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New govs, renewed mandates, old problems

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Peharps, there is no human endeavour where the aphorism, ‘success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan,’ is truer than politics. As magnet attracts metal and beecomb ants, the winner of an electoral contest is regarded as an instant hero. The sudden aura around him is infectious with the goodwill about his person taking a frenetic upward swing. There is an immediate scenario in the country corroborating the trend.

Since the governorship poll of March 23, in many states, governors-elect have become instant heroes, with the high and low shifting alliance and loyalty from the outgoing governors. Their homes have turned into rendezvous as the governors-elect and party buffs savour the victory at poll.

Beyond the euphoria of the moment, however, lie gargantuan challenges that are on ground across the states of the federation. Whereas the incumbent governors had made a gamut of promises during electioneering, many of them were overwhelmed by the challenges of state matters such that their administration had lived from hand to mouth, better still at the mercy of the centre through federal allocations, bailouts and other special interventions in monetary terms. Issues such as payment of workers’ salaries, size of workforce, new minimum wage, security matters, near collapsed infrastructure, huge debts, among others stare the incoming state administrations in the face.

So far, only three states, Lagos, Rivers and Kano, are believed to pay their workers regularly. Beside Lagos, Rivers and Kano states, all the other states are not able to generate internal revenues sufficient to cover overhead and other monthly obligations. Whereas a new national minimum wage of N30, 000 is only awaiting the signature of President Muhammadu Buhari, a number of states are unable to pay the existing N18,000 minimum wage to their workers, not necessarily for lack of capacity but because of the feeding bottle-like federal arrangement in the country.

According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Lagos State has the highest foreign debt portfolio US $1.45 billion with Edo State occupying distant second with $279 million.

Others are Kaduna, $232.9 million; Cross River, $193.7 million; Bauchi, $134.9 million and Enugu, $127.9 million. The other top debtors are Anambra, owing $107.4 million; Oyo, $106.34 million; Ogun, $105.3 million; Osun, $101.5 million and Abia with $100.2 million.

 

Lagos awaits continuation of projects revolution

As the governorship election is concluded, the people of Lagos have begun to look forward to the possibility of further development with the incoming new governor at the helm of affairs.

The state, believed to be the commercial nerve-center of Nigeria, has continued to enjoy its position as the richest state in the country where opportunities abound for business investments, among others.

The state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has remained so high, reaching a total of over N30 billion monthly, the highest in the land.

But the state is also the most indebted in the country, owing a total of $1.45 billion as foreign debt as of June 30 last year, according to records obtained from the Debt Management Office (DMO), Abuja, entitled; ‘States, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Federal Government.’

The document state that the external debt stock of the entire nation stands at $22 billion with the Federal Government incurring $17.8 billion, while the states and the FCT owe $4.28 billion, meaning that the Federal Government accounts for 81 per cent of the country’s external debt, while the states and the FCT account for 19 per cent.

According to the record, as of December 31, 2017, Lagos State also had the highest foreign debt portfolio $1.47 billion. But the figure reduced to $1.45 billion by June 30, 2018.

However, the total debt the state owes local contractors cannot be ascertained. Notwithstanding, Lagos State has been like a construction site, following the takeover of government in 2015 by the incumbent, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

For instance, the governor, who is desirous of lifting the face of inner roads in Lagos, which have been in dilapidated situation for long, came with the idea of constructing 181 roads for which a total sum of N5.6 billion was immediately mobilised to commence work on them.

This much was disclosed by the state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Ade Akinsanya, at the 2018 ministerial press briefing to mark the third year in office of Governor Ambode. He said the sum represented 30 per cent of the total cost of the projects.

Other major projects scattered across the state include: Oshodi – Murtala Mohammed International Airport road, Agege Pen Cinema Flyover, Phase II of Aradagun – Iworo – Epeme road, Oshodi Interchange Terminal, JK Randle Complex, Onikan Stadium, Imota Rice Mill, Renovation/Furnishing of Lagos Revenue House, 25 network of roads in Ojokoro and Oshodi – Abule Egba BRT corridor.

Others are Igbogbo – Igbe, Agric – Ishawo – Arepo road, construction of 300 modern bus stops, Epe – Marina road, Badagry – Marina road, New Mile 12 Regional Foodstuff Market in Imota, channeliation of four commercial ferry routes and construction of modern jetties, Timberville Sawmill in Agbowa-Ikosi, Ejirin, with new access road/bridge, among others.

Now, following the political development in the state, which has barred Governor Ambode from spending a second term in office and produced another person, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, from the same party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), who will be taking over from him come May 29, it is quite apparent that while work is still ongoing on some of the projects, the likelihood of the current administration finishing and delivering those projects before May 29 is nil.

To that extent, the outgoing administration under Governor Ambode may have decided to prioritise few of the projects that it wishes to complete before the end of its tenure.

The people of Lagos would attest to the fact that the multi-lane Lagos Airport road is now being undertaken with speed, with the hope of getting it completed before May. So also is the Oshodi Bus Interchange, another multi-million naira project that would transform face of transportation in Lagos for good when it becomes operational together with the ongoing construction of designated 300 bus stops located across the nooks and crannies of the state. Works on those bus stops are being undertaken without stoppage.

It is the view of many people of Lagos that these priority projects would be accomplished by the Ambode-led administration, given the IGR accruing to the state with the figure put at over N30 billion monthly.

The National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, a former governor of the state, attested to this while speaking with journalists shortly after casting his vote during the governorship poll.

All these are in addition to the state now being an oil producing state.

The Ambode-led administration would, however, not be able to complete these projects because their completion periods would have been beyond the four years constitutionally allowed for the incumbent to spend in office. Certainly, they would be inherited by the incoming administration of Sanwo-Olu.

 

Kwara North needs most attention

Economic activities in Kwara State are largely driven by the informal sector. The state boasts of operators of personal businesses, artisans, transport operators, hospitality and hotel management services, among others. The formal sector of the economy has its main players in the public education, banking and public service sectors, etc.

With this prevailing economic situation in the state, government policies and national economy have direct impact on socioeconomic situation of the state. For instance, the present harsh economic situation in the country, which has been a major concern for business operators, has its reflection on businesses, operators and consumers in the state. Many business operators have lamented low sale or patronage in the past few years, while many outfits have had to close or shrink their operations. Even, the last general elections did not provide a soothing climate, against expectations.

While the state government has tried to keep up payment of salary for its staff, the same cannot be said of local governments, who owe up to five months salary arrears.

Currently, the debt portfolio of the state government stands at N30,203,632,608:29, with a monthly repayment plan of N496,367,109:08.

According to the state Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Demola Banu, the debt stood at N31,481,082,712:95 in 2017 and N30,751,665,421:83 at the end of 2018, contrary to social media speculations of N50.2 billion.

Giving a breakdown of the current indebtedness, Banu explained that the N30.2 billion included N15,325,541,483:03 as the balance of the Federal Government restructured loan, N4,002,948,667:07 as salary bail out, excess crude account loan outstanding of N9,324,613,607:52 and vehicle loan balance of N128,916,612:87.

Others are the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) and Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) Agriculture Scheme with respective balances of N646,213,285:03 and N679,233,857:13 as well as International Aviation College loan balance of N96,165,095:64.

While clarifying that the repayment of N496,367,109:08 was deducted from the state’s monthly federal allocation, Banu added that the figure included a monthly deduction of N39,632,016:56 as repayment for foreign loans obtained by the government since the 1970s.

Giving further breakdown, Alhaji Banu explained that the Federal Government restructured the state government’s short-and long-term bank loans to reduce monthly repayment, while the state also benefitted from a N5 billion salary bailout loan in 2015.

Additionally, the commissioner stated, the excess crude account loans were Federal Government-backed bank facilities which served as seed money for the Kwara State Infrastructure Development Fund (IF-K) and payment for ongoing projects in the state, while CACS and ABP are state-government guaranteed Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) loans to farmers in the state.

Also, the Executive Chairman, Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS), Professor Muritala Awodun, said the state was still far behind in achieving its projected monthly revenue target of N5 billion, even as he declared that it raked in N23 billion in 2018.

“We know we are not there yet. Our potential IGR projection in 2015 was N5 billion monthly. If we are just at N2 billion, we are not there yet,” he said.

He added that though the agency had graduated the state IGR from N6 million monthly it inherited in 2015 to N2 billion, the service was still hoping to hit its target of N5 billion monthly.

It is noteworthy that taxable adults in public and private services, including private and public business organisations, are taxed either monthly or annually.

Awodun said the state had moved up to ninth position out of 36 states amongst those toping revenue generation in the country, adding that the state was ranked second after Lagos by Africa’s Report Index which, according to him, was based on the state’s success in poverty reduction, access to electricity, ease of doing business, among others.

The outgoing administration, which has always said that it would not leave abandoned project, said that payment for ongoing projects in the state were expected to be sourced from the Kwara State Infrastructure Development Fund (IF-K) derived from monthly revenue generation.

Meanwhile, the outgoing administration has promised to ensure a seamless transition to enhance smooth take-off of the new government to fast-track deliverance of democratic dividends to Kwara people.

Also, the state governor-elect, Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq, said that more attention would be paid to the North senatorial district of the state in infrastructural development.

“Kwara North needs special attention in terms of development. This doesn’t mean we will not develop other areas. We will. But there is total lack of infrastructure in Kwara North,” he said.

AbdulRazaq said everything would be done to justify people’s confidence in him and other All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers-elect.

He said his campaign tours of the state exposed him to the huge infrastructure deficits in the state, especially in the Northern district of Kwara.

“We will, therefore, pay particular attention to Kwara North because it is totally deprived. We do not want anybody to think they are getting unfair advantage when we do this. It is just the proper thing to do,” he said.

Thanking Kwara people and his party members for their support, AbdulRazaq acknowledged the “enormous expectations” from the electorate, saying, however, that he would do his best to serve the best interest of the people.

“The administration will also pay special attention to women development and inclusiveness in form of appointments,” he said.

Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on his part, said failure was not an option for the incoming APC government, but called for understanding and patience from the public.

“The expectations are very high and we must take advantage of their enthusiasm to ensure we deliver the dividend of democracy,” he said.

“The honeymoon may not last over three months, unless we do well. We can’t afford to fail them. In less than a year, people of Kwara will see a difference between us and the outgoing political dynasty. We appeal to Kwara people to be patient because it is easier to destroy than to build.”

Kwara APC chairman, Bashir Bolarinwa, thanked the party hierarchy and members for standing together while the struggle lasted.

“But for the perseverance and understanding of our members and leaders and with God’s grace, we couldn’t have come this far,” Bolarinwa said.

 

Foundation for 2nd term already laid in Enugu

It would be recalled that in 2015, Nigeria was slipped into economic miasma, as virtually all the states in the country found it difficult to offset their unpaid bills, largely due to drastic drop in crude oil prices. It was at this recession period that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State assumed office. And like other governors, he was confronted with various degrees of socio-economic challenges.

Governor Ugwuanyi was faced with the perennial paucity of funds, coupled with the inherited debt and other huge wage bills to be settled.

Findings revealed that among all the states of the federation, Enugu was one of the worst hit, considering that it is third from the bottom of the nation’s revenue allocation chart. Besides, it is a predominantly a civil service state with high expectations for socio-economic expansion borne out of its status as the headquarters of the defunct Eastern Region.

Between May 29, 2015 and now, despite the growing debt profile across many states, many people in the Coal City State have continued to pour encomium on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led governor for his humane and inclusive approach to governance. Hence, his reelection on March 9 did not come to them as a surprise.

It would be recalled that the first step Governor Ugwuanyi took immediately he came on board was to constitute a 15-man Enugu State Economic Advisory Committee headed by Msgr. Obiora Ike, to advise his administration on the best policies that would engender sustainable economic growth and lead the state out of the economic crunch.

The innovative approach gave birth to the first ever Enugu State Investment Summit christened ‘Oganiru Enugu State’ aimed at showcasing the economic potentials of the state and woo investors.

Ugwuanyi took further steps to complete abandoned projects in the state, such as the International Conference Centre, Enugu. He has also moved to encourage investors and provided funds to local farmers as well as executed capital development projects across the three senatorial districts. There have also been interventions on some failed sections of federal roads in the state.

It is also on record that the governor empowered local traders and artisans in the state. This involved the trader empowerment scheme which has so far assisted 2,400 traders with the sum of N50,000 each to grow their various businesses.

Besides, the state has witnessed construction and renovation of over 589 primary and secondary school blocks of classrooms as well as procurement of learning tools and employment of over 4,000 teachers.

On rural development and good governance, the administration, in line with its vision to create direct positive impacts on the lives of the masses, the long forgotten and neglected, channeled the bulk of its development projects to the rural areas, a clear departure from the past when most major achievements were concentrated in the urban areas.

Despite the recession, Enugu State has remained one of the few that did not owe its workers salaries and emoluments, while further checks showed that in the last two years, though Governor Ugwuanyi has not approved the payment of ‘13th month salary,’ to workers in state government employ, salaries have been paid to them on 25th of every month.

What further baffles many observers, including critics of the Ugwuanyi-led government is that the state government is not indebted to any of its contractors.

The state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure Development, Greg Nnaji, had said that the state was ranked among the few states in the country that promptly paid contractors handling different development projects in their respective domains.

The commissioner lauded his boss for the positive state of affairs which he said “makes the job of executing the very many development projects in the state very exciting.”

It is noteworthy that Enugu State is endowed with many natural resources, including coal, oil shale, gas, glass sands, ironstone, clay minerals, limestone, gypsum and alum. They are available in various formations, including Enugu Shale, Mamu Formation, Ajali Formation, Nsukka Formation and Imo Shale.

The minerals currently under exploitation in the state are clay, sand and ironstone, with others being under exploited or found in uneconomic quantity.

One would recall that mining of coal had ceased since the 1990s, hence, the drastic reduction in the economic capacity of the state. It is believed that a return to coal and other solid minerals exploitation will enhance the economic output of the state.

Determined to move the state to the next level, the reelected governor had, in his acceptance speech, pledged that his administration would devote energy and time to work harder for the wellbeing and prosperity of the people, stressing that “we are open to new ideas and new visions, as we continue to lay a solid foundation for a more prosperous Enugu State. I hereby reaffirm that we will continue to serve you with the fear of God with humility and an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of our people and lifting the state to unprecedented heights of development and progress.”

Happily, Enugu State indigenes in the Diaspora, under the aegis of Enugu Diaspora Alliance (EDA) have indicated interest in helping the state government to revive some of the state-owned moribund industries. They agreed to invest $5 million in reviving the ailing industries and shoring up infrastructural and educational development of the state this year.

President of the group, Ayobanna Ikeanumba, who dropped the hint during the group’s annual home-coming and get-together in Enugu recently, said that aside investing in the moribund industries, the group would also partner international organisations and the state government to invest in health, education and security of the state.

 

states governmentNasarawa still in the throe of rejected results

In Nasarawa, memories still linger in the mind of the electorate, particularly over the circumstances that led to the emergence of the winner of the governorship election.

The ruling APC in the state, apart from winning the governorship seat, won 14  out of the 24 House of Assembly seats, while the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) won five, Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) won one and election into four seats remain inconclusive.

But the Nasarawa State chapter of the PDP has warned the governor-elect, Abdullahi Sule, that it (PDP) has the capability to do anything to reverse his victory as long as the politics of the state is concerned. The state chairman of the party, Francis Orogu, stated this in Lafia, the state capital, while briefing journalists shortly after a meeting he held with stakeholders of the party in the state at the party’s secretariat.

“Our advice is that the governor-elect can go ahead and smile, but should not be in a hurry to laugh because what goes around comes around. We will consult ourselves and take a position on this matter soon. We don’t have any choice than to appeal to our supporters not to be discouraged by the interference of the security agents in the electoral process.

“We know for a fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials were mostly working for the APC, cancelling elections where we were winning and allowing every mess to go through where APC was manipulating,” he alleged.

Meanwhile, the governor-elect, Abdullahi Sule, has invited his opponents in the election to join him to form a government of unity.

Sule extended his hands of fellowship to the opponents during a press conference in Lafia, the state capital, recently.

“Let me use this opportunity to extend my hand of fellowship to my fellow contestants across party lines to join me in the task of building a united and peaceful state for the benefit of all. This victory is not only for APC, but for the entire people of Nasarawa State, irrespective of any political, religious or tribal affiliation. I want to assure you that the confidence reposed in me will not be misplaced,” he said.

Despite this development, a lot of the candidates who are dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll are already heading to the tribunal to seek redress.

As of the time of filing this report, the tribunal in Lafia has, so far, received eight petitions from different political parties, challenging the results declared by the INEC during the elections.

Information also shows that more parties are to file in their cases before the 21-day window expires, while some are said to be awaiting court order to access electoral materials used in the exercise.

 

In Niger, Bello, opponents tango over state finances

In Niger State, the elections have come and gone, but voices of some partakers of the exercise continue to be heard. Very strident one is that of the candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in the governorship election, Right Honourable Isah Kawu, who raised the alarm that the state government was broke, saying the state was “not really in a comfortable financial position.”

Kawu, who came third in the election, stated this in an interview with Sunday Tribune at the weekend in Minna, the state capital, while advising the Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello-led APC administration to urgently embark on a lot of positive economic activities in the state, in order to ensure that things do not go out of hands.

The former speaker of the state House of Assembly added that in doing that, the government should learn how to spend less money on more projects.

However, the state government has described the state of economy as a product of many factors, adding that the national economy, in most cases, influenced and shaped that of the states.

The Coordinator, Media and Publicity of the state governor, Mr. Jide Orintunsin, stated this in his office at the Government House, Minna, at the weekend.

“In Niger State, whatever we are passing through is a reflection of the national economy,” he said.

He added, however, that the state, through prudence and deft management of the scarce resources, would remain afloat.

“We are able to meet our constitutional obligations. The country is just getting out of an economic recession and there is need for belt tightening and prioritisation of projects and programmes.”

Orintumsin noted that on assumption of office in 2015, Governor Bello met an IGR that was less than N300 million monthly, adding that today, the government had been able to increase that to about N700 million.

“Hopefilly, our target is N1 billion monthly IGR before the end of the second quarter,” he said.

 

Zamfara needs to focus on minerals

The people of Zamfara State are largely farmers. The state government also depends on farming and federal allocation for its revenue generation, though there is large mineral deposit which has been abandoned.

Analysts believe that the state’s IGR is nothing to write home about. A source at the state revenue board told our correspondent that the monthly IGR stood at N20 and a little.

However according to the state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Sanda Danjari, Governor Abdulaziz Yari has been striving to improve the revenue since he took over governance in 2011. He said the governor had done so much in terms of providing dividends of democracy to the electorate.

Danjari, in an interview, was quick to add that Governor Yari had fulfilled about 99 per cent of the promises he made during campaign across the state.

He explained that Governor Yari was the first and only governor that sold fertilizer at the cost of N1,000 per bag, a gesture aimed at fighting poverty in the state.

He noted that the state had, in the recent time, been reported as the most backward in term of basic infrastructures, particularly roads network, adding that this was why Governor Yari had been awarding roads construction contracts across the state.

“The present administration, led by Governor Yari, has embarked on award of contracts for the construction of a number of roads as one of the key ways of tackling developmental challenges. The state government has committed resources towards addressing infrastructure deficits,” he said.

He noted further that when Governor Yari took over, he assured the electorate of his redness to improve health care delivery.

There is, however, more to be done by the governor in the coming years. There are new areas to be looked into. Zamfara State is reported to possess about 60 per cent of the untapped solid mineral deposits in the federation.

The state is said to have discovered large deposits of solid minerals, including gold, copper, iron ore, tantalite and manganese, among others. All these remain untapped and are believed to be what the government should focus on to enhance its economy.

Besides, another major challenge believed to be facing the state now is the issue of insecurity. It is a trend that has bedeviled the entire local government areas of the state. Many people had been forced to abandon their villages and communities for safety. Many businesses have collapsed, while farming, which is the main source of livelihood of the people has drastically reduced, as a result of emigration of people from their communities for fear of attack by bandits.

In a recent interview with the state governor-elect, Alhaji Muktar Shehu Idris, he gave the assurance that he would dedicate himself to the service of the people, adding that his administration, right from day one, would strive towards meeting the yearnings of the citizen for a more developed and prosperous Zamfara State.

 

Benue needs to improve agriculture

Benue is an agrarian state with the majority of the population, about 70 per cent, earning living through peasant farming.

Those living in urban areas struggle to get engaged in civil service job. However, the civil service is said to be already saturated with the state having over 20,000 workers.

The state relies heavily on the monthly allocation from the Federal Government to survive, while its IGR is believed to hover around N350 million and N450 million per month.

In effect, whenever the federal allocation delays, payment of workers’ salary in the state also delays, just as in the event there is a fall in federal allocation, there is a negative effect on the state. This development accounts for the backlog of salaries owed workers in the state.

Though, the state government has prioritised payment of salary since federal allocation to the state improved, the impact of the recession is still noticeable in the state with the state government workers being owed five months salary arrears and the local government workers owed nine months.

Realising the agrarian nature of the state and the level of poverty, the state governor, Samuel Ortom, on assumption of office, had encouraged the people of the state to embark on farming activities with the declaration of every Friday as work-free day. This was to enable civil servants to engage in farming.

This policy, according to the government, was to get the state out of the hunger.

It is the fervent believe of people of the state that the government will double its efforts towards development of agriculture in Benue State and seek other means of revenue generation.

The post New govs, renewed mandates, old problems appeared first on Tribune Online.

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