BEYOND BAILOUT FOR STATE GOVERNMENTS

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Notwithstanding the argument by apologists of the elaborate Nigerian dream that about 30 years into the worrisome prophecy, the inordinate greed of the rest of Nigeria and this unflattering prophesy has coalesced with a prevailing questionable value system to climax in a paralysis of despair which flows from hope in a common wealth that was not only thoroughly mismanaged but has also crashed as it was rightfully prophesied.

Part of the unresolved issues that triggered the country’s 30-month civil war and which have invariably been vindicated was the thinking that some parts of the country would invariably constitute a drain on others, especially on economic matters. The fear then was that because there was easy and unfettered access to oil revenue, other traditional sources of revenue like agriculture might be ignored, discountenanced and, perhaps, be under-estimated in terms of their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This is exactly the scenario that is playing out in the country since the 36 states of the federation started rushing, cap in hand, to the federal government for financial bailout in order for them to be able to meet their constitutional obligations, including payment of salaries to workers in their respective states.

In fact, the situation in some states is so pathetic that while some governors like Rauf Aregbesola as in Osun vainly parrot the trending mantra of change in order to either hoodwink or deceive the federal government that they are bona fide shareholders in the supposed new orientation, they deliberately under-declare their bailout receipts so as to justify their continued fiscal irresponsibility and failure to honour obligation to workers.

Like fishes that must necessarily seal their mouths and receptacles in anticipation of the fisherman’s goodwill, there is hardly any state now in the country which has not faulted the prediction of our founding fathers that a day would come when greed and indolence would deprive the economy of the bounce and ability it required to survive unaided. The hilarity of the whole joke is that most people humoured rascally governors who opposed saving for the rainy day (sovereign wealth fund), until now that they are running to Abuja to lap their vomit.

Every indication points to the fact that worse days are yet to come and that some lazy state governments that saw little need in sensitizing their people for wholesale return to agriculture may be in for worse ordeal unless they can convince idle but choosy youth to recognize that only in agriculture lies a sustainable future for the country.

The prodigious oil wealth that accrued to Nigeria between 1971- 2007 ought to have been utilized to provide the launch pad for the country’s industrialization but unfortunately, unfocussed leadership robbed the country of the opportunity to cash in on these boom years. Even more curious has been the recommendation by the federal government that years that qualified as boom periods do not deserve attention for possible scrutiny. Nigeria is in a sorry state financially and the apparent meltdown in governance does not appear to have eased matters.

Every state government now anticipates a regular bailout from the federal government as a regular feature of governance and in some states where statutory obligations took long in coming, retirees alleged that Ondo State governor Ayo Fayose excluded the payment of pension arrears and gratuities from the Federal Government’s bailout. Fayose riposted, saying that “ people know that I don’t hide anything from you when allocations come. We applied for N29 billion from the bailout fund. It is to cover the August and September 2014 salary arrears left by the Fayemi government, leave bonus, pensions, gratuities and others.

But for reasons we don’t know yet, the FG only approved N9.6 billion for salaries leaving other issues. “The 16 local governments applied for N5.6 billion and we did all the necessary papers and presented them to the appropriate authorities, but only N991 million was approved.

We were later told by the Central Bank of Nigeria that about 14 states had similar problem with the small amount approved for local governments. Nigeria is in a dire financial situation, no thanks to fluctuating oil prices in the global market and the reluctance of traditional buyers of our oil like the United States to renew their purchase orders and pledges.

There is overwhelming need for the country to drastically review its reliance on oil revenue as the mainstay of our economy. We aare convinced, as does the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, that for the Federal Government, there is no better time to diversify the country’s economic base than now.

In addition to diversifying the economic base to give agriculture which has all it takes to sustain every national aspiration, there is wailing need for others economic option to be explored, especially now that the easy oil money that indolence expected to last forever has suddenly exploded in our faces, deepening liquidity challenges that have complicated issues for the cash-strapped Federal Government.

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