Restructuring or infrastructure?

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.

Revenues have dipped astronomically to the extent that the NNPC is not doing the ‘crocodile smile’ or ‘python dance’ to FAAC allocations due to the pressure from oil subsidy. Things are quite bumpy in the most sane climes too and your average dollar cannot buy you what it used to purchase. The US too has been hit with fuel scarcity and we now see images of Americans buying and hoarding fuel in drums and plastic bags. A third wave of the corona pandemic is in the offing, and some countries have already started taking preventive and precautionary measures. It is definitely squeaky-bum time worldwide as economies are not doing too well. The only active world is that of warfare and strife which spells more doom for countries that had hoped to open doors to blossoming economies, after recovering from the corona scourge. 

         Just before the corona haywire, the Federal Government had given away 2.1 billion dollars to the states as bailout funds, to cushion the very harsh economic conditions at the time– especially from dwindling oil prices. One would have thought that they would be more prudent with their spending; but unfortunately not. The states didn’t really stop all the junketing and fun spree, because if they did, the backlog of salaries and wages, owed civil servants, would have taken a turn for the better. Today, we have some states with claims of over 60 months of unpaid pensions, and some salaries. Today, big daddy FG is coming for the bail out funds, to be deducted from source, and the states look like they are in for a more miserable time. 

            Because the states are in for torrid times, we are now faced with cries of restructuring and what have you; taking the front burner of public discourse. Gone  are the days when restructuring is flashed in national discussions as a wild card, used as an advantageous negotiating point, for one region, over the other. Issues that are most fundamental in the whole restructuring debate, have been raped blind for all to see, because those in charge of protecting and sustaining restructured organs of government do not find that in their favor. If two whole arms of government, cannot stand and function on their own independently, then what is restructuring for crying out loud? This surely lies in the states where the judiciary and the legislature do not have autonomy. They function at the mercy and behest of the governors. They are practically lame ducks. If anyone is standing in the way of an autonomous legislature, and an independent judiciary, it is the state governors. All they see in the restructuring debate is the agitation for more resources from the centre or away from the centre, yet, they cannot stand to give due independence and autonomy to the local governments, the judiciary and the legislature in their own respective states. 

         Structures or lack of, are not our real problem. The managers of our structures are our problems. If you look at our GDP contributions from various sectors, non oil sectors like agriculture, have been the highest contributors. So while you are arguing for resource control, you may end up arguing at counter purposes, because the resource power you thought you had, is what you do not have. If we want to have fair checks and balances, then it must be system wide. What applies to the Federal government, must apply to the states and their respective arms of government. We still have issues whereby in a state, its citizens cannot get to agree on who becomes the VC of a school in that state, based on where he or she comes from in that state. So bringing in ‘big cakes’ from the centre to the state is not the issue really…. but will the state see it? 

           One would have thought that the insecurity rummaging states in the South East would have had a dealing with; but alas, it is a restructuring agenda that comes to the fore, coming after big brother FG, says it wants its 2.1 billion dollars back. This is FG allocation of a constitutionally backed sharing formula that is much needed to drive the Federal Government’s infrastructure drive. Just last week, the FG took delivery of 86 new freight trains into the country. This stands to totally transform the way we move our goods and services. This will in one fell swoop, do away with thousands of heavy duty vehicles used in transporting goods and services across the country. This stands to do so in a much cheaper and safer manner. So what we actually need is more and more infrastructure to drive a more buoyant economy. What we need is the infrastructure that is tangible, which we get from the Federal government. What do we get in the states? If you take the exception of just 5 of the states, there is nothing left for you to see is there? 

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.


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