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Nigeria’s State Residents and Outsourcing Common Needs to Private Contractors

Nigeria’s State Residents and Outsourcing Common Needs to Private Contractors
Nigerian roads are very bad

By Kalu Ndukwe

Should the indigenes of states have option to contract private experts to manage their common resources and needs or to allow their state government to continue to do the job? Our constitution is very silent on this. But, current realities make case for such a right.

There have been, in recent times, a recurring trend in Nigeria, characterized by persistent decline in the willingness of state leaders to exercise good initiatives and foresights in the duties owed the citizens. This is further exacerbated by disturbing administrative inefficiency, profligate and outrageous sharp practices in public ministries, in the state and local government levels. (The case of the central government is beyond the scope of this work).

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The other side of the above observed trend is the fact that private individuals and firms, in turn, have increasingly come up with means to privately do tasks owed citizens by government. These tasks include but not limited to provision and maintenance of infrastructure, education, health care, water, and security as a result of which the only time one feels the presence of government (or rather government officials), in some states, is during election when politicians seeking reelection and their challengers come out to say things, promise things and do some fancy shows like rice sharing, money sharing, eating roasted corn on the road, moving heavy equipments to construction sites. Do they usually give specific order that the work must proceed as slow as possible, and be abandoned after election is over? That’s just what happens.

One may not be surprised if the younger generation knows nothing about the duties of government, in some states, beyond the things that they are taught in their schools about government. As such, little children may know the names of their states and local leaders, have book knowledge of what they do (or should be doing), which are in fact the formulated knowledge of yesteryears, based on what government represent, at that time.

But finding it hard to reconcile what the teacher says in school about governance and what is seen every day, these kids painfully live day by day in the reality that security is provided by family and the vigilante of the community, that parents provide water and light, that, if there were no private schools, he/she would prefer to stay at home, and be taught by family members, than go and waste talent in public schools.

No one should be surprised if children in such states know of government existence, only when it is mentioned in parents’ radio or TV sets. No one should be surprised when a young fellow is confused after they hear that government has completed this or that road project awarded with alarming sums, and the child and his/her parent had to pay N50, for some footmen to carry them on the back, and cross the road during heavy downpour, which rendered the muddy road, that has been completed on radio, over-flooded and impassable.  As it is with roads, so it is with other projects initiated by such state governments. The result of these states government’s alarming inefficiency, heart rending mismanagement of state resources and show of lack of vision, incapability in doing the job, has led citizens into the daily struggle of developing capacity to cope with both the shock of government’s inefficiencies and also the personal duty of meeting self daily need and challenges.

The nightmare associated with living daily to contain these two-faced problems, is the reason it is argued” why not give citizens the option to choose whether to still let government do the job or to use their common resources to contract experts to do the various jobs for them? These days, anything may be outsourced.

 A case for reducing inefficiency (Outsourcing)

The confusion is straight. What is seen today, in state governance, is not the sort of thing we were told by the fathers and forefathers. Their stories tell us that government started because the people felt that they should form a body to manage their common needs, in order for them to enjoy efficient, excellent results. They formed this institution and empowered it with their tax and the right to exploit the resources of the land to achieve its mandate. That’s an instance of outsourcing. Outsourcing happens when an individual, or group of individuals, contract an expert, for a fee, to do a job or part of a job they had been doing themselves, when they feel that, better results will be achieved by giving out the task to the expert to do for them (this is not a technical definition). Monumental strides exist in history to show that the step taken by the forefathers, by forming government is a fantastic move. But, there are instances calling for a reexamination of how states citizens go about meeting common needs.

When individual citizens drill their own water, build roads (as it’s been witnessed in some states in Nigeria), provide own power supply, take up the task of securing their lives and properties, as well as proffering solutions to other social welfare problems that affect them, of which government is paid tax to do, (because citizens feel doing it collectively, rather than individually, will yield better outcome), that means that government is clandestinely outsourcing the job to the citizens, at a greater cost to citizens.  In other words, government failure causes unofficial outsourcing of some sort. This secret, outsourcing of government jobs back to citizens is causing heavy friction and unimaginable burden on citizens, business and commerce, in the sense that, citizens pay tax to government to do these job so that they (citizens) will enjoy economic of scale, government fails to do it, or do it poorly, which makes citizens to bear the triple burden of:

  • (1) doing some of these jobs themselves (for which they paid tax),
  • (2) paying taxes to government, and
  • (3) Losing the enjoyment of economic of scale, which would have been gained, had government done the job well, and doing government’s job without being paid.

The chief reason for outsourcing is to enjoy better economic benefits. These economic benefits cannot be achieved if citizens go about meeting common social needs, individually, which is why government became necessary. Are the failures of government to meet these common needs of citizens satisfactorily and the unofficial relegation of the tasks back to citizens indication that government can no longer do the job well?

 All Together

Citizens should not continue to suffer so much avoidable losses. If the government can no longer do the job well, the constitution should be immediately updated to that regard. It should give room for privatization of all public services and recognize that citizens have options of either paying local authorities tax to render public services or to pay experts to manage the various social needs for them. Constitution should not continue to support state governments to ill-use citizens and get away with it, through its limited choices provisions. If our lawmakers feel the system is not yet ripe for such a complex arrangements suggested, the constitution should be immediately reframed in such a way that no state administration will wreck the havoc being witnessed in some of our states and get away with it.

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3 THOUGHTS ON Nigeria’s State Residents and Outsourcing Common Needs to Private Contractors

  1. This article didn’t do justice to what a government does or should be doing, the simplistic argument of contemplating/supposing that citizens are actually doing the work of government, rather than complementing it isn’t nuanced either.

    It is very easy to enumerate duties of the government, the problem is that all those duties require spending money or resources, and if your earnings don’t match your bills, no amount of hysteria will make everything beautiful.

    Again the issue of paying taxes can be misleading, only those who work pay taxes. If we think that what is generated through taxes can meet all the needs, then we are not being realistic. Government is there to ensure that the weakest in the society are still protected, that some attend private schools doesn’t mean that there are no longer kids in public schools; we still have more kids in public schools than private; that is why you need the government.

    The focus should be on how to make governments work better, be more responsive; the alternative isn’t more efficient, else you create a government, albeit with another name.

    • “It is very easy to enumerate duties of the government, the problem is that all those duties require spending money or resources, and if your earnings don’t match your bills, no amount of hysteria will make everything beautiful.” Good point. Nigeria does not have enough money to do what its citizens expect from it

  2. The paper was not intended to enumerate the duties of government or to list the ways citizens are complimenting government. There are lots of publications that have looked into such areas. The piece attempted a perspective to the intervention of citizens to addressing the various recurring issues. Citizens was broadly used to include both individuals and corporate bodies (legal citizens).

    To the extent that the intervention of citizens is due to lack of sufficient funds in government purses to do all that the citizens expect to be done, intervention by citizens is novel. But where mismanagement and corruption lead or contribute to infrastructural decay and poor social service provision by government, citizens intervention, is no longer that of complimenting government’s effort, but actually amount to doing the job. To this extent, it is very very costly on the citizens. This is the perspective raised by the paper.

    True that government do not have enough money to do all that is expected ( let’s say at a particular time). No person or country ever has enough money to do all that they want or are expected to do. It’s even surprising to recall there was a time “… We (had) more money than we need(ed)…”. But, Progresses made is always as a result of drafting and following systematic investment plan that spans a couple of stated period of time.

    When a country decry it has no sound budget to implement its developmental obligations but one still observe serious mismanagement and gross spending on things that yield no lasting results, then, it simply make sense to question if the decry of lack of enough resources to implement critical projects is fowl or reasonable. Since, even if some fund is borrowed, it will still disappear one day to nobody knows where. Talk about corruption and mismanagement. That’s it. Not lack of means.

    Nigerians pay tax. Not just those that are in formal organizations. It’s no news that VAT’s final burden is borne by those who use products or services subjected to VAT. There are also Levy’s and dues paid daily in the local market places, street stalls, road side trading places. Painfully, these dues are collected by non professionals (thugs), as such the monies may end up unaccounted for.

    But are these money generated enough? NO! But Will visionary, pragmatic leadership and good management of resources bring about meaningful improvement in meeting social needs of the people over time? YES!!

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