By Felicia Imohimi
Oxfam, an International organisation has urged the Nigerian government to take urgent actions to bring down the cost of governance in order to address level of poverty and inequality currently bedeviling the nation.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 NGOs working with partners in over 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty.
Constant Tchona, Acting Country Director Oxfam made the recommendation at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja at the inauguration of maiden West Africa Regional Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII) report.
The Director says “It is unacceptable that a large percentage of the budget goes to paying fat remuneration to a small number of public office holders.
“Resources that could have been used to improve the living standard of Nigerians by funding healthcare, education, the provision of water and sanitation to millions of Nigerians.”
He said that there was urgent need for government to critically examine the culture of governance and break the policies and norms that sustained the concentration of wealth and income at the top level.
Tchona said that such measure would forestall the self-perpetuating cycle of inequality that many were subjected to and the sustained poverty in the country.
He decried that Nigeria ran one of the most expensive governments in the world with an over bloated civil service, government advisers and aides whose salaries were often very high while majority of the populace living in abject poverty.
“To further compound this issue, the Nigerian legislature is reported to be one of the highest paid in the world, paid to preside over the lives of large majority of the populace living in abject poverty.
“Additionally, the scale of inequality in Nigeria is such that while 75 per cent of registered businesses including those run by the elite do not pay tax, the lower classes cannot escape arbitrary taxation, sometimes with blatant disregard for their human rights.
“With the misappropriation of resources and priorities, economic growth in Nigeria has not created meaningful opportunities nor employment as many of the country’s youths including those with university degrees are currently unemployed.
The country director recommended that economic policies and development strategies should be formulated in a participatory manner focusing on reducing inequality as a key principle.
According to him, this can be in the form of participatory budget where the citizens make inputs into the budget planning process thereby attracting essential services to the poor in rural communities.
Tchona said that ignoring inequality in pursuit of development was perilous.
“Focusing exclusively on economic growth and income generation as a development strategy is ineffective as it leads to the accumulation of wealth by a few and deepens the poverty of many.
“Such an approach does not acknowledge the limited opportunities available to majority, resulting in the intergenerational transition of poverty.
“However, inequality is not an impossible challenge to be addressed. It merely calls for broad based partnerships within and across sectors.
“Such as public sector which include legislature and judiciary and the private sector and civil society,” he said.