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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Holding the governors accountable – Blueprint Newspapers Limited

A recent survey by this newspaper unveiling a startling reality that although the 36 states of the federation got the sum of N3.16 trillion in 2022, as against N2.42 trillion in 2021, from the Federations Accounts Allocations Committee (FAAC), there is nothing to justify the staggering amount, is worrisome.

With reference to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), report of the survey indicated that despite stoppage of the contribution by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to FAAC, allocations to states were higher by about N80 billion in 2022.

The breakdown of the amount collected by each state showed Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Lagos got the highest allocation of N370 billion, N293 billion, N283 billion, N250 billion and N225 billion, respectively.

And for states with the least allocation, the data revealed Ogun, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Kwara, and Nasarawa got N63 billion, N61 billion, N61 billion, N61 billion, and 60 billion, respectively. This is apart from the internally generated revenue by each state.

Despite being among one of the states with the highest federal allocation, Bayelsa state is ranked among one of the poorest states, according to the NBS report on multidimensional poverty. In the report, the statistics bureau stated that at least 133 million people in Nigeria are suffering from “multi-dimensional poverty with many Nigerians spending their income on food and transportation

The question that has been on the lips of Nigerians is that in spite of the humongous amount that oil-producing states usually take home, why has it been difficult to see real development in those states?

Executive Director Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Initiative (FTAI), Edo Charles, said it would be difficult for indigenes of the beneficiary states to enjoy the gains of the allocations from the federation account because it is frittered away by the governors through procurement fraud and financial recklessness.

He said full local government autonomy would have been an avenue for indigenes to benefit from the huge allocations that would go to them directly from the federation accounts. According to him, if local governments had full autonomy, most of the local government funds governors trapped for personal use would be freed for development at the grassroots.

“Even if the state governors mismanage their state allocations, the local government allocations, as long as local governments have autonomy, the allocation goes to the local government directly from the federation accounts just like the way we had between 1999-2003, you’ll see pockets of development in all the local governments across the country,” he said.

Edo further said the anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) have not been up and doing, causing political office holders to engage in financial crimes.

He added that the anti-graft bodies needed to do more in tracking how states’ allocations were spent.

“If EFCC and ICPC were to be fully independent organisations, they should track the usage of every kobo, especially the use of security votes. We see pockets of prosecution whereas the rate of corruption is brazen across the states. And because there are no scapegoats, successive administrations have been the same part of corruption and financial mismanagement at a wider scale.

“It is aberration for governors to award contract and that is how most of the states are operating whereas you can’t find anywhere at the federal level where the President approves and award a contract yet we say we are operating a constitutional federalism,” he said.

Also, a public affairs analyst, Tony Aku, said the constitution gives too much power to the governors, noting that it adversely affects the principles of checks and balances. “That is why they can mismanage their states’ resources because they know that as long as they are governors, they cannot be prosecuted for graft and financial impropriety. It is what the civilians inherited from military rules. There is no rule of law in Nigeria. There are some who are above the law”.

To make the governors sit up to their responsibility, he said: “The section of the constitution that relates to immunity should be reviewed. The immunity clause must be removed. We must make politics less attractive. A heavy penalty must be put in place. For instance, there should be a death penalty no matter how small, for stealing. The whistle blower policy should be strictly enforced.

“That is why you see that in many states across the country, pensioners are owed as much as two years. Who would imagine that a state like Delta would owe its pensioners? It’s sad!”

It is, indeed, sad that notwithstanding the huge revenue at their disposal, governors across the federation have refused to develop their states as some state capitals are mere glorified local government headquarters. There is the dire need, therefore, to remind the governors that democracy is a call to service by the people, who are entitled to its dividends. Nigeria has no business being the world’s poverty capital.

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