The current recession that Nigeria has plunged head-long into as a result of the slump in international oil price, is indicative of faulty policies and mismanagement of the oil wealth with the result being: We have now come to a point where only a well thought-out and drastic policy can stave off an imminent revolution.
This policy can only come in the way of a National Basic Income Scheme (NaBIS) for the poor and vulnerable groups to address the widening gap of inequalities in Nigeria through a national wealth redistribution system that will ensure a monthly stipend to all unemployed Nigerians which the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is proposing.
ERA/FoEN made the proposal at a National Social Security Expert Group Meeting held in Abuja with funding from Friends of the Earth Norway.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo explained that ERA/FoEN in 2013 proposed this scheme on the basis that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world where the gap of inequality is highest with over 68 million out of the nearly 170 million Nigerians unemployed and living on less than two dollars per day. Millions, he noted, go to bed hungry.
To fund the initiative, Ojo first cited official figures from the Bureau of Statistics which recorded that Nigeria earned N48.4 trillion between 2000-2011, and N8.8 trillion in 2011 from oil wealth hence the nation can afford a minimum Basic Income Stipend of about N10,000 exclusively to the poor and unemployed to halt a decline towards a political class economy.
He recommended a progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000, sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement. Others are significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels, among others.
Participants in the workshop included: Senator Fatai Buhari representing Oyo North Senatorial District who agreed with the initiative and expressed willingness to support it. Others are Hon. Wale Okediran, a National Assembly consultant, Hon. Uche Unyeagucha, Hon. Bakura Lawan, among others.
Representatives of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the academia were in attendance.
By UN estimates, Nigeria will be one of the countries responsible for most of the world’s total population increase by 2050. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the 9th most populous country in the world. With an estimated population of 170 million, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian. The country has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world.
Growing youth demography, in the context of developing nations, represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for locally led economic growth which can secure a prosperous future for some of the world’s poorest people but sadly in Africa, youth unemployment has become a threat to socio-economic peace and stability. Records have it that the unemployment rate in Nigeria for the year 2011 stood at 23.9 percent with youth unemployment rate at over 50 percent. Surely today, the figure has risen far beyond this estimate.
ERA/FoEN advocates for the empowerment of rural community dwellers whose sources of livelihood have been seriously impacted through massive pollution from extractive activities by oil companies in the Niger Delta, and other environmentally-degrading impacts in other regions of the country. ERA/FoEN believes that the present insecurity challenges engendered by unemployment in the country can be curbed when the needs of the voiceless are addressed.
Rationale for National Basic Income
There are ethical, legal, religious, economic and sociocultural justifications for national basic income. This underscores the relevance of the national social security scheme in any state because the underlying philosophy of social security is to ensure a minimum level of material living to the needy or helpless ones of the society from the government.
A cardinal objective and directive principle which underpins the policy of the Nigerian government towards its people encompass “security and welfare of the people”. This lofty idea is entrenched in Chapter II, Article 14, subsection 2b of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and declared as the primary purpose of Government. Thus, National Basic Income, which is a social security strategy, is a statutory responsibility of the federal government.
Social security is a shared care arrangement designed to meet conditions of insecurity due to either deprivations or contingencies. The objective of a social security scheme is to ensure that the vulnerable in the society receive the necessary assistance required to make them comfortable. By empowering the citizens, the authorities are also preparing them to stimulate economic activities through their spending since a high household marginal propensity to consume is critical to the enhancement of the national income via the income multiplier effect. The environment stands to benefit from relieving pressure on nature and environmental resources.
The current spate of youth restiveness and insurgencies can be significantly reduced if the federal government takes a bold step to implement significant social security measures, especially the national basic income scheme. The major policy implications of such a scheme to various stakeholders include, but not limited to increased household spending and the attendant multiplier effect, need for managerial commitment to employee welfare, industrial unions’ commitment to the private sector’s protection of their employees, etc.
Nigeria has not been totally social security blind. Some of the attempts made by the federal government of Nigeria in providing social security in the past include Udoji Public Service Review Commission – 1974; Workmen compensation scheme, 1987 – 2011; Pension scheme; 1954 – 2004; Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2004; 2014; Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010; etc. In recent times, some state governments such as former Governor of Ekiti state Governor Fayemi, and his Ondo state counterpart paid N5,000 to aged people that were 60 years and above. How many of such practices can we point to in Nigeria and what lessons can we learn from them? In particular, the Ekiti social security example was supported by a legislative backing to allow for continuity. But is this the case at the moment or the project has been jettisoned? What other examples can we draw from?
Proposed Strategy for Income Redistribution
A publication in The Vanguard Newspaper (Monday, 5th September, 2016 edition) indicates that the total annual salaries of 469 national legislators (senators and House of representative members) is about N4, 834,032,493. This amount can pay about 40,284 unemployed Nigerian citizens the National Basic Income of N10, 000 for one year.
If we consider the earnings of the state legislators and those of the ministers (Junior and senior) as well as the local government chairmen and vice chairmen, the councilors in the approximately seven hundred and seventy local government areas in the country; the special advisers at the national and state levels; as well as the secretary to the state governments and local governments, then the undisclosed security votes at the state and national levels by those in power, then we will begin to realise how much we can salvage for the national basic income. A purposeful progressive income taxation should also be explored.
Some strategies/ideas to consider
- A progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000. (How is this realistic with the current tax system? How many people could be in this bracket? And what monetary projections can be derived from such calculations?)
- Sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement
- Significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels
- The adoption of unicameral legislature instead of the current bicameral system;
- Establishment of an institutional framework for the scheme to ensure a successful implementation of the national basic income scheme. In this regard, the following should be provided:
i. A legislative backing from the national assembly to support Executive Order or gazette.
ii. Biometric Verification, to ensure that only qualified citizens’ benefit from the scheme;
iii. National identity card, to ensure that every person’s unique identity is secured and procedures should be put in place to make the exercise continuous
iv. A comprehensive database of all employed people to enable easy verification of their employment status
v. A comprehensive database of all unemployed people with the individuals’ biometrics and national identity card numbers that can be used to verify their unemployment status by logging online with the appropriate details at any given time.
vi. An electronic database of all unemployed and aged people to make it easy for government to determine the proportion of aged people that should be included in the National basic income scheme
6. Stipulation of Penalties for Potential Abuses and Multiple Registration to serve as a deterrent to people who may want to indulge in frivolous acts. Such penalties should include blacklisting, forfeiting of any benefits associated with the database and possible jail terms of at least three years with hard labour.