By FELIX OLOYEDE
Presently, everybody is calling for the heads of state governors who have been unable to pay their workers for months. Government activities in the affected states have been grounded. For instance, in Osun State, which is the much-talked of the lot the workforce has been on strike for more than three months. Worse for the state, apart from losing man-hours, it will also pay for the indolence of the striking workers.
The affected states are taking refuge in castigating the workers for lack of understanding, claiming that even the federal government is only paying those in its employ with borrowed money. The question that should be agitating the minds of every Nigerian should be how did we get to this? The answer to this question is not farfetched. To discerning minds, it was crystal clear that we will definitely come to this situation, because there was no way a nation could depend solely on one product and escape being caught in the web of cash crunch. Nigeria upon discovering crude oil in late 1950s, decided to kill the goose that was laying the country’s golden eggs- agriculture.
Cocoa built the first high-rise building in the west, Liberty Stadium, African first television station- the present NTA Ibadan etc. The groundnut pyramid in the north was a phenomenon. Through groundnuts the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira was built. And money realized from palm oil in the East was used to set up University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
But no sooner the black gold was discovered than the government relegated agriculture to the background. Now, crude oil price is down, see where is has landed us. African largest economic that cannot pay its workers! There is no need crying over split milk. The deed has been done. So, what is the way out? This is what the entire country should be thinking of now. All sorts of solutions have been propounded as a way out of this quagmire that has paralyzed government activities in most states in the country. I will look at them in term of immediate and long-term solutions.
With the dire situation that we find ourselves, the first thing the government at all levels must do is to cut the cost of governance in the country. The money spent on running government in Nigeria is unsustainable.
Our number of MDAs in both the federal and state governments should be one of the largest in the world. A lot of the MDAs just duplicate functions, adding little or no value to governance. And to worsen it, most of these MDAs are overstocked with staff that 60 per cent are doing next to nothing. So, in these hard times, the government must prune them to manageable size.
To this end, the news that President Muhammadu BUhari would appoint only 19 ministers is cheering. The state governments have to tow this line in order to overcome the challenge of paying salaries. Other state governments also need to emulate the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, who decided to half the salaries of all political appointees in the state, until financial situation of the state improves that it could clear the six months salary arrears it presently owes its workers.
At this crucial time, governments at all levels must up their internally generated revenue (IGR) revenue and stop relying on federal allocations. It is because Lagos State is exploring its IGR
potentials, this explains the reason it is not struggling to pay its workforce like most states.
With dwindling oil revenues, they cannot afford to fold their arms waiting for allocations. If it will take engaging reputable tax consultants like Lagos did, that it will help design a tax regime that their IGR. After this is done, all linkages must be blocked for this to be meaningful. Corruption has been the bane of Nigeria. A substantial amount of government revenue goes into private pockets.
We cannot continue with this if we want to get away from this present financial mess that we
find ourselves. Government needs to see it as a demon that must be tamed and strengthen agencies that have the responsibilities of checkmating corrupt practices in the country. The war against corruption must be won if the country is to make any headway. And to achieve this, our judiciary system needs over hauling.
All corrupt judicial officials have to be weeded out of the system. And in the long term, the need to diversify our economic from crude oil dependent economy is overdue. No nation can survive living on a single commodity. It is ironical that despite the vast natural and human resources that this country is blessed with, we still get 90 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings from crude oil. And to add insult to injury, we import refined petroleum.
So, most of the gains we would have made are thrown away in the name of subsidies paid on these imported products. It is high time we retraced our steps and explored our agricultural potentials that have made us great in the past. As a way out of this present sorry state that we are, our solid minerals are wasting away must be tapped. The government should waste no time in engaging foreign investors who can convert these resources into revenue for the Nigerian nation.
We only hear that there is gold in Osun and other states in the country, but little or nothing is being done for mine it. If South Africa could be making a lot of its foreign earnings from solid minerals, why can’t we do same? Tourism is another goldmine that states of the federation should explore.