Governors Must Stop Relying On Bailouts And Exploit Latent Potentials
SAN FRANCISCO, May 05 (THEWILL) – States, as federating units in Nigeria, have never had it so rough. In the last two years, about 27 out of the 36 states have found it very difficult meeting their financial obligation to workers. The difficulty, which started in the twilight of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan's administration, peaked shortly after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari about a year ago.
The governors, had under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, swarmed on Buhari, pleading for the sharing of funds in the Excess Crude Account (ECA). The President intervened and made billions of naira available to state governments through the Central Bank, to help ease their financial woes.
Despite this intervention, which has now proven to be indeed as temporal as a relief, the states’ chief executives returned cap in hand to the President last week. This time, they not only asked for another bailout, but a review of the current sharing ratio of 52 percent to 26 per cent. Other demands made included a refund of expenditures on Federal Government owned projects executed in their states. This reenactment of beggarly disposition shows that no lesson was learnt after the last bailout.
This is quite worrisome to THEWILL, against the backdrop of vast natural resources available to the governors of Nigeria’s 36 federating units. We dare say that there is no state in the country that is not sitting on at least one major mineral deposit with which to positively turnaround its financial struggles.
Assuming this is not the case, the large population they have is enough source of wealth bearing in mind that some of them have a population size that is bigger than those of some countries of the world, which have leveraged on its people to develop their economies.
We align with the position of economic experts that an increase in the sum shared to the states from the federation account cannot and will not be the solution to the credit crunch they face. It is gratifying hearing President Buhari remind the states that the federal government is equally facing financial challenges.
It then means that the governors must look beyond the monthly allocations by looking inwards. This will lead them to discover the veracity of the popular saying that what one is looking for in Sokoto (far away) is in sokoto (your pocket). The governors must stop showing how bereft they are of ideas on how to harness available resources for the good of their people by their continued reliance on the federal government to meet their most basic obligation.
It is a shame that most of these governors are owing workers months of unpaid salaries and have struggled in the implementation of capital projects.
THEWILL is also forced to ask that if civil servants are being treated this way, what becomes of the pensions and gratuities of the nation’s senior citizens? Unfortunately, the multiplier effects of these challenges rob on other socio-economic sectors. Unless the governors brace up to the challenges, it is feared that state economies might grind to a halt, in which case the electorates stand to suffer more pain. Already, traders, artisans and the likes in the various states are complaining of low patronage as a result of the sharp fall in purchasing power.
This period therefore calls for introspection on the part of both the federal and state governments to enable them come out with measures that will diversify the economy and better the lot of the citizenry. Regrettably, some states depend on the federal revenue to the extent that internally-generated revenue, IGR, constitutes a mere 20 per cent of their total revenue, others make even less as IGR. According to reports from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, only Lagos and very few oil producing states can pay salaries through the IGR, without relying on the federal allocation.
THEWILL sees governors' profligacy and outright stealing, over which many have been indicted, as the major constraints facing the development of states. Governors must reorder their priorities and block leakages in the management of state funds. We urge states to develop their resources and use the proceeds for the wellbeing its people. Unless this is done, the expected level of national development would continue to oscillate in epileptic spasms.
But while we encourage states to boost their IGR, we warn that they do not turn residents into the proverbial milking cow. In most states, the people are already overburdened by multiple taxes and levies. It is frustrating to note that beyond the complexities of these allocations, most states have taken local and international loans, the repayment of which stunts the economic development of their states and impacts negatively on the living standards of residents.
Both the states and federal government must take advantage of this era of crash in the price of crude oil to wean the country of over dependence on oil earnings. Beyond payment of salaries, pressures should be mounted on governors to deliver dividends of democracy to their people, after all they promised to do much more while campaigning for votes.