Government Must Account for its Actions – BPE

Benjamin Dikki, director-general, BPE, is of the view that government as the custodian of our collective resources, has the responsibility to account to the people on how its managing them to better their lives

BENJAMIN Dikki, director general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, has argued that the major reason governments are saddled with the responsibility for the development of their nations was “because they are custodians of the collective resources of the people and these resources are held in trust. Therefore, the various governments ought to give account to the people to justify the confidence reposed on them.” Delivering a lecture on “Accountability in Governance And National Development” which he presented to course 23 of the National Defence College, NDC, Abuja, September 25, the Dikki said that “Governments ought to owe the ultimate owners of the resources an explanation on how the resources have been used in developing the people.”

In relation to the Nigerian State, he said that in Nigeria, the articulated development objectives were indicated under Sections 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 24 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.  The sections state that for development to take place, the State must guarantee the security of life and property, that the State must guarantee education to the people; that the State must provide healthcare to the people; that the State must preserve and sustain the environment; that the State must preserve the culture of the people; that the State must ensure consistent improvements in the resources of the people; that the State should strive to ensure respect for life and wellbeing of the people; that the State must guarantee the rights of the people; that the people must respect the Constitution, laws and policies of the State; and the people must carry out their civic duties to the State.

Dikki said the role of accountability in governance was to build confidence and trust between the government and the governed and ensure optimisation of use of resources through dialogue and consultation and meeting of the actual needs of the people. Others, he said, was to encourage the practice and culture of financial and systems checks and balances that ensure consistent good behavior of those entrusted with our collective resources from one generation to another and to also ensure public understanding of government policies and support for them.

According to him, the critical role the BPE had played in enthroning accountability and good governance in the new Nigeria include: formation of Pencom which ensured accountability of staff pension deductions. The sector has accumulated over N4 trillion in stable deposits now ready for development investment. The BPE formed the Debt Management Office which resulted in the continued determination of Nigeria’s total external borrowings and made a concrete case for debt cancellation and rescheduling and formation of the EFCC that has increased accountability and has assisted in reducing theft of government funds now freed for development and has secured the conviction of many corrupt officials. BPE also spearheaded the deregulation of the telecom sector and the participation of private telecom companies like MTN, Glo, Airtel, Etisalat, Visafone etc. Today, Nigeria is enjoying over 123 million active telephone lines compared to 450,000 lines before the reform. The sector now employs over one million Nigerians and has attracted over $40billion in investments.

Also, the unbundling of PHCN into18 successor companies and the successful privatisation of the Electric Power Sector. This has taken the power sector out of government budget and now we can calculate the revenue shortfalls in the power market. The concession of the various sea ports had taken them off government budget and the private sector has made massive investments that government could not have contemplated. Today, the quantum of cargo has increased tremendously due to the comparative improvement in processing time.

He, however, maintained that Nigeria needed to do more in the following areas to sustain accountability and good governance:

According to him, BPE’s role included ideological articulation of the concept development and ensuring its general acceptance, sustenance of value re-orientation: fight against indiscipline and corruption, conservation of the environment as a critical resource for development, development of entrepreneurship and reduction of unemployment, improvement in security and its perception, sustaining of development initiatives, improvement of communication between the leadership and the led.

— Oct. 20, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT