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Rivers Financial Meltdown: A Case Of Double Standard

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It his book, The New Frugality , economist Chris Farrell while explaining the cause of global recession says that a generation has learned the hard way the dangers to borrow on credit. The Encyclopedia Britannica Online describes the meltdown as the worst

economy in a generation. Contradicting the recent report that about twenty seven states in Nigeria are financially moribund, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, who doubles as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) reportedly said, 'States are not bankrupt, but we have no money!' Hear him: 'We are not bankrupt. Do we have money? No! It is challenging, because you can't be doing all you are doing and you don't have the funds you need to do them. We are not bankrupt, but we don't have money.' Hence, he added his voice that the review of the revenue sharing formula would enhance the discharge of their responsibility as governors. Hear him again: 'We need the revenue formula to change to favour the states, so that we can do more. Even the President comes from Bayelsa and he needs Bayelsa to develop, so that when he retires as President he can come to a conducive environment.'

Let us agree in another statement, according to the governor, that his government has repaid N6billion out of the N40 billion it recently contacted from a commercial bank, but the ear drumming recalcitrance of his government still mounting force with its plan to raise the controversial sum of N250 billion through bond should be retimed, no matter that the Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN) increment of interest rate in banks is awful, which has made borrowing from the bank a tall dream.

Whatever Amaechi meant by 'States are not bankrupt, but we have no money!' is yet to be intelligible to discerning minds. How a person that has no money could say that he is not bankrupt? And when states have no money, what happened to the funds disbursed to them? The problem is that many of the governors lacked financial prudence; therefore they resorted to going to Abuja to beg for funds whereas they could easily raise funds prudently locally without the intimidation of the citizens. Amaechi said that the states 'do not have money' whereas he is not considering the white elephant projects the governors engage in which are not geared towards making money.

It was very sad to note how Amaechi blamed the revenue sharing formula for the states woes without prior bringing to bear sound economic management of any available funds? Does a river State not get more money than a lot of the states? Why has it a business being bankrupt? The problem is that Rivers State under Amaechi could not survive because it lacks self sustaining and proper planning and implementations of ideas which are called projects, but he refused to tell himself this truth because of political will, which is causing the state today great hindrance. (We are seeing the transformation package of Amaechi). Are you not seeing it?

Known for his boldness with rare oratorical skill, many Nigerians would be really disappointed at the Amaechi's miscalculated statement. Is it not appalling to note that the reasoning of these governors is that they need the Federal Government to survive? If Rivers State is financially stressed, as Amaechi has made us to understand with his innuendoes, other states of the federation must have gone totally financial oblivion. What is then with the Ameachi's multi-task soldier's approach in enhancing Rivers State if the state is poorer than he met it? He forgot that no nation has survived without a solid infrastructural base, no matter all the transformation abracadabras. Was it that Amaechi has a great foresight but wanes in carefully analyzing his ideas?

Many of the 'shiny' things the governor has constructed in his last tenure really confused people to know that state management is like a business which sole aim is to make gains. No matter the money expended in maintaining the going of the business. So, when a business has no money, the business has waned and has gone bankrupt, but here Amaechi finds a statement to make us have hope that the states run efficiently.  However, such statement had already been discarded as it came. Tomorrow we might hear that the roads, schools, hospitals, transportation and all that  they are sweating to build are the stepping stone for any viable investment, forgetting that even a man in the village who knows his onus in doing business still makes income and not run out of income.

How can a state like Rivers State not contract financial flu when it embarked on the construction of monorail which Nigeria does not have the technological knowhow to maintain? Even the buses the government bought, sustainability has shrouded the effort. Amaechi had rather gave Rivers people firm tarred roads with street lights instead of this 'fanciful' monorail, which can never be measured with the ones in the United States, where people leave and go to work every day from cities with equivalent distance of miles, whereas the monorail in Rivers State cannot reach all the towns in the state let alone connecting Abia State.

The best way to describe the current agitation for revenue sharing is foolery hyped on politics with socio-eco-pol spoilers championing the crusade. How to raise fund should have been the first priority of these governors from the day they started their political campaigns for the office they are occupying and not how to share money, christened revenue sharing formula. But rather, they saw the states as charity organizations that must be donated instead of business that must be worked for; as a result, they begin to hip excuse upon excuses for their failures on the Federal Government.

The annoying side of it is that Rivers State which was supposed to be lending other states money is the most hit by the meltdown, because every project embarked on in the state has not been able to sustain itself. No doubt, Amaechi is yet to know that the state was supposed to be a crystal example of how to manage money in designing a self sustaining economy independent of oil.  Is Amaechi at all laying the foundation of Rivers State's financial prudence for the future? Or are we bent on seeing these preventive maintenance or repairs of roads going on in the state, wishing away laudable projects by mere inability to maintain them? Is this monorail another avenue to put the Rivers citizens in the stress and high cost of transportation in the state? Nigerian state and its operation of faulty revenue system without true federalism which has made our points not to hold any water is bad.  Imagine that Afam power Station in Rivers State which was able to provide 24hrs power supply to Rivers, is shared with other states of the federation 'for free' without any remuneration to the originator state! The state does not even boast of fervent electricity power supply.

Anyway, the Federal Government greed in holding funds and at the same time extreme power thereby making the states that needed the funds for efficient development of the locals should be earnestly addressed. How much political will does the Federal Government has to bring about an improvement in development in Nigeria? Subjecting the states to appear as beggars is not a treat. The clamour for review of the revenue sharing should not be a pointer for the governors' financial failures. We know that Rivers State is in dire need of basic infrastructure, but should not be wishful. The state should engage in human face activities to generate funds internally. It is an eardsore that Rivers State Government that said it has repaid N6b remaining N34b out of the N40b it borrowed is still bent on borrowing N250b from the bond market. 

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV).  Email: