ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am not an economist. So, I may not have a serious say about the consequences of sharing about N414 billion among all states of the federation and the federal government. But I am sure it will enhance some lives in the established culture of welfare management for the people. However, I am concerned that this ‘gesture’ has been as apt. This is irrespective of fact that there are conflicting signals which we tend to overlook. From details of the sharing released, N414billion will be shared to the states as ‘bailout’ in the same manner that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as CBN governor, gave ‘bailout’ to some banks (we are still not told if the ‘bailout’ had been refunded).
But again, the Central Bank of Nigeria is expected no work out further bailout sums as loans to the states. In other words, this initial N414billion is a ‘dash’ to the states. Mind that the N414 billion is not statutory earning for the states. It is also not refundable loan to them. Someone may just have to explain something to Nigerians. It is immaterial that we are all celebrating it. Some things are not quite clear with this development. However, it is noted that the sharing is coming on the heels of complaints of bankruptcy by the states.
Most APC governors had gone to town with cries of ‘empty treasury’. Even governors who succeeded themselves and those, whose tenure is still running, like Adams Oshiomhole, complained of empty treasury. We bought that line without question. Of course, President Muhammadu Buhari was sold to it.
He bought the argument without question. Yet, the morality question that this development raises hangs on government. First, this government won its election on the popularity of its anti-corruption campaign. No doubt, corruption must be eradicated from Nigeria. But the expressions in the sharing of N414billion, with further directive on bailout package for the states from CBN, which brings the total package to about N750billion, oozes corruption.
For a start, this administration is interested in asking questions about the management of the economy by the last administration. Everybody welcomes that. But such question must not end with the federal government. The states have questions to answer too. For instance, the state governors must explain to the people, what happened to all the money they received from the federation account, excess crude account, SURE-P Fund, ecological fund (where applicable) and internally generated revenue (IGR) etc. This is imperative because there is no evidence anywhere to show that the last federal administration withheld statutory handout to any state. The last time Nigerians heard of the federal government withholding funds meant for any state was under the Olusegun Obasanjo regime.
And it ended with him. So, if the states religiously collected what was due to them from the federation account, and all other accounts as shared, wouldn’t it be appropriate that they render account as well? Are indigenes of the states not entitled to know how these funds were managed given the plethora of un-funded projects in almost all the states, just as Nigerians are entitled to know what happened to earnings from oil, Customs and NPA? Again, I am not an economist; just a bloody busy body, poking my bloody nose into something that lies outside my circle of influence. However, question needs be asked by rational minds about the mismanagement of state wealth. If we don’t address this issue, I can bet that the money just shared will also be managed as was done earlier and the governors will still conspire and blackmail the federal government into sharing more money for mismanagement.
As it is, the federal government disclosed that cumulatively, the states have a domestic debt profile of about N600b. With additional package from the CBN, we are increasing the debt volume and extending the bankruptcy profile of the states especially in a federation where some state governors do not see the need to task their minds and become creative on revenue generation. It is instructive that just recently, Kwara State government announced that it will soon set up an internal revenue service. This means that the state had operated fully on handouts from the federal government.
So, imagine how people of the state will react when the Kwara IRS rolls off. As it is with Kwara, so also it is with a horde of others for whom welfare translates into physically sharing cash to people in the name of empowerment while neglecting the need for infrastructure development and creating the peaceful atmosphere for private enterprise to blossom. For now, we run in a circle. We look towards Abuja for feed. And when they come, we turn our eyes off the radar and let the governors do what they wish with a common wealth. To enhance his corruption fight therefore, Buhari must tell Nigerians that his administration is not about sharing money to satisfy the hunger of those who worked for his election.
To me, that is what the N414billion was meant to achieve –settle the boys. I recall that not too long ago; state chairmen of APC, at a meeting with national chairman of the party in Abuja, asked to know why things were stagnant. Specifically, they had told John Odigie-Oyegun that “the boys are becoming restless and we don’t know what next to tell them”. What I gleaned from that meeting was that effort was being made to get the FG to release some fund, to the states, so the boys could be taken care of. That move may have found a perfect alibi in the argument, by governors, that states are broke. Thus, the sharing is, to my mind, a way of making federal funds available to take care of the foot soldiers.
I say this because the arithmetic is straight and simple. If the states are broke and unable to pay salaries, will the sharing of N414billion make them liquid again such that those salaries will be paid and continually too? Will the CBN loan package ensure that salaries of workers remain a constant in the administration of states? Is there a mechanism to check use of the money and ensure they are not diverted into paying off pre-election expenses and borrowings? These are tall dreams. What is known is that money has been shared. Money will still be shared as human need is insatiable. You have the right to disagree with me here.