 7:15 in the office attendance register, then slowly makes his/her way to a sparsely furnished office after 40 minutes of exchanging friendly banter and avoiding office enemies. After a 30-minute general morning prayer against forces of evil, work starts for the day. Then this government worker spends an hour flipping through files and newspapers. Thereafter, he/she leaves the office to pursue a supplemental source of income. Total productivity at the end of the day: zero. This activity list is exaggerated, but then, Nigerians have the right to think anything.
Now that we have a picture of the performances that gifted the civil service its exquisite award for laziness, an obvious question would be: “What the hell did the national assembly do to beat the civil service?” The lawmakers, under the leadership of Messrs. Saraki and Dogara, set up a record number of committees last year. Seemingly, one of such committees was tasked with creating a blueprint to outshine the civil service. This is a retelling of their success story.
The legislators passed a budget that they neither “saw” nor understood. How do we know this? Very easy; no need for CIA-grade intel. As part of reactions trailing the 2016 budget fiasco, some legislators duly informed Nigerians that Messrs. Goje and Jibrin, chairmen of the respective appropriation committees single-handedly “budgeted” the budget. This information unwittingly exposed the strategy for wresting the coveted laziness award from the civil service. Let’s look at this.
The budget (well-padded) was delivered to the national assembly. In their usual custom, the bill was entrusted to the Joint Appropriation Committee, while lawmakers faced more useful matters. By the way, the number of breaks per year was a criterion in the awarding process. So the committee took ownership of the 1800-page document. As part of the laziness act, the committee members left the bill in the hands of their trusted chairmen. Goje and Jibrin called a few hands, and carried out various activities on the budget—addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and finally, appear-ation and disappear-ation.
The finalized budget was presented to the national assembly. Once again, lawmakers used the power of “ayes!” to pass the budget. In their hurry to outsmart the civil service, they did not bother to read the budget to know what they were endorsing. If President Buhari and his now noiseless “noisemakers” did not raise alarm about alterations, the lawmakers would not have had any cause to blame the versatile Goje and Jibrin.
While we join our legislators in celebrating their much deserved award, let’s look at the budget fiasco. What do we call people who approve something of which they have no knowledge? Our honourables could not read a mere 1800-page document. Despite having “nothing” to do in Abuja, they could not even manage to flip through, if only to confirm that their constituents were not being short-changed. They could at least have asked one of their numerous assistants to read the budget details and give them a summary. BudgIT would have even done it for them for free. Understandably, some lawmakers may not understand financial documents. That’s the reason experts exist in finance—to be consulted.
Whichever way we look at it; we cannot easily forgive our lawmakers for the mess whose ingredients they contributed. If they were not blinded by unrighteous zeal for the civil service’s property, they would have spotted errors and fixed them before passing the budget. If they had done this, we would not have the executive and legislature exchanging words over budget assent and veto power. Our lawmakers may have failed in their primary assignment, but they managed not to fail everywhere. All hail the National Assembly; distinguished recipients of the prestigious 2016 National Award for Laziness.
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