Rejoinder to Rotimi Akeredolu's Views on the Wastage of Funds by State Governments

''When the economy of a state takes a nosedive, it becomes imperative to manage the affairs of the state within the resources it has and cut some spending to stabilize the economy.”

''Managing a state economy at a turbulent period purely requires the service of a man, who has vision and who can see beyond today.”

These were some of the strong statements of the former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN in a recent press release on the wastage of governmental funds by state governments which has almost led to the insolvency of some Nigerian states.
There is nothing more disturbing that 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria are struggling to pay workers' salaries due to heavy debts coupled with the drop in the monthly allocation from the Federal Government. This is expected as a result of the fall in the prices of crude oil in the international market.

I digested the words of the All Progressives Congress gubernatorial aspirant in Ondo state and kept them in my heart like a treasury tied to my existence. Before I go into my purpose of writing this piece inspired by the words of this great achiever, Aketi; I will like to use this juncture to congratulate the people of Ondo for being blessed by providence with an illustrious son deeply concerned about their plight with the zeal to act rather than watch till the state is plunged into destruction by selfish hands.

According to Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, ''The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing''

A willing and trusted man like Aketi only needs the supportive voices of the Ondo people to echo 'change' across the nook and cranny of the state.

I agree with Aketi on the assertion that governmental funds are spent on frivolities and without a paradigm shift in our approach to issues, some states will go into extinction.

Below are some suggested measures to cut the wastage of funds by state governments:

(1) Uncovering ghost workers and other corrupt practices:

The clampdown on corrupt office holders is virtually the sole agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari as if corruption only exists at the central level. 1,600 ghost workers heartlessly under the payroll of the Kogi state government were exposed recently. 7,000 others were uncovered in Niger state including other states. This amidst other practices has served as conduit pipes for the siphoning of governmental funds. Corruption needs to be checked to change the mentality of people who associate the civil service with 'free money'.

(2) Investment in agriculture:

I strongly agree with the views of Aketi on a focus on the agricultural sector by state governments. The era of over-reliance on the Federal Government can't cope with current realities. Agriculture needs to be made attractive by the state government to encourage and boost the interest of Nigerian graduates who are capable of using their technical and innovative skills to develop the sector. With the introduction of mechanized farming, agriculture will lose the 'dirty job' outlook and provide jobs for the teaming unemployed youths. Their productive activities will generate internal revenue for the state and also boost the economy. Nearness to farm produce can facilitate the establishment on industries in such states too by investors.

(3) Reduction in the lengthy of governors' convoys and personal aides:

Nigerian governors should endeavour to reduce the length of their convoys due to the costs of fueling and maintaining the exotic cars that will also entail the payment of drivers to move the vehicles. I urge the governors to take a cue from Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state who inherited a convoy of 21 vehicles from the previous administration which he has currently cut to 6 vehicles.

Furthermore, the governorship seat should be seen as an avenue to create unnecessary jobs so that the loyalists of the governor can eat. Governors should reduce the number of personal aides attached to them to reduce the wastage of state funds.

(4) Reduction in the number of Ministries and Permanent Secretaries:

Some state governments have about 24 Commissioners, 38 Permanent Secretaries which the current federal allocation cum debts can't cater for. It is also worthy of note that some Ministries, Departments and Agencies in state constitute a mere duplication of functions. The viable solution is to merge similar ones and scrap some others that have outlived their importance. This will go a long way in plugging the loopholes through which scarce resources are wasted.

(5) Scraping of security votes:

Since governors are not obliged to give an account of their security votes which gulps a large chunk of the states' revenue annually, some questionable leaders are forced to pocket the massive funds for selfish reasons. This age-long practice should stop. Such funds could be re-invested in strategic capital projects to make life easier for the masses and attract investors for the betterment of the state.

(6) Indiscriminate acquisition of loans from banks should be discouraged:

Indebtedness is part of the major problems militating against states in Nigeria. Most of the big loans acquired from banks end up in private pockets through uncompleted government projects by corrupt contractors. In most cases, the contractors collaborate with public office holders who are given their share of the failed project.
Patronage politics also come into play here as important projects like road construction and hospitals are allocated to the family members or close associates of the government while competent hands are ignored.

Henceforth, state government should map out the means of effectively servicing their debts before incurring them in order not to hamper the programmes of the next administration.

(7) The flamboyant lifestyle of state governors should be checked:

There is still this African mentality of living up to the individual expectations of some members of the public that affects Nigerian leaders which prompts them to steal public funds. Nigerian governors should stop the 'Automated Teller Machine' attitude of sharing money indiscriminately at social gatherings for the sake of prestige. Some governors constantly embark on unnecessary foreign trips with their aides, flying first class with costs levied on the state treasury. Some governors have private jets which are expensively maintained on office funds.
We have also heard fraud cases of governors using state funds to service private loans while proposed projects are left to suffer.

Governors should shy away from state functionaries which end up wasting the resources of the state. Most times, the celebrities that grace the events are motivated by fat 'brown envelopes' and luxury accommodation in top hotels in the state. The event organizers who are mostly opportunists presenting over-bloated budget for the event with the notion that the governor has a money tree in his compound all in a bid to have their bite of the national cake.

On the issue of feeding in the government house as pointed out by Aketi, if the 'president of the world' Barack Obama of the United States of America can incur his own feeding costs in the White House except for a state banquet, nothing stops a Nigerian state with depleted allocations from following suit. This is a hard time which needs hard decisions to ease the untold hardship on the masses.

State governors should stop the act of lobbying for awards from schools and other prestigious organizations who give them special recognition at public lectures, graduation ceremonies, commissioning of structures, award-giving days just to suck out money from their pockets in the form of monetary and material donations.

What about media hugging? The numbers of state governors buying slots/spaces on national television stations, massive campaign through Google ads is on the increase simply for the purpose of boosting their popularity in the state and the country at large. This gives the state recognition but at the same time, the advertisement slots run into several millions that could be used for developmental programmes to ameliorate the sorry plight of the masses in the state. The bitter truth is that most adverts are intended to boost the personal ambition of the governor rather than the general will of the people who can't even afford three square meals in a day.
 At a time of economic downturn like this, the scale of preference of most states should be restructured and made people-centred.

(8) Promotion of local goods and services:

Again, I strongly agree with Aketi that our local foods like Ofada rice, Amala, pounded yam, bush meats, palm wine and others should be given more attention from the top. Due to globalization, the local foods are gradually sidelined on the menu list in privileged homes. Salad, Sharwama, cakes, hotdog and other imported food ideas are taking over the dining tables. This has a negative effect on the economy of the state as people earning a living on the production of local foods e.g. hunters, farmers, palm wine tappers and some owners of local cafeterias suffer low patronage which forces them out of business.

The palm-wine tappers, hunters, Adire cloth-makers should be patronized to boost the economy of the rural areas. If the Ofada rice is well packaged, we can sell it to the outside world just like we have the Chinese rice in Nigeria. These are brilliant views given for FREE by Aketi.

(9) Focus on taxes and other means of generating revenue internally:

Companies and business owners should be made to pay tax from time to time. An effective tax system should be adopted to prevent evasion. The government should ensure the people are properly orientated on the essence of tax payments as well as the enjoyment of the proceeds to encourage compliance.

Taxation is an aspect Lagos state has enviably excelled today. This has helped successive administrations in the state to provide free and qualitative education, portable water, roads, good medical care and job creation for youths and adults. From N600,000,000 million monthly internally generated revenue in 1999, to N3.6billion per month by 2005, the State presently boasts of an excess of N20 billion every month from collection of tax by LIRS, Lagos State Inland Revenue Service according to the former Chief Executive Officer, Babatunde Fowler during his time.

Furthermore, the United Kingdom is beautiful with an enviable working governmental system. Nigerians love to visit for tourism, educational and medical purposes. The UK is currently being maintained with a heavy reliance on tax as the country lacks natural resources like Nigeria.

We are architects of our own misfortunes. We need a leader like Aketi that can develop a futuristic outlook and bail out the state from its present circumstances with a focus on the future.

In tough times like this, we can't keep trying the same old approach and expecting a different result. It will bore down to stagnancy. We need to draw a cue from the survival technique of a snail which goes into hiding during the dry season. The snail takes cover in its shell and guides itself from harm by other organisms in the ecosystem with a protective covering over a long period of time only for it to move out in the event of rainfall or perceived moisture.

 We will survive this cash crunch like other economies in the international system but there is a need to prioritize so that the essence of a state which is for the guarantee of the general will of the people according to the social contract theory will not be lost.
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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on Phone number: +2347053302356.
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