The Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, said on Tuesday in Minna, Niger State that the Federal Government would spend about N1.7 trillion on salaries this year.
Ngama recalled that about N1.6 trillion was spent on the same goal last year, arguing that such huge expenditure on non-capital projects was not healthy for the nation’s economy.
The minister made the statement when he visited Government House, Minna in company of states’ commissioners of finance.
They were in the state for the National Council on Finance and Economic Development meeting.
Ngama said that before President Olusegun Obasanjo left office, he set up a committee headed by Malam Nasir el-Rufai to devise ways of reducing the huge recurrent expenditure.
He said: “The committee discovered that a good number of civil servants were redundant and not even qualified to occupy some positions.
“So they were weeded out.
“But immediately Musa Yar’Adua came in, some people took advantage of his sickness and went to court to make sure that everybody that was sacked was returned.
“And that is why we could not, at the federal level, handle our salary problem because we increased the salaries.
“We thought the number of redundant staff would be let go so that you can have concise civil servants with higher salaries.”
According to Ngama, the country cannot continue to spend this much on recurrent expenditure, given that some of the establishments are not productive.
He added: “There are establishments we don’t even know how many people are employed there.
“Every company should have a work chart.
“Every person would represent a responsibility.
“If there are people that do not fit anywhere, then you don’t need them.”
Ngama said the recent report by the World Bank showing that over 10 million of Nigeria’s children were out of school, was a clear indication of the kind of restructuring needed to revamp the country.
He said: “The statistics of the number of children that are out of school showed that Yobe State had 64 per cent; Borno State, 68 per cent; and Zamfara State, 72 per cent.
“The statistics showed that the best state in the North is worse than the worst state in the South.
“And we are getting the same money as states in FAAC.
“So we need to ask ourselves what is the problem.
“This is because it is not about the money but what comes out as well.
“So there are a lot of questions that we need to address.”
Earlier, the Niger State Deputy Gov. Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto, said there was the need to diversify the nation’s sources of revenue rather than relying on the ‘monthly hand-out of ‘ the Federation Account.
Ibeto said: “As rightly pointed out by the minister, we all have the potentials.
“In fact, in Niger State, we can feed the entire Nigerian nation.
“We can even feed the West African sub-region.
“We must begin to look at other resources.
It is actually very sad to note that over a long time in the history of this country, at a point, we depended solely on the revenue we got from agriculture.
“We need to marshall our resources, develop agriculture and ensure that people partake not only in activities like buying and selling but also in production.
“This will ensure our meaningful development.”