The Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, made another impactful home coming recently, when she looked Nigerian governors straight in the face and delivered strong messages on the management of resources. The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) chose her as Guest Speaker for the 2023 Induction for re-elected and elected governors. The theme of her lecture which was held in Abuja was “Governing for Impact (Building sub-National Governance)”.
Okonjo-Iweala said: “Your Excellencies, please watch your debt profiles and keep careful control of expenditure. Even as we invest in infrastructure, education and basic healthcare, please endeavour to pay teachers and health care workers.” Her admonition came at the right time. Some of the governors do not realise the enormity of the task before them. Nigerian politics in the Fourth Republic is not about service delivery, many office holders are keen on the pecks of office rather than what they can offer to the citizens. The import is that some governors have become so lazy because, at the end of the month, there is windfall from Abuja.
This mindset has created a gulf between governance and performance. The states do not prioritise revenue genera- tion from internal sources. Okonjo-Iweala, a former Minister of Finance, who also doubled as Coordi- nating Minister for the Economy during the Good- luck Jonathan presidency, painted a gloomy picture of the states in the area of In- ternally Generated Revenue (IGR). Citing reports from the National Bureau of Sta- tistics (NBS), she explained that: “33 states relied on federal transfers for the majority of their revenue.” The implication is that while in 2020, for instance, the Fed- eral Government allocation to states stood at N2.23 trillion, IGR from the states was N1.2 trillion. In 2021, the states generated N1.61 trillion and received N3.16 trillion from Abuja. Unfortunately, because of the huge debts hanging on the country’s neck, some of these allocations which should be channelled to the development of the states end up servicing debts, leav- ing infrastructure crying for attention. What is left after deducting debt from source goes the wrong route. There is no doubt that some state governors see their tenure as an opportunity to enrich them- selves. What is prevalent in many of the state capitals is a bazaar of sorts, account- ability is zero.
The WTO Director General reminded the governors that some annual state bud- gets surpass what is obtain- able across many sovereign nations in the ECOW- AS Region. With proper manage- ment, there- fore, funds available to governors could be harnessed for the good of all. The governors must think out of the box. We are an oil produc- ing nation that squan- dered our wealth and have continued to borrow when other oil producing nations are making good use of the oil boom to boost their economy. It is a monumental shame that the Debt Management Office (DMO) in its Q4 re- port of the 2022 fiscal year, declared the country’s Total Domestic Debt Stock at N27.55 trillion. External Debt Stock stood at N18.7 trillion. The governors should be worried that compatriots are looking elsewhere for comfort.
In Canada, there are more Nigerian skilled workers than you have in some of the states of the fed- eration. The United States, United Kingdom and even down under, Australia are flooded with our citizens, running away from hard- ship. There is a lot of work ahead. We did not have oil in the First Republic but there was more development be- tween 1960 and 1966 than we have had since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999. Governors must look beyond oil to generate revenue. Our governors must en- gage the best to run the states even if it entails an all-inclusive government. It is disturbing that some of those who find themselves in government think more about increasing the popula- tion and using it to corner huge allocations from the centre. Nigeria is full of opportu- nities and blessed with hu- man and natural resources. The film industry, if prop- erly managed, can yield enough revenue to solve critical development issues. In Information Technology, we have talents that can stand with some of the best in the world. Okonjo-Iweala saw to- morrow when she was in government. The NGF could have been led by blind politi- cians. They criticised her for daring to save money from the Excess Crude Account (ECA). It is healthy that gov- ernors are ready to tap from her exposure. We pray they learn.