Challenges Before New Governors | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Challenges Before New Governors

Posted: May 31, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The last governorship election conducted in 29 states of the federation produced many new governors, especially from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) while the rest came from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The fact that many of the governors are coming for the first time may make the task of governance herculean due to report that shows many state government’s accounts are not healthy. This may jeopardise their efforts in providing the people dividends of democracy as promised during their campaigns. Many governors during their campaigns made a lot of promises on what they would do for the people if voted into office without knowing the financial position of the state. But from all indications, the governors may not be able to deliver on campaign promises as fast as expected due to the exposure of states to huge debt burden, the challenge of unpaid salary and pension arrears across the country.   

By Augustine Adah Lagos

Huge debt burden

The incoming governors have the challenge of paying huge debts incurred by the outgoing administration in respective states. Statistics from Debt Management Office (DMO) has shown an unhealthy debt profile of almost all the states of the federation. According to the recent figure released, Lagos State tops the table with over $1b external debt. In Niger State, the outgoing

Aliyu Lamido

Aliyu                                                                Lamido

governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu left a debt of N56b for the incoming administration in the state.  The former government of Sule Lamido of Jigawa State also left a debt of N 18b for the administration of Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar in the state. The debt profile which does not include the domestic borrowing, cuts across the 36 states of the federation. Using the DMO’s external debt figures without adding domestic debts (see tables), Lagos tops the chart of 10 most indebted states in the country with $1.17bn or N233.94 billion debt. It is distantly followed by Kaduna (N46.88 b), Cross River (N28.29 b), Edo (N24.63 b), Ogun (N21.83 b), Bauchi (17.51 b), Katsina (N15.79 b), Osun (N14.81 b), Oyo (N14.47 b) and Enugu Fashola (N13.79).


Least indebted states

Leading the states with little exposure to multilateral and bilateral loans are Taraba (N4.56 b), Borno (N4.61 b), Delta (N4.85 b), Plateau (N6.19 b), Yobe (N6.25 b), Benue (N6.62 b), Abia (N6.76 b), Zamfara (N7.11 b) and Kogi (N7.16 b).

Aregbesola Ugwuanyi Ambode

Aregbesola                                                         Ugwuanyi                                                         Ambode  

A civil society group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, has raised alarm over the increasing public debt profiles of state governments in the country.

It decried the rate at which state governments recklessly borrow money with the connivance of State Assemblies at the expense of tax payers. It argued that contrary to publicised local debts of the states by the Debt Management Office, most states were actually heavily indebted with some of them resorting to unrealistic budgets to cover up their high debt profiles.

The group called on the incoming National Assembly to enact a law creating Public Debts Management Commission of the Federation, “to centrally coordinate the compilation and management of the country’s public debts of the three tiers of Federal, state and local governments.”

The group in a statement by the chairman, Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi, said: “We call on the incoming National Assembly of Nigeria to enact an Act creating Public Debts Management Commission of the Federation.

Salary arrears

It is reported that more than 18 states in the country owe arrears of staff salary and pensions between five to eight months. The situation is so bad that many civil servants in the affected states have resorted to borrowing and beginning to enable them cope with the challenge of working without salaries for months.  In Benue State Sunday independent gathered that the civil servants who owed more than five months salary arrears before the last general elections decided to register their protests by voting against the ruling party.  The action contributed to the defeat of the governorship candidate of the party and the immediate past governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam.  Other states in this category are:  Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Zamfara states.

Abia state was listed as the state that had not paid its civil servants salaries running into nine months. The state is also said to be owing workers of the Hospital Management Board eight months’ salary; Abia State Universal Basic Education Board, six months; Abia State Polytechnic, five months; local government workers, four months; and teachers, three months’ salary arrears.

The report stated that while Enugu State had paid salaries of civil servants up to date, parastatals were owed 12 months’ salaries and pension and gratuity remain unpaid since 2010. Others states owing are Osun State with six months’ salary and pension arrears; Plateau with six months salaries and seven months pension; Benue with five months salaries and four months pension arrears; Kogi with four months of pension and salary arrears; and Oyo which owes three months salaries and between five and 11 months of pension arrears.

Ekiti state had not paid its civil servants salaries in the last three months. Jigawa owes judiciary workers a month salary arrears in 2015. Ondo state owes its civil servants one month salary and pension, while Ogun state owes its civil servants one month salary and 52 months of unremitted pension deductions to the Pension Fund Administration. Although Zamfara State has paid workers’ salaries up to date, the salaries of workers who were recruited in 2014 have not been paid.

Political godfathers

Another challenging issue that would confront some state governors is the interference of godfathers who spent their resources and time to ensure that their proxies take over from them. Judging from the past experience, it is expected such governors may spend the first two years of their term trying to satisfy their political mentors. Many of such governors who did not have political structure of their own may not have any option but yield to the demands of godfathers for the first two years of their administration. The action would affect the performance of the governor and may find it difficult to deliver on good governance as promised. Speaking on the situation and how it has affected governors’ performance, a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Okwezilieze Nwodo, at a capacity building retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State said pressures from godfathers are affecting the performance of governors in the country. Nwodo declared that some governors were compelled to present their monthly cheque from Federal Allocation to their godfathers for sharing. He said after the godfathers had taken their share of the Federal Allocation, the governors would now make do with what was left.

“Some governors are not performing today because they have to settle their godfathers first before settling the people of their states. When they get their monthly allocation, they first go to their godfathers, who will first take whatever they want before handing over the remaining to the governors.”  He also said the way the governors emerged could be responsible for their poor performance.

Dwindling revenue

The continuous dwindling in the monthly allocation to states from the federation account continues to be a source of worry to the incoming administration. The former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, said few days to the inauguration of new government that N388 billion was shared among the federal, states and local governments as revenue for April 2015. The amount shared for the month was N47 billion less than what was shared in the preceding month. The minister said the revenue generation for the month was low. He added “the continued shut down and shut in of trucks and pipelines at various terminals continued to impact negatively on crude oil revenue. “The Excess Crude Account is depleted already, and you are aware that we had earlier resolved that there should be a stop on the use of ECA to augment what the three tiers of government share monthly.

“So, the ECA is currently depleted and it has gone beyond the level that we can get anything reasonable from it.”

Already, the new governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has told the people of the state to tighten their belt as things may not be as easy as expected. The governor gave the advice shortly after he took the oath of office in Enugu on Friday.  “We must bear in mind that the resource flow has nosedived due to the decline in oil prices. “A friend told me that ‘you are becoming governor at a very bad time.’

“But I told him that this is indeed the best time to be the governor of Enugu State – if Theodore Roosevelt can lead the United States of America out of the Great Depression, and Barack Obama was able to lead the country out of economic recession, we can also do it.

“I call on the people of Enugu State to tighten your belts but tightening of belt will start with the government. All revenue generating agencies must get ready to remit to the state government – tax defaulters would no longer be counted as friends of Enugu State Government,” Ugwuanyi said.

Paucity of funds

The new governor of Kaduna State, Mallam  Nasir El-Rufai,  has also decried the high debt profile of the state, lamenting that his administration has  inherited a bankrupt economy  from the last administration in the state. According to him, the debt profile of  the state currently stood at over N90 billion and fear that it might be more  by the time he settle down to study the handover note and other facts on ground.

El-Rufai made the disclosure during a special reception for elected officials by Kaduna Peoples’ Association (KAPA) and special prayers for them by All Progressives Congress (APC) Yoruba Political Forum which held at the Arewa House, Kaduna.

He said Nigerians should pity him and the President -elect, Gen. Mohammadu Buhari and pray for them rather than the coming to congratulate them because of the bankrupt economy he and Buhari are inheriting. He said the situation is so bad situation, noting that the outgoing government led by President Goodluck Jonathan had to obtain loan to pay salaries.

The immediate challenge confronting the newly sworn governors may not be how to deliver on dividends of democracy but how to source funds to settle some of the backlog of salaries owed to civil servants in their respective states.  Unless the governors take appropriate steps to confront the challenge, they may risk workers strike which has already been declared in some states. The governors may also reduce the number of political appointments to reduce the cost of governance and use the extra resources for the development of the state. A political analyst Dr. Gabriel Yusuf has explained that judging by the reality of things at the moment any governor that goes ahead to appoint aides and political appointment like the previous administration is deceiving the people that voted them into office.