State Govts And IGR Challenge By Sunny Ikhioya

IT is said that the biggest challenge confronting mankind is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of everything including the fear of not making heaven. So, we stay stuck to our comfort zones, while countries that have dared the unknown are in the Moon, Mars and other galaxies. In this age of information, Nigeria cannot afford a home made mechanised farming equipment despite the over abundance of professors and variegated learned men.

This situation has to stop. Everyone afraid of a proper restructuring of institutions and structures of this country at this present time is an enemy of Nigeria’s progressive future. Like they say, it is not the recession that is the matter or issue but what you make of it, as recession is normal in countries’ political and economics dynamics. Beginning from biblical times, there have been famine, pestilence and the rest. If we are ready to see our situation as that of a half full glass cup, rather than a half empty cup, then there is hope for us.

A situation where only six states out of thirty six in the federation can conveniently pay workers salaries is totally unacceptable. The system has made our leaders, especially at the state and local government levels lazy and devoid of ideas. When man is challenged, there is no height that he cannot attain It is time to challenge our states and local government leaders. It is time to make them take responsibilities for the position that they openly canvassed for and on which basis the electorate gave them a mandate.

A monthly wait for the federal government rations and bail outs is total madness and all the state governors in this position must cover their faces in shame. If they are not willing to suck the waters from the rocks, then the people must force them to do so. Lagos state government had the potentials but it took the frustrating actions of then president Olusegun Obasanjo to gear the Bola Tinubu’s administration into making these potentials a reality.

It took the courage of Chris Ngige for the people to realise that, it is not the amount allocated to the states that determines the progress or developments but the judicious use of funds. Since then Anambra state had made progress with Peter Obi and Willie Obiano following in Ngige’s footsteps. Cross River state lost its position amongst the oil producing states when the Bakassi peninsula was excised from it but that did not stop the state from making progress.

This was made possible through the instrument of focused leadership, beginning from Donald Duke, followed by Liyel Imoke and now Benedict Ayade. Calabar is arguably the cleanest city in the nation, the most peaceful state despite the militants in the Niger Delta and still blooming in commerce and tourism. We have continued to harass the past government at the federal level, what have we done at the state and local government levels?

The sleaze, wastefulness, drudgery, mismanagement and misgovernance began by manifesting at the local and states levels. State governors suddenly became demi gods, with rubber stamp legislators, ever ready to share the loot. We are not even talking about what they did with the security votes. Many of the state governments were run like individual estates and the situation persists even now. That is why we are in the situation we now find ourselves presently.

That is why salaries and other government obligations are not being met. I was in the city of Warri, Delta state recently and I saw misused opportunities, yet we have a local government administration in place. A city of commerce and industry could not establish discipline in the running of its affairs. Meanwhile, the local government staff complain of not receiving salaries for more than seven months, when the potentials for Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, are there wasting. If they are to properly institute environmental sanitation laws in Warri city and environs, revenues from fines alone will pay workers salaries, same goes for parking and other traffic laws. What is it that they are doing? The city is going down while they sit and wait for hand outs from the state government, even the little they collect from registry service, tenement rates and others are being diverted to individual pockets.

When you cannot fill ordinary pot holes on local government roads, how do you expect the people to respond to your revenue or tax drive. The people must be convinced that their money will be put to judicious use before they part with it for tax or development levies. That was how Lagos state started, ‘putting tax payers money in action’, others must follow this example.

The case of Ogun state is a paradox. This is a state that has no excuse to be broke, with its proximity and mix with Lagos, there should be progressive bench marking between the two states, but it appears those in Abeokuta forget that the neighbouring border towns of Lagos have huge potentials for revenue generation in the state. They should not expect to get it easily, when the presence of government is not felt in an area it becomes difficult to embark on revenue drive. Go to Agbara industrial estate and see craters on the highways leading to the estate and every month government officials go there for revenue drive.

The same situation is happening in Ota industrial estate where you have multiple manufacturing companies. If it rains, the whole place is flooded and become impassable. While Lagos state appears to be leveraging on the situation and making access roads, security and communication easy for business, Ogun state appears to be asleep.

So, where will the revenue come from? Can you tell those in Akute, Lambe, Agbado, Oke aro, Ijoko, Sango ota, where roads and bridge construction have been abandoned since after the 2015 elections, that their tax payers money is in action? Osun state that started with a lot of promise in the agricultural sector, with the communal farm projects, skills and crafts training centres suddenly goes into over drive and lost its way. Today, people are wondering, what has happened to Aregbesola’s Osun state. Let me not bother to mention the mess that Imo state has become since Rochas Okorocha took over. The story is the same all over the country, except for a negligible few.

We must compel the Federal government to devolve power and allow states to operate true fiscal federalism, let the states take care of themselves and be open to competition, co-operation and regional integration. That is the way out.

Mr.ISunny Ikhioya,