Thursday, June 16, 2016

How To End Governors’ Profligacy

By Bayo Oluwasanmi
Arguably, many Nigerians see state govern­ments as bankrupt. Given their financial conditions, many state governments are currently facing dire financial straits that have resulted in non-payment of workers’ salaries.
The bad news is that there is a zero chance that solutions are near. The problems are one hundred per cent caused by the governors, not by the reces­sion, not by dwindling oil revenues, and not by dwindling allocations, from Abuja.. There is pov­erty, hunger, anger, disease, killings, kidnappings, abductions and insecurity all across the states.
President Buhari and Nigerian some governors 

Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu recently spoke the minds of a majority of Ni­gerians about the prodigality and profligacy of state governors. He attributed the inability of state gov­ernors to pay workers’ salaries to what he described as propensity to squander public funds on personal luxury.
Speaking to State House correspondents in May while leading a delegation of investors in the power sector to a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osin­bajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, he said some governors claim as much as N35 million as trav­eling allowance on one trip. According to Kalu: 
“These governors don’t have enough funds to work for their people because if you check, the money drawn as security votes, they should stop that...Un­less they stop drawing security votes, they will not have enough funds to work with and most of them are living in absolute luxury. So, it is impossible to continue living in this manner.
“Most of the governors are even living in Abuja now. They don’t live in their states. Honestly, if you look at the books very well, for a trip they make, they will take a traveling allowance of N35 million. What are you going to do with that? So, how are we going to progress? Let them sit down and do the job they are elected for.”
The governors of these insolvent states would want Nigerians to believe that their states are broke. In a state broadcast, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State said: “I want to thank you for your pa­tience, endurance so far in the face of this strike and our financial challenges … What I don’t have I can’t give. Ekiti State is broke.” His Ondo State counter­part, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko addressing protesting workers over the non-payment of salaries for months, said: “So, we can no longer pay salaries, even when they are due…. buckle up for a financial crash, as the state is broke”.

The states are broke because of the astronomical salaries, security votes, benefits, and the illegal un­restricted access of the governors to their treasuries.. Effective July 1, 2009, under the Remuneration Pack­age for Political, Public, and Judicial office holders prepared by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), a state governor earns an annual salary of over N11.5m basic. The RMAFC package does not set a limit on the amount of estacode (allowance in foreign currencies for foreign trips),. governors can take from state coffers. It also fails to specify the amount to be collected as Duty Tour Al­lowance for local trips which could be as high as N35 million on one trip. The provisions of the regulations simply said the estacode and Duty Tour Allowance would be provided upon request by governors. The States also bear the medical expenses of governors. Any governor who successfully completes his tenure receives a N6,671,115 severance gratuity.
Another way of depleting state funds is by receiv­ing multiple allowances. Former governors who are senators are receiving pension payments from their state governments and are also drawing salaries from public purse as serving senators. The former gover­nors now senators are: Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Theodore Orji (Abia), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara), Joshua Dariye( Plateau), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto), Ahmed Sani Yerima ( Zam­fara), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Bukar Abba Ibra­him (Yobe), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), George Akume (Benue), and Isiaka Adeleke (Osun).
The non-payment of salaries is taking a toll on workers. In Igede-Ekiti, Ekiti State, a high school teacher who had not been paid for months alleg­edly stole a pot of amala (yam flour meal) from his neighbour in order to feed his two sons. In Ibadan, Oyo State, Nasiru Lukman, a teacher at Saint Luke’s Grammar School, Molete, slumped while teaching in the classroom because of hunger. The vice principal of the same school, Mr. Emmanuel Olajide, report­edly died as a result of hunger “apparently due to non-payment of four months salary by the State govern­ment.” In Akure, Ondo State, a Director General of a State agency was said to have borrowed N500 to buy food for his family. In Nasarawa State, all the medi­cal doctors are on strike over non-payment of sala­ries. Doctors at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) have gone on strike as well. Same story in other states.
The situation should not be allowed to continue. It is time for the federal government to step in and once again bail out the states or put them under receiver­ship. The appointment of a receiver is a remedy that allows the federal government to take over the finan­cial aspect of governance of states in order to protect the livelihood and welfare of workers. By appoint­ing a receiver, the federal government signals to the prodigal governors that it means business to restore the financial health of the States. It also means the federal government has crossed the line from “talks” into “action.” For the governors, it means losing con­trol of the treasury.
The neutral status of the receiver and credibility will facilitate the needed reforms. The receiver will prioritize the allocation and spending of funds on programs and projects in the state. The receiver will conduct an analysis of the financial management cur­rently practiced by the governors as to how and why they can’t pay workers and put a new financial man­agement in place.
For example, the receiver will ensure the bailout money for payment of salaries of workers is not di­verted into the pockets of the governors. The receiver will prefer to use state funds for critical programmes instead of building airports that have no value for the citizens of the State. The receiver will hopefully plug all financial leakages, freeze security votes of the gov­ernors and other frivolous allowances and financial malpractices that have necessitated the present salary arrears.
*Oluwasanmi could be reached through bjoluwasanmi@

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