Two critical issues generated considerable interest in the polity in the past week: the menace of Fulani herdsmen and the insolvency of the states. For months now, the herdsmen have been on the prowl across the country. Everywhere they have been, they have left harvests of deaths in their wake. They have wrecked untold havoc in Agatu in Benue state, razed houses, and killed dozens of people. Children have been orphaned; hundreds of people have been rendered homeless. They are not done yet.
Last week, they yet again unleashed mayhem in the South-East of Enugu. The people of Nimbo in Uzouwani are the herdsmen latest victims. It was an unspeakable spectacle that has drawn streams of reactions. It is in condemnatory tones. It is not for nothing. What rankles most in the attacks and killings is the seeming silence of President Muhammadu Buhari in the orgy of violence. The President is of Fulani stock.
The President owns a lot of cattle. The herdsmen are his own men, perhaps some of them are his employees, some have argued.
Although the President reportedly had a private discussion at the Villa last week with the Governor of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to condole with him on the killings in Enugu, many believe the President, and indeed, the Federal Government has done very little to call the herdsmen to order. His silence until now, troubles the mind.
Among the latest voices against the President’s seeming ‘conspiracy of silence’ is the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka. Last Thursday, Soyinka faulted the President’s assurances that the menace of the herdsmen would be addressed in the next 18 months. This a long time to wait for solution. This assurance is not re-assuring at all. Soyinka has spoken the minds of many. The President, as Soyinka said, knows the solution but has refused to apply it, thereby tacitly encouraging the orgy of violence, bloodbath, killings and destruction from the herdsmen to go on. It will not be surprising if they unleash another attack by the time you read this.
As the Nobel Laureate rightly said, the signs were already clear and “the rampage of impunity was already manifesting in cultic intensity of alarming proportions almost a year ago. Indeed, this menace by the herdsmen became a national nightmare immediately after Buhari was sworn in. the impression is as if the herdsmen are being nudged to embark on provocation and possibly ignite another ‘terror war’ in the Southern parts of the country. The President’s response remains tepid, to say the least. But the nation is waiting to see what concrete measures the government is putting in place to end this unprovoked attacks.
Meanwhile, the insolvency of the states has reared its ugly head again. This time, it presents a present danger that calls for urgent attention. Last Thursday, the governors once again took their case to the Presidential Villa under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). This is not a laughing matter.
The President acknowledged it was not. And he expressed worry that nearly two-thirds, that is about 24 states are in deep difficulties with meeting salary payment of their workforce.This is in spite of the bailout funds provided to them by Federal Government in July 2015. At that time, President Buhari had approved the release of $2.1 billion (N413.7bn) for sharing among the states.
Ten months on, the governors are again cap in hands. They complain the bailout fund was like a drop in the ocean in meeting their financial obligations. There have been unsubstantiated allegations that some of the states did not use the money for the purpose for which it was given. Allegations have been moving back and forth. The truth which we made in July last year remains that as long as the states do not learn the essence of the objective for which the financial intervention was made, the rains will beat the states again. That certainly is where they are now. The Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari spoke the minds of his colleagues. Like Oliver Twist, they are asking for more. And the President seems disposed to helping them.
One of their latest demands is a review of the present revenue formula, an upward review in favour of the states. Under the present structure, the states get about 26 percent of the total revenue, while the Federal Government pockets over 57 percent, the remaining for the local government.
The President has promised to provide more funds by expediting action on refunds due to them for the maintenance of federal roads and other expenses incurred by them on behalf of the Federal Government.
But, even with this expected financial assistance, there is still danger ahead for debt-ridden states. What the Federal Government is doing is merely postponing the ‘evil day’. You know why? Fiscal discipline is not an attribute of most of the governors. Indeed, financial recklessness is their second nature. They don’t know how to save for the ‘rainy day’. Generate and spend is what they revel in. they don’t know how to shun profligacy, neither do many of them know how to effectively utilize resources and prioritization of projects. It is alien to them.
That’s why they are swimming in debts. Look at the debt profile of the seven-most indebted states: Lagos state $1.087bn, Kaduna $234m, Cross River $131.469m, Edo $123m; Ogun $109m; Bauchi $87m and Katsina $78m. The total debts of the states is over $10.87bn.
Taken together, the 18-month moratorium on loan, in addition to an increase in the bailout funds for them, plus a review of their shares from the excess crude accounts that the governors are asking for look fair enough. However, the truth is that unless, and until the states look inwards, many of them may go under like a company under receivership.
The profound negative consequence of this dreaded path is that the citizens will suffer. Revolution may happen and the end result might be catastrophic.
That’s why the governors should be listened to and be given another emergency financial bailout, even though the Federal Government has financial challenge of its own. The reason is that some of the governors are richer than their states, and lose little or nothing in the event of a financial meltdown.