By Tony Edike
ENUGU — THE two-day public hearing on the review of the Revenue Allocation Formula for the South East zone commenced in Enugu, yesterday with states in the region disagreeing on the formula to be adopted in sharing revenue accruing to the federal government.
Although the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo unanimously agreed on the need to urgently review the current revenue allocation to make more funds available to them and the local government councils, they, however, differed on the percentage of monthly revenue that should go to the three tiers of government.
The public hearing which is holding at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Enugu, was attended by representatives of the five state governments in the zone, local government officials and non-governmental organizations, among other interest groups.
While Enugu and Anambra states adopted same position on the sharing formula, three others, including Ebonyi, Abia and Imo, sang different tunes which were aimed at giving them more economic advantage, especially Abia and Imo, which currently enjoy oil producing status.
Enugu and Anambra asked the Mr. Elias Mbam-led Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to reduce the Federal Government’s share of revenue to 40 per cent from the present 53 per cent.
They demanded that states’ share should be increased to 40 per cent from the current 27 per cent, while the local government should retain its 20 per cent.
Noting that the present formula was grossly lopsided, in view of the enormous responsibilities being shouldered by state governments, deputy governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, and Gabriel Onyenwife of Anambra State House of Assembly, who represented the two states, stressed the need for the states to receive more funds to enable them cater for the enormous needs of their people.
But Ebonyi, Abia and Imo states made different submissions in which they disagreed on the formula for revenue sharing even though majority of the states were of the view that the 13 per cent derivation should be retained.
Ebonyi State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Timothy Odah, speaking on behalf of his state, called for the reduction of Federal government’s share from 53 per cent to 46 per cent and the local government’s allocation from 20 per cent to 16 per cent while the state should receive 35 per cent as against the present 27 per cent.
On its part, Imo State suggested a reduction of the Federal government’s share from 53 per cent to 30; increase of the State’s share from 27 percent to 40 per cent and local government’s share from 20 percent to 25 percent.
Abia suggested 45 per cent to Federal government; 32 per cent to State government and 23 per cent to Local government as against the current 53 percent, 27 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
The states and stakeholders from the South East zone emphasized the need for the federal government to set aside special funds to tackle the enormous ecological challenges in the zone just as they canvassed that population should be used as a major yardstick for revenue sharing and not on the basis of landmass.
Earlier in his address, the Chairman of RMAFC, Engr. Mbam, told the participants that revenue allocation in the country was a very sensitive issue with implications on national development, unity and stability.
He implored Nigerians “to treat the issue with caution to avoid overheating the polity with unguarded utterances and spurious assumptions capable of causing confusion and derailing the outcome of the exercise.”
He said: “You are accordingly enjoined to consider our common national interests first in your contributions knowing that every section of the country should be considered fairly and justly.”
Mbam restating the commitment of his commission to ensure that all stakeholders were effectively carried along in its advocacy and mass mobilization campaign on the review process.
Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, said the developmental challenges facing the South East zone were very peculiar and required injection of more funds to tackle them.
He said most state governments spent their meager resources in tackling some basic needs as construction of federal roads and provision of patrol vehicles for security agencies, which were constitutional responsibilities of the federal government, a development, he lamented, often depleted the resources of the second tier of government.
Chime pointed out that despite the meager resources available to the state, a lot had been achieved in terms of road construction, with 345 kilometers of urban roads and 251 kilometers of inter-local government roads already completed by his administration.