Decade of Action: Advancing Local Action in Nigeria

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

The end of the millennium development goals (MDGs) in 2015 ushered us into the next level of development planning with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) - a blue print to end poverty, reverse climate change, reduce inequality, encourage technological advancement, and other pressing social issues.

But with just ten years to the projected actualization date of all 17 SDGs, the question on everyone’s mind is: “What actions are necessary for the actualization of these visions?”

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, in September 2019 proposed the Decade of Action’s agenda.

This agenda is in three levels: the global action – requiring that global leaders contribute their efforts to enhance greater leadership, local action – this calls on national leaders to promote the SDGs by implementing effective policies, encouraging efficient budget planning, and ensuring actionable financial management, and people action – this demands that individuals, media, youths, civil societies, academia, and unions through their actions and commitment ensure the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. 

Factors that hinder efficient action in Nigeria

Through an effective practice of local action, Nigeria can ensure the success of the SDGs. Therefore, the Decade of Action should renew Nigeria’s commitment to tackling some of the pertinent issues that hinder the count’s economic growth and development.

These issues include the challenge of corruption, transparency, and accountability in public sector governance. The most efficient way to address these challenges with public sector governance is by correcting the ills with human resources management, fiscal management, and public procurement. If these anomalies are identified and corrected, the nation would benefit from a more robust public financial management (PFM) system.

Taking them in turns

According to the World Bank, Nigeria does not have employee training as an important part of its expenditure budgets.

On Human Resources Management - Personnel management alone accounts for 40% of Nigeria's recurrent expenditure.

More so, the Nigerian civil service is riddled with ghost workers and inefficient civil service employees. This scourge hinders the advancement and efficient delivery of government duties.

In 2016, the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, revealed that the Nigerian federal civil service had over 23,000 ghost workers.

It was also reported in 2014 that there were “12,000 [Kenyan] ghost workers on [the government’s] payroll; mainly persons who continued to receive salaries after leaving government service.

Cameroon also identified in 2015 the “10,000 ghost workers within its 220,000 civil service cadre that cost the government $12 million monthly.

It’s safe to say that this no-show practice promotes wasteful and reckless spending, glorifies corruption, and encourages a culture of incompetence among public servants in nations. 

Additionally, the lack of professionalism and skills in the civil service lends support to the personnel management crisis. With the unprecedented technological advancement in the world, it's quite disheartening that a lot of Nigerian civil servants lack the required computer skills and training needed to efficiently deliver on their tasks.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria does not have employee training as an important part of its expenditure budgets.

Fiscal Management:  The abuse of public office by officials and civil servants as a result of corrupt practices negatively impacts fiscal management in Nigeria.

The common corrupt practices exhibited by political office holders include outrageous allowances, budget padding, inflation of government projects, mismanagement of government infrastructure, during and after their tenure in office, amongst other illegal acts.

The Nigerian government, over the years, has introduced corruption management measures to curb its impact. The Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) are some of the institutions mandated to address corruption among politicians, civil servants, and citizens.

Also, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) - an electronic revenue collection management -Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), and Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) are other measures that address personnel management and revenue remittance of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

Nigeria recorded increased revenue generation within the few years of the implementation of these reform measures. Of particular note is the IPPIS which generated 206 billion Naira by identifying and deleting ghost workers within two years of implementation.

With that being said, the success rate and impact rate on fiscal management is still low.

Sadly, the effort put into nabbing civil servants of MDAs have not been fully engineered to identify political office holders’ corrupt practices. This will make the fight against corruption and fiscal management a well-rounded and intentional process.

Public Procurement Spending:  The Nigerian government runs an unsustainable budget and economic development planning framework. This is because the nation runs a recurrent expenditure that leaves the nation with more spending and borrowing than creating a surplus.

The nation's budget allocations and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are also insufficient. Under the 2020 budget, the revenue is earmarked at 8.42tn, expenditure at 10.59 trillion, and Gross Domestic Product at 2.93%. Thereby creating a budget deficit of 2.18 trillion and recurrent expenditure at 4.8 trillion and thus gulping a chunk of the revenue.

As earlier mentioned, personnel management accounts for 40% of Nigeria’s recurrent expenditure.

Local action in Nigeria

Besides, the Federal Inland Revenue expresses that Nigeria annually losses 5 trillion ($15bn) to tax evasion. 

Use of Technology: The growth in technological innovation provides a great opportunity for reform in the Nigerian civil service, and the use of IPPIS is a very significant example.

In 2018, IPPIS helped to uncover over 80, 000 ghost workers in the Nigerian police force.  It is a data mining system that links employees' bank accounts through the Bank Verification Number (BVN) to their payroll and employment records.

The IPPIS model is synonymous with what Promise Elechi, Sunny Orike, and Soye Bille call the Artificial Neural Network in their research. According to the trio, the Artificial Neural Network “stores all the information pertinent to employees, and income payment.” This makes use of personnel records as a data set for the record to be tracked for fraud.

The Nigerian government needs to explore the use of technological software to track fraud. The Information Technology (IT) based systems IPPIS, GIFMIS, and TSAs proves the efficiency of technology in combating fraud in human resource management in the MDAs including universities.

Recently, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria opposed to the government’s use of the IPPIS system for universities. If technological-based HR and finance management are not enforced across all federal parastatals, it would inhibit the progress that Nigeria as a country deserves. 

Therefore, enabling the good use of technology would not only foster proper management of public funds, but it it would also increase efficiency by eliminating hiring errors such as fake certificates, multiple salaries to an individual, and employment letter scams in the Nigerian civil service. 

Regulating Spending and Incomes: If the bulk of Nigeria’s expenditure is taken over by personnel cost, what other revenue models can they use? Loans from China? This, therefore, creates the obvious need for personnel expenditure to be cut.  A logical level to start at will be with political officeholders.

Taxation: Taxation is another efficient way to balance the challenge associated with revenue and economic growth. With the drastic decline in the oil market, which is now deeply swamped by COVID-19, Nigeria needs the effective use of taxation as another source of revenue. Unfortunately, tax remittance and compliance is low, within the private sectors.

Nigeria can only account for 13% tax remittance with a labour force of over 77 million. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reported in 2015 that: “75% of registered companies were not in the tax net while 65% of those in the tax net do not file returns or pay taxes. This translates [into] less than 9% of all companies operating in Nigeria [remit taxes].”

Besides, the Federal Inland Revenue expresses that Nigeria annually losses 5 trillion ($15bn) to tax evasion. 

The need for diversification of revenue demands that Nigeria investigates the existing loopholes in its processes to beat the rising challenge with revenue. Taxation is a good and balanced way to solve the challenge of revenue generation.

Recently, the Nigerian government increased its value-added tax (VAT) charges to 7.5% from 5% as a means for revenue accrual. Tax evasion of companies should also be looked at to ensure that private and foreign companies remit their corporate income taxes as and when due. This would help to stimulate economic growth. 

Finally, it‘s reaffirmed that the proposed local action model in Nigeria is centred around public finance and human resources management. From addressing issues of ghost workers, unskilled employees, excessive political office holder’s expenditure to the use of technology, reduction in excessive spending, and taxation as revenue sources, local action means that we have to step up to the plate with every decision that we make. And that sustainable growth and development won’t happen until we understand the basics.

“To lead Nigeria to a prosperous decade, the government through all stages of the budget process—formulation, approval, implementation, and oversight—must work to increase citizen trust, decrease unnecessary spending while aggressively increasing revenue with a conscientiously executed plan.” - BudgIT Nigeria.

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This article was written by Fisayo Ogundoro and was supervised by Bukola Fadaini.

It’s been published as part of Capvine Nigeria's Launch Series. Please visit to learn more.

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