The current crop of Nigerian leaders will not cease to be a source of wonder and amazement to Nigerians. The level to which they continue to display the highest form of mediocrity and economic folly especially in critical times cannot is questionable.
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Recently, the leadership of the Nigerian Governors Forum which is the umbrella body for Governors in the nation’s 36 states via a virtual meeting unanimously agreed to borrow a whopping sum of N17 trillion from the total cumulative balance in the account of the National Pension Fund (NPF).
By economic and statistical analysis, the said amount takes about 17% of the total funds in the account of the NPF which are deductions from the monthly wages and salaries of workers in the nation’s civil service spanning several years was according to them necessary to cater for infrastructural development in their home states.
In the first instance, we cannot dispute the fact that several states in Nigeria have infrastructural challenges. This is evident in the poor state of roads, health facilities, water network, housing plans etc. Only a few of these states are able to boast of roads which are motorable, health facilities that can adequately take care of the teeming population as well as potable water which are not hazardous. In several communities, epileptic power supply is the talk of the day as many have been disconnected from the national grid. Little wonder, many have been used to living and trading in the dark.
From the foregoing therefore, one may be quick to assume that the demand for loans by the Governors is justifiable considering the huge gap in infrastructure and project experienced in many states. Notwithstanding, we may be quick to ask about the necessity of such requests especially in austere and dire situations the nation is currently battling to recover from.
From another perspective nonetheless, it is evident that the poor and seismic state of infrastructure in many states could be traceable to factors relating to widespread corruption, unaccountability and incompetence of many leaders. This has continually being the bane of societal development.
Almost on a daily basis the headlines captured in the dailies are of Governors siphoning funds meant for the society into personal pockets. Some Governors go as far as utilising state funds for personal projects like ceremonies, building skyscrapers, hotels and the likes. Little wonder, many states are in huge debts and have to look to external avenues to source for funds in managing their daily expenses.
Reports abound of instances where a project for which huge funds are awarded get only about 5% of the funds meant for execution. The remaining balance is shared among several stakeholders which may not exclude the Governor and members of his cabinet. In the end, the project which is meant to last for donkey years begin to decay even within the space of three months.
Though the above assertion may be shocking, Nigerians however know it is pure reality and not fallacy. In a country like ours where developmental project get lesser value than the real cost of market value, it will not be surprising that the masses bear the brunt of these unwholesome practices.
From the above, we may say that the demand for funds by the Governors is ludicrous and not justifiable. This is one of the major reasons why the is reason why the hands of these Governors shouldn’t be allowed into the holy treasuries of the pension funds which are the benefits of workers.
In another dimension, the gross level of both political and economic mediocrity/incompetence inherent in these leaders may be another reason why the demand for loans from the National Pension Funds could be termed unrealistic. Their continued negligence and reticence to make profitable and well-meaning investments in capital projects which may bring rich return on investment to the state and its inhabitants is also another causative factor to the poor state of development. Rather than engage in projects that are beneficial to all and sundry, they prefer to engage in jamboree activities which drain the nation’s treasury massively.
In addition, a critical observation of the pension laws and statutes forbids anyone from borrowing from the pension funds. This is due to its sacred nature. Is it not unthinkable and idiotic for Governors who are not remitting funds into the coffers of the national pension reserve to demand for these loans that have been contributed by peasant workers working for the federal government and the private sector? Some states have not remitted deductions from the salaries of their workers in the last 10 years. How then do we justify their present request for loans?
Furthermore, some states have not been able to repay the loans disbursed to them by the federal government as a means to paying the backlog of workers salaries. Lest we forget, the Federal government in 2016 disbursed varying degrees of funds to states from the refund of the Paris Club Funds. By standard arrangement, the funds were to be used to pay workers salaries and were to be refunded within a specified timeframe. Sadly, several states apart from utilising the funds for ulterior motives haven’t been able to pay back. What is the guarantee then that these same leaders who are not able to pay the Paris Club Funds will be able to pay the loans from the National Pension Fund?
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Another pertinent question that needs be ask it what will be the aftermath of the workers in a situation where the Governors are unable to repay the loans as and when due? The bulk of the revenue of many states comes from the monthly allocation from the federal government which is chiefly based on produce from crude oil tradings. In times like these where there is a shortfall in the price of oil at the international market, what happens if things do not work out as planned? Would the poor workers who have endured the heat of the day be made to go hungry and starve?
Well, the demand for loans by the Nigerian Governors Forum is a misplaced priority not even at this critical time. What the authority of the forum needs to do is to harp on the need for creativity with respect to Funds and project management. There is also the need for transparency and cutting the cost of governance. This will save the face of several States from going bankrupt and borrowing needlessly.