Since May 27, 1967 when regions paved way for states in the evolution of Nigeria’s political history, following military intervention, the second tier of government has remained a dominant feature in governance and public administration in the past 52 years of our nationhood. From 12 states in 1967 to 36 in 1998, the issue of state creation, a brain-child of the military has continued to dominate national discourse, and may remain so except for a serious re-structuring of the country.
Up till the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, some ethnic nationalities and federating units still feel marginalized in the Nigerian project as evident during the defunct National Constitutional Conference where persons from certain parts of the country virtually staged walkouts in protest while demanding for new states.
While the clamour for states continues, though the agitation has dropped in the past four years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, advocates for states perhaps have resolved to adopt the waiting game while strategising on the next line of action.
In what appears to be a twist in states creation and their viability, a recent report entitled: Annual States Viability Index (ASVI) showed that 17 out of 36 States in Nigeria are insolvent, unviable in 2018, as their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was far below 10 per cent of their receipts from the Federation Account Allocation in the year under review.
By implication, more than half of the federating states will be bankrupt, if revenue from the central fund dwindles at any time or period as the economy of such unviable states cannot sustain them.
A report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that only Lagos and Rivers States can stay afloat if federally-shared revenue were to cease, in case of unforeseen circumstances. This scenario, indeed, portends grave, clear and present danger in the socio-political and economic well-being of the federating states.
Whereas the simple option may be to merge some states to make them viable as the way forward, The Tide thinks that such path may not be readily achievable in the present political reality of the country.
As uncomfortable as that reality may look, the way forward is for the states to diversify their economy and explore ways and means of boosting their revenue base through Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The truth is that the financial obligations of States keep increasing in geometrical proportion while their revenue generation profile remains virtually static. Infact, in some cases, their revenue dwindles year in, year out. The right path to follow is to explore and exploit the natural and human endowments within their domains.
It is unbelievable and indeed, unacceptable that going by the NBS report, States like Kebbi, Taraba, Adamawa, Bornu, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Katsina, Ebonyi and Gombe oscillate between N4 billion and N6 billion monthly as their IGR whereas their financial obligations range between N15 billion and N25 billion per month.
It is, therefore, advisable and imperative that states must overhaul their sources of IGR through Pay-As-You Earn (PAYE) Direct Tax Assessment, road taxes, and other revenue generating Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to remain afloat, especially in this era of the new National Minimum Wage regime.
Any state worth the name should be able to raise its revenue profile and stop lamenting its poor revenue base. While we subscribe to an urgent review of the national revenue sharing formula in favour of states and local government councils, it is our candid opinion that the second and third tiers of government are not just doing enough to shore up their IGR as the current reality demands.
The Tide is of the view that the states must learn to depend less on the central government or go cap in hand begging for internal or external loan facilities to run their affairs. The era of insolvency and bankruptcy should be over for good.
The unviable states should discover the winning formula in IGR generation as evidenced in Lagos, Rivers and probably Delta States. They should not just exist in paying salaries of civil servants and other political office holders who merely constitute an infinitesimal percentage of their citizenry.
Other basic amenities such as potable water, basic education, affordable health services, good roads, electricity, security and decent housing should as well be given due priority as dividends of democracy to the electorate who gave the public office holders at the state level their mandate in trust.
In all, no state in Nigeria should be bankrupt.
Against Amnesty For Repentant Terrorists
Last Wednesday, the Federal Government made spirited efforts to counter opposition
against the move to grant repentant Boko Haram terrorists amnesty.
Many Nigerians, including victims of insurgency in the North East, have kicked against the de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram members, saying the programme was a way of rewarding those who had shed innocent blood.
But the Federal Government, in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the programme followed “an established example of countries with similar experiences”.
It said the programme enjoyed the support of international organisations such as European Union and the United Nations.
According to the Presidency, the former combatants had repented and were better citizens, imbued with genuine nationalism; therefore, the society had the duty of accepting them.
The presidential aide also faulted claims that the current regime was absorbing repentant Boko Haram terrorists into the military through the programme, describing such claims as fake news.
The statement read, “None of the 601 former Boko Haram members who voluntarily laid down their arms, and have recently graduated from the Federal Government’s de-radicalisation and rehabilitation programme, is going into the military. This is the fourth of such graduation of repentant Boko Haram fighters and not one of such graduates has been absorbed into the military.
“The public needs to be reassured that the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists of the Buhari administration code named ‘Operation Safe Corridor ,’ follows an established example from countries with similar experiences, and is supported academically and materially by the European Union and the United Nations”.
Hard as the Federal Government tries to justify the planned amnesty programme for Boko Haram terrorists, the reasons adduced for it fall flat on the face. Many Nigerians, including The Tide, find it extremely difficult to understand why the government would reward killers with freedom and funds. Granting the so-called repentant terrorists amnesty would amount to a great injustice against the victims of insurgency who have borne the brunt of their mindless bloodletting.
While we agree that there is an urgent need for peace in the North East, because the region is falling behind in terms of economic progress and development, we are of the opinion that the failure to punish perpetrators of crime deforms the authority of law and would encourage impunity which is fast becoming a culture in Nigeria. It will also undermine the legitimacy of the government and breed cynicism towards civilian institutions.
In addition, we believe that it is the prosecution of Boko Haram members, and not their reintegration, that will expose the truth about their violent crimes and terrorist activities.
So, rather than spending public fund to rehabilitate blood thirsty monsters, we insist that their trials and prosecutions could inspire Nigeria to reassert the fundamental principles of respect for the rule of law, freedom of religion and the inherent dignity for human lives.
Besides, we are yet to be convinced that the so-called repentant religious extremists would not go back to pick up arms against the people after their reintegration.
We recall that in April 2013, former President Goodluck Jonathan set up a committee to look into the possibility of granting an amnesty to Boko Haram militants, but the sectarian group rejected the offer. This confirms that the sect is made up of hard boiled, ideologically hardened terrorists that may never be persuaded by rehabilitation and reintegration.
We are not also persuaded by the argument that a similar programme offered the ex-militants of the Niger Delta by the administration of late President Umar Yar’Adua restored peace in the region. This is because the insurrection that culminated in attacks against oil installations by militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was anchored on growing poverty, unemployment, and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta. Boko Haram terrorists do not have such reasonable justifications for their bloodletting actions.
All indications, including their modus operandi, clearly show that unlike the Niger Delta agitators who formed a vanguard against further degradation and neglect of their region, Boko Haram terrorists are mere blood thirsty goons that kill innocent people without reasons.
Granting amnesty to such mindless monsters would not only defeat one of the key programmes of the Buhari administration, it will also raise the fear of social injustice in Nigeria; which is that the victims of violence are neglected while perpetrators of crimes are rewarded.
Again, rewarding the rebels financially for surrendering their arms is likely to attract other young people to join the sect.
Meanwhile, we observe that Nigeria currently lacks the institutional structures for rehabilitating, reabsorbing and reintegrating terrorists in its midst. In fact, one of the critical points for the failure of the Niger Delta amnesty was the inadequate rehabilitation programme designed to give the ex-militants social and job skills.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to perish the idea of granting amnesty in whatever disguise to Boko Haram insurgents. We advise the government to deploy the resources meant to rehabilitate the insurgents into total decimation of the sect. This should be the major priority of the Buhari government, and not amnesty.
Still On PIB
The House of Representatives has once again pushed to the front burner for passage, the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has been on the floor of the National Assembly since December, 2008, when it was originally introduced. This piece of legislation has since then undergone several revisions and has been the subject of controversy and debate. Right now, the Bill has been split into four documents.
Interestingly, former President Goodluck Jonathan had on July 18, 2012, presented a new version of the Bill to the Seventh National Assembly for reconsideration and re-enactment. The National Assembly graciously did that but the Bill was not signed into law until that regime fizzled out in 2015.
Inadvertently, another component of the Bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), was passed by the Senate in May, 2017, while the House of Representatives followed suit in January, 2018, as part of a package of legislative reform for the oil and gas sector. However, President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent, and the document has remained in the cooler since then.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian oil industry is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Keen observers, however, believe that the oil industry is opaque in its dealings, as it is widely seen as a source of corruption in government circles.
Incidentally, various stakeholders within government, oil companies and even civil society organisations equally agree that the oil and gas sector in Nigeria needs urgent reforms. This arises from the fact that the current structures are convoluted and impede effective regulation. This is mainly because of overlapping regulatory functions exercised by multiple agencies which in themselves breed dysfunction.
As it were, the long term consequence of this persisting scenario has been a significant deterioration in the environment of the Niger Delta region as a result of oil spills and gas flaring, which ultimately has impacted negatively on the health of the local people, the loss of agricultural land, and the pollution of its creeks and surrounding seas.
Essentially, these are lapses among others the PIB intends to address. It also aspires to promote transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector. While transparency encourages competition, accountable institutions reassure investors, improve regulation and revenue collection, and these result in higher production and earnings.
Besides, the PIB would also enhance and increase access to information within the sector by opening more kinds of documents and data to public scrutiny, and by so doing, improve incentives for performance and check corruption and other sharp practices within the sector.
It is in cognizance of this fact that the House of Representatives recently set in motion modalities to pass the long-awaited PIB into law in September, by setting up a 30-member committee with five members drawn from each of the six geo-political zones of the country. The Minority Leader of the House, Rep Ndudi Elumelu, told newsmen that the House would go ahead with the process of amending and passing the Bill even without the input of the Executive.
“We don’t need the Executive to tutor us. We are going ahead with considering the Bill,” Elumelu enthused, while another lawmaker, Rep. Nicholas Ossai, advised the President to cooperate with the National Assembly on this piece of legislation, so as to attract more investments to the oil and gas industry. The House and the Senate are expected to resume full business in the second week of September.
The Tide is elated that the House of Representatives has taken a bold step to revisit this nagging issue, and promised to do the needful in ensuring that the Bill is passed into law. We are not unmindful that this is the fourth time the Bill is being introduced and re-introduced without having a smooth sail in the National Assembly.
In fact, the passage of this Bill is long overdue as it has been unnecessarily over-delayed, and we believe that the assurances given by the members of the House of Representatives this time around would be good enough to see this all-important Bill see the light of day once and for all.
The first step, we think, is for the lawmakers to try as much as possible to harmonise the PIB, which has been split into four documents. This will enable the National Assembly to do a more thorough work on the Bill with a view to addressing all grey areas that may stand against it from securing the President’s assent, after it must have been passed into law.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Bill, when passed into law and assented to by the President, would go a long way to bolster the interest and welfare of those who suffer the negative impact of oil exploration in the country. This is particularly so because the Bill is not only for the interest of the Niger Delta alone but also for the entire country, as it would help bring the much-needed peace in the region and facilitate development across the country.
We also lend our voice to the call by the lawmakers and other stakeholders on the Executive to cooperate with the National Assembly in the current move to make the PIB a reality. In fact, this time around, we should never allow primordial sentiments and other considerations for that matter to becloud and override the collective interest and zeal of bringing more investments to the country.
Indeed, in this matter, it behoves the current Federal Government to treat with the same passion the way it has treated Bills like the North East Development Commission, among others. Again, all that is required for us to move forward is for all hands to be on deck to give the PIB the expected push in order to give the country’s ailing economy a boost.
End The Carnage In Southern Kaduna, Now
It is obvious Kaduna State is gradually becoming the cynosure of banditry in Nigeria. Southern Kaduna specifically is fast whirling into a killing field. Recently, bandits alleged to be Fulani herdsmen struck in the southern part of the State, cutting down people by the score.
There was likewise a reported killing of 11 people by gunmen in an offensive against Gora Gan village of Zango Kataf Local Government Area. The onslaught came only 24 hours after about 21 people were murdered by supposed bandits at Kukum Daji village in neighbouring Kaura Local Government Area.
In addition, 24 people were purportedly massacred by gunmen in seeming collaborative attacks in three communities of Zango Kataf Local Government Area. Within the period, gory images of slain persons in Southern Kaduna crammed the media space. Again, in March this year, 11 people were reportedly slaughtered despite the curfew imposed on the State to stave off the spread of COVID-19.
Similarly, over 30 people were killed on May 12, 2020, by presumed herdsmen in Kajuru Local Government Area of the State. In the past few weeks, there had been several other reports of killings, especially in the southern part of the State, with several people in hospitals receiving treatment from injuries caused by gunshots.
Regrettably, these assaults and many others occur amid available information that southern Kaduna basks in extensive security deployments, including the Army, Special Forces of both the Army and the Air Force, surveillance aircraft by the Air Force and a squadron of the mobile police force that are on the ground on a 24-hour basis to obviate criminality and keep the peace.
The Presidency had earlier asserted that the problem of insecurity in the area was more sophisticated than many people were inclined to admit. According to Presidency sources, the situation in Southern Kaduna is a combination of politically-motivated banditry, retributive killings and reciprocal violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious bases.
That explanation by the Presidency is provocative and unacceptable. Such a statement amounts to defence for the continual violence. It is immaterial whether the killings were inspired by vengeance, religio-ethnic factors or politics. Is this why no one is charged for the crimes? The government must realise that it is obligated to the citizens for the protection of their lives and property and hence, must stop the outrageous acts.
We are indeed horrified by the ostentatious show of violence, bloodshed and devastation in Southern Kaduna. Consequently, we advise the government at all levels to halt the horrendous trend immediately more so as the military has been strained beyond their threshold with security operations all over the country.
It is common knowledge that our armed forces have been engaged in the war against insurgency in the North East, and banditry in the North West and parts of the North Central respectively. These are in addition to the kidnappings and other criminality being perpetrated on a high scale all over the country.
The relentless killings in Southern Kaduna should be of a considerable burden to the government since they have failed abysmally to secure the citizenry, mainly the people of Southern Kaduna. The Presidency’s insistence that troop deployments in the area can encompass the bloodshed going on is most unfortunate, the reaction by the State government is no better.
In the build-up to the 2019 polls, Governor Nasir El-Rufai admitted that the State he governed was ravaged by internal contretemps. Hear him: “No matter who I choose as my running mate, even if I choose the Pope, 67 per cent of the Christians in Southern Kaduna have made up their minds that they will never vote for me. This is what the polls show. So, for me, that is not the issue.
“The issue is this: Kaduna State is divided, it needs to be united. The way to begin to unite it is to take religion or ethnicity off the table. Since 1992, every deputy governor of Kaduna has been a Christian. What has it done for the state? Has it united the state? Has it assuaged the feelings of the Christian minority?”
Since the governor knew that there was no love lost between him and the people of Southern Kaduna, he should have resolved his brawls with them, win their trust and take the battle to the criminals. This has not been done. Rather, the relationship between him and the people of Southern Kaduna has deteriorated in recent times, with many of them denouncing his response to the homicides.
On its part, the Federal Government must utilise resources at its disposal to assist the Kaduna State government to end the bloodshed. Many residents of Southern Kaduna claim that the killers are Fulani bandits. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari and El-Rufai need to dispel the impression that they have failed to halt the killings because they are of the same ethnic stock as the culprits.
We maintain that the reason for the recurring crises in parts of Kaduna State is the inability of the authorities to deal decisively with felons and perpetrators of the killings. Nevertheless, in this onerous task of finding a peaceful solution to the crises in the troubled State, the government needs the backing of political, religious and traditional rulers. Everyone must be orientated towards one direction – peace and religious tolerance.
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