By Gai Cliff Oryinashater
The FG under the leadership of President Buhari has decided to come to
the aid of the states especially those that have been unable to pay


workers’ salaries with some owing over six months. I kept rolling and
rolling it in my mind. I have been asking myself, is the bailout what
these states really need? How did they get to this stage and is this
how they will continue to spend money with reckless abandon and
subsequently request for and obtain bailouts from the FG? I could not
help but ponder these questions.

I agree that the bailout is necessary for the sake of workers who have
had to endure hardship as a result of the nonpayment of their
salaries. The FG quickly providing bailout however saddens me and I
believe sends a wrong signal that states can continue to be lazy,
financially reckless and ask for bailouts and receive same whenever
they have gotten to a pitiable state as they are now.
The bailouts are not in any way the solution to the problem facing the
states, their current financial predicament is rooted in a much bigger
issue which if not addressed will see the bailouts becoming a
reoccurrence in the relationship between states and the central
government. It will become a vicious cycle of successive governors
spending without respect to economic principles and leaving behind a
huge debt profile for incoming ones to start pressurizing the centre
for bailouts.
From the inception of our democratic experiment, state governors in
Nigeria have made nonsense of the tenets of democracy at the state
level (that is not to say the FG does not have the same problem). The
brand of democracy successive governors have been practicing across
Nigeria has made it look as if the state legislature is nonexistent.
The various state houses of assemble have at best served as rubber
stamps allowing governors to recklessly pilfer resources and in the
process mortgage their states to banks and all other lending
institutions in the country and beyond. There are almost zero checks
for accountability at the various states and the legislature which
serves as a rubber stamp at most participates in the looting without
recourse to tenets of public sector financial management. Though the
federal government passed a fiscal responsibility act, state governors
refused to key into it
The sharing of oil revenue has made states so lazy that all state
governors think about is for the month to end for them to run to Abuja
and bring back cash from the federation account, excess crude, VAT
e.t.c. they have become non-committal when it comes to matters of
internally generated revenue (IGR), depending solely on handouts from
the big daddy (FG), eating into our collective capital (oil and gas)
which is a deplete able asset which is supplied to be used to invest
in order to create revenue to manage issues.
Relying on big daddy (FG), states who even have resources that they
can invest in to become economically viable go to sleep. My state
Benue for instance opens its wide mouth to boast of being the food
basket of the federation. According to Google, 75% of the state’s
citizens are farmers, 10% traders, 6% civil servants, and 9% working
in the private sector, yet the state cannot boast of one
viable/tangible investment in the sector to generate revenue for
herself and provide employment/income for her citizens (the last I
checked, the state did not even have a self-discerned agricultural
policy, food basket indeed). Major sources of internally generated
revenue are handed over to cronies in the name of consultancy and the
handling of the processes of internal revenue generation clearly show
that the government is not serious about it or does not know what to
do and prefers the handouts from big daddy.
The major need of Benue like every other state that will benefit from
this bailout is not the bailout but structures that will work towards
boosting effective internal revenue generation. The practice of
waiting for handouts from the FG is obviously not sustainable as
evidenced by the dwindling prices of oil at the international oil
market arena. With agriculture the major source of employment for the
state, Benue has a great opportunity to tap into nature’s gift
(agriculture) and become economically viable, which requires a strong
political will. Government needs to move from making big speeches
about the huge agricultural potential of the state towards actually
making investments in the sector to harness such potentials and reap
the benefits (revenue) thereof.
Secondly  and also very importantly, the state needs to key into the
Fiscal Responsibility  and  Public Procurement Laws as passed by the
FG in 2007 by adopting (domesticating) them. This is another area of
governance that requires huge political will. The domestication of
these laws will entrench transparency in the public sector financial
management as well as promote fiscal responsibility on the side of the
government, preventing the past practice of governors pilfering state
Finally, except we depart from lazing around and work towards
harnessing our potentials for economic sustainability and viability, a
time will come when even the FG will not be able to save us. The
present government has come in at the right time to learn from the
mistakes of the past and make efforts towards reviving us economically
and lifting us out of this quagmire. This it can do if it shuns the
temptation of continuing with the politics of chop chop and settlement
of politicians/associates by folding its sleeves, bending and getting
down to work. If it does this, we can indeed say Change Has Come!

State Programme Coordinator,
Women Environmental Programme (WEP)
North Central Zonal Office,
Plot 625, Suite 7
David Mark Bye-Pass,
Makurdi, Benue State.

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