NLC flays governors over profligacy
• Faults ‘Fiscal Restructuring Demand’
• Says More Funds Won’t Guarantee Wages
• Wants Accountability, Financial Ingenuity
The welfare of Nigerian workers is unlikely to improve, even if the Federal Government grants demand by state governors for increased allocation, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, has said.
Governors of the 36 states of the federation, last week, submitted a fiscal restructuring plan to President Muhammadu Buhari, saying a new revenue allocation formula would enable them pay workers’ salaries.
The move by the governors is coming less than a year after they received billions of naira from the Federal Government in order to pay wages.
But speaking to The Guardian in Abuja, yesterday, Wabba warned that boosting finances available to the governors could push corruption to unprecedented levels, as they have assumed demi-god status in their respective states.
He said: “The issues are a bit complex. I do not think that inability to pay salaries and meet other needs of the people has to do with the amount of money that is available to them. Instead, the level of irresponsibility at the state needs to be checked. The real problem at the state and local government levels is basically lack of transparency and accountability.”
Wabba expressed concern over lack of innovation and creativity by most of the governors. According to him, “it is a source of worry that the state governors are not exploring tax option to get more revenue. The only people that pay taxes in this country are the workers because government deducts it directly from their salaries at source. There is so much revenue that can be generated by state governments, if they are really serious and creative.
“But since coming to Abuja at the end of every month to get huge resources from the Federation Account is an easy option, they are too lazy to think. Governors have become rent collectors that rely solely on the resources accruing to the country.
“We need to device a system that will engender competition among the states and also make it easy to remove non-performing governors. Through that, many of them will sit up and the number of politicians seeking elective offices might begin to dwindle because cheap funds would no longer be available.”
Wabba said the fight against corruption would not succeed until the crusade “is extended to the states and local government councils. The state governors have turned themselves into emperors ruling over fiefdoms, and the time to check their excesses has come.”
He stressed the need for the Federal Government to initiate a constitutional provision that will ensure the security votes of governors are accounted for, in the spirit of the fight against corruption by the Buhari administration.
In an interview with The Guardian, yesterday, former National Vice President of the NLC, Comrade Isah Tijjani, also described the governors’ demand as reckless and unpatriotic, wondering what happened to the billions of naira they have received over the years.
“All they need is imbibe a culture of financial discipline. These are people that cannot handle their resources and that of their local governments and they are now asking for more revenue. Do they think Nigerians are mad? What is wrong with these people? After squandering their resources and that of their local governments, do they still want Buhari to hand over to them what is meant for the federal arm of government?”
Lagos lawyer and Executive Director, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Adetokunbo Mumuni, yesterday, also took a swipe at the governors’ bid to alter the 52%-26% revenue sharing formula.
Mumuni said that with a history of financial recklessness, the governors couldn’t be trusted with additional funds. “Imagine any governor in the western part of the country planning to build an airport when there is one in Lagos. They don’t know what their priorities are. What have they done with all the money they have received over the years? They should not be taken seriously. What is the business of any state in the Middle Belt building an airport when there is one in Abuja? What is important is for them to block leakages and review their priorities,” he said.
But the Secretary, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Secretary, Association of Senior Civil Servants, Plateau State Chapter, Comrade Ade Akibon, has defended the action of the governors. Akibon said it is glaring that states cannot pay workers’ salaries and therefore need financial assistance to be able to do so.
Using Plateau State as example, he explained that the wage bill is about N1.6bn and that Governor Simon Lalong inherited over N120bn debt from the immediate past administration, adding that even when the State House of Assembly approved a loan of N10bn, the Central Bank of Nigeria is always the guarantor, which deducts from the monthly allocation from source.
He disclosed that the highest monthly allocation received by the state government is N2.5bn, stressing that when the CBN must have made its deduction, the state will be left with a meagre N1.2bn, which, according to him, is not enough to pay workers.
“We should know that Nigeria is not practicing fiscal federalism. We are operating a monolithic economy that depends solely on proceeds from oil,” he said.