Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 52
The wise saying that experience is the best teacher perpetually asserts itself in the affairs of men. It is about the school called life. As it is with men so it is with state entities. The truth about the faulty foundation of the Nigerian state is daily unravelling despite the exertion of those who deny the state of the country and live a lie for fleeting advantages accruable from the rentier system to the extent that the economy is without genuine productive activities.
Recently, two core principles of federalism, namely, fiscal autonomy and state police came to the fore. The platform was the maiden Ekiti Economic and Investment Summit dubbed “Fountain Summit 2021” which held in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.
The event organised as part of activities marking the third year in office of the incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi became a concourse for the actors in the central and state levels of government to reflect on those aforementioned principles. The Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, governors of Edo, Kaduna and Lagos states were part of the event.
Fayemi noted that the reality of economic difficulties, especially the dwindling revenues to states had goaded governors to block leakages in the revenue collection and leverage on areas where they could get support from the Federal Government, especially the social intervention programmes. Overall, the state government had to sign a bill into law establishing Ekiti Economic Council to plan and implement the economic summit. To drive home the fact of the shrinking federal feeding bottles, the vice president asked the states of the country to think out of the box, grow their economy and boost their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) with focus on areas where they have comparative advantages rather than waiting for monthly handouts from the Federation Account. In his words, “The attractiveness of investments to any state should be radical, because that is the revenue hub and determinant of how happy the people of any state will be in terms of economic development in relation to their standard of living… Ekiti is a business-friendly environment. Ekiti has also excelled in the aspect of ease of doing business. You have vast arable lands for agriculture…Also, of recent, the government of Ekiti divested 76 per cent of shares in the Ikun Dairy Farm for Promasidor for the production of 80,000 litres of milk daily. Let me say that Ekiti has a bigger economy than many African nations.” However, the VP warned about multiple taxations that would undermine businesses and for effect that the states should grow their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) like an independent country. To be sure, investments by states in the areas of comparative advantages would lead to sustainable economic growth and encourage fiscal autonomy.
Indeed, good advice was handy for Ekiti. As the fountain of knowledge, it should transform into a knowledge economy concomitantly, block all leakages in the system and deploy robust technology to collect money centrally.
Linking security to economic investment, the governors were at one on the point of state policing bemoaning the fact that the right to policing currently resides in the exclusive list and thus undermines the independent and collaborative actions of the governors as chief executives of their states. The well-known fact was restated that capital takes flight in unstable environments with dire consequence on investments, development and wellbeing of the people. As Godwin Obaseki, Edo State governor, put it, “If you have a business, you have to protect them and you must have the apparatuses. Security is on the exclusive list and we are looking up to the Federal Government to remove it for the states to take charge…’’ The governors further stressed the importance of creating a multi-layer policing system in ways that is in synch with the central police.
They lamented the frustration attendant on the modest effort to support the federal police through vigilance groups by the federal authorities especially on the question of kitting them with appropriate security appurtenances.
The reality of the Nigerian state impasse keeps popping up, and will not go away until we do the right thing. Surprisingly, the political will to do so has been a scarce commodity. As we have repeatedly noted here while relying on the Kenneth Wheare, you have no federalism without fiscal autonomy. The current pride of the rentier state economy, namely, the black gold, is a vanishing asset, and the huge transformation in the energy sector will catch the minders of the Nigerian state napping despite incessant warning for diversification of the economy and pecuniary frugality. Let it not be that it will be too late in the day to do the needful—threading on the path of federalism for unity in diversity and a wide belt of freedom for the members of the Nigerian commonwealth to grow and develop at their pace to the mutual benefit of all and to the glory of the country.