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PTF, GOVERNANCE AND IMPERATIVE OF DECISIVENESS

By NBF News
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When he was freshly elected in 1997, the former British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, told the Time magazine International that one of the tests of leadership is the ability to take difficult and tough decisions. Indecision or vacillation is not therefore the hallmark of effective leadership. Nigeria has wasted billions in the name of constitutional amendments but at the end of the day, nothing came out of it. State creation is one of the thorny issues which have not been decisively resolved by our lawmakers.

Nobody is in doubt about the desirability of an additional state in the South-East, which seems to be on the receiving end in the current federal structures in the country.

Without decisiveness, governance is bound to be stuck in the cul-de-sac. Sometimes we cannot help recalling the decisiveness of the late General Sani Abacha's administration, despite the attempt by his enemies to bury his brilliant performance record.

Through the Mbanefo committee, Gen. Abacha decisively addressed the issue of states agitation. In fact, on the 10th anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom State, the people of the oil-producing community posthumously honoured the late General Abacha.

Leaders must demonstrate the capacity to do what is right, even if in the short-term they may face criticism. As argued by General Ibrahim Babangida, the self-styled former military president, 'History can forgive you for taking a wrong decision but cannot forgive you for not taking a decision at all.' While he was in office for just five years, General Abacha never hesitated to take fundamental decisions in the best interest of the people.

One of the major decisions for which Gen. Abacha is always remembered was the issue of increasing revenue allocation to the Niger Delta from five per cent to 13 percent.

His national constitutional conference (1994-1995) was courageous for recommending the 13 percent revenue allocation to the oil-producing states of the Niger Delta based on derivation principle. It was the first time ever any administration reasonably addressed the issue of injustice and inequity facing the oil-producing areas of Nigeria.

Good performance must be appreciated regardless of which leader was in power or which section of Nigeria he came from.

The introduction of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) was the first sincere signs that the proceeds of subsidy withdrawal could be invested to the practical benefits of Nigerians. Civil servants were openly hostile to the PTF because it exposed their inadequacies, greed and corruption, which made service delivery impossible to achieve.

Before the creation of PTF, contract inflation and lowering of standards were the common features of contract awards and execution. Bureaucrats openly connived with unscrupulous contractors to defraud the government and the people. The PTF introduced rigid and transparent standards such that the concept of mobilisation fees was eliminated.

In fact, under the PTF system, if a contractor had no technical and financial capacity, he wouldn't waste his time coming to take government money and walk away in the name of mobilisation fees. With tight supervision policy, the PTF had remarkably improved service delivery.

Within a few months, the conditions of public roads, hospitals, schools and water supply had improved remarkably. Before PTF, public schools had virtually collapsed such that, in some cases, students and pupils were taking lessons under the shade of trees. Basic items like chairs, desks and chalks were not available.

Despite its limitations, and within the funds available to it, the PTF had demonstrated that with sincerity and patriotism, subsidy withdrawal proceeds could remarkably transform the lives of Nigerians. Unfortunately, rather than sustaining the PTF to continue the good work it had started, the former Obasanjo administration unwisely scrapped the intervention agency. The argument against the PTF was that it was a government within a government, which had hijacked the traditional functions of ministries.

However, if the ministries and departments of government were doing their jobs sincerely, selflessly and managing the proceeds of subsidy withdrawal honestly, the Abacha administration wouldn't have established the PTF in the first place.

With just N60 billion allocation in its entire life, the PTF had achieved more results than what these ministries could have achieved with the proceeds. In 2001, N350 billion was allocated to the Federal Ministry of Works but its record of performance didn't match what the PTF had achieved with just N60 billion. Therefore, without sincerity and decisiveness, government policies can hardly achieve intended results.

-Uzor wrote in from No. 89, Janet Akinrinade Street, Jabi, Abuja