•FG failed to protect farmers from terrorist attacks — Govs
•Govs responsible for over 60% of Nigeria’s problems — Prof. Ofoeze
•FG contributed more to Nigerian poverty—Prof. Igwe
•Some govs misplacing priorities — Ex-NDE boss
•Both tiers of govt are culpable — Sarkin Hausa
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Steve Oko & Emmanuel Iheaka
LAST week, the Federal Government through the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, blamed the 36 states governors for the rising poverty index. Recall that the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, recently disclosed that 133 million Nigerians were poor.
They accused the governors of embarking on bogus projects such as flyovers that do not directly benefit the rural masses. But the governors swiftly rejected the accusation and blamed the Federal Government for the astronomical rise in poverty in the country.
Under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, they came hard on the Federal Government over the issue and vehemently rejected the accusation. According to their spokesman, Abdulrazaq Bello-Barkindo, the governors insisted that it was the Federal Government that abandoned its promise and primary responsibility to the citizens, especially protection, hence terrorists sacked them from their farms.“
Residents of Anambra State who spoke on the issue described the accusations and counter-accusations as shameful, saying the nation’s leaders have deliberately alienated themselves from the people.
An Awka-based businessman, Mr. Obiora Akaigwe said the only thing some of the governors see as development is building roads that don’t even last, while neglecting to empower the people. According to him, bridges and roads are good, but they should not be prioritized at the expense of reducing poverty level among the people.
“Constant and affordable power supply in the rural areas is one sure way of reducing poverty. If there is adequate power supply across the country, artisans would not have to be migrating to the cities in search of non-existent jobs as they would remain in their villages to make their living.
“Also, empowering the people through setting up of small and medium enterprises in the rural communities is another sure way of taking people out of poverty, but our leaders care less.
“Many governors believe that the only way to measure their performance is the number of flyovers and roads they build, but the bodies responsible for determining real and holistic development have proved them wrong,” Akaigwe said.
For Mr. Paschal Onyedikachi, the main reason for high poverty rate among the people is the neglect of the rural areas by the governors who, he alleged, pocket funds meant for the local governments.
The issue of local government autonomy has been on the front burner but the governors have always sabotaged it because they usurp the local government allocations from the Federation Account, which is very unfortunate. If all the local governments in the country are allowed to spend their allocations, the people will feel government impact more,” he said.
Ndigbo United Forum, NUF, a group seeking to restore the cultural values and language of Ndigbo, expresses worry over the blame game by the Federal Government and the governors, saying the two have contributed in impoverishing the rural people.
According to the Chairman, NUF BoT, Chief Chinedu Mba, the pitiable condition in which Nigerians find themselves today are due to greed, corruption and negligence on the part of the leaders.
He said there was no need for the blame if they obey the constitution which is very clear on the roles expected of each tier of government, particularly in the area of wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
“In Nigeria, we have federal, state and local government roads and other development projects that require attention by each tier of government and, on that basis, revenues are allocated to each of the tiers on monthly basis. So, why can’t they utilise the allocations to tackle the projects instead of washing their dirty linens in the public?”
Blame FG, States—Sarkin Hausa
In his reaction, the Sarki and leader of the Hausa community in Amawbia, Anambra State, Alhaji Mahmoud Sani said both the federal and state governments are culpable in the current poverty ravaging the land. Sani said if all tiers of government are alive to their responsibilities by focusing on developmental projects as assigned to them by the constitution, poverty, hunger, kidnapping, armed robbery and other anti-social activities would not have become the order of the day.
“Both tiers of government are culpable. The present government officials are only after the welfare of their children, friends, political allies and family members. They live in opulent houses, ride costly vehicles and enjoy the best of medical attention at the expense of the poor masses who are left to their fate.
“If they had distributed the nation’s resources equitably, transparently and judiciously and make them trickle down to the downtrodden, probably criminal activities would not have been as high as it is today,” Sarkin Sani said.
Prince Richard Ozobu tasked governors to hands off funds allocated to local governments to enable them deploy the funds to develop the rural communities.
He called for a national audit on the funds allocated to the 774 local government areas in the country to ascertain how such funds were deployed for development and why there is a high rate of poverty in the rural areas.
Ozobu further stated that the governors failed to set up agro-based industries in the rural areas despite the vast arable land suitable for agriculture in all parts of Nigeria.
“The issue is that the governors have abandoned the rural areas. Funds for the development of the local government areas are being stolen. Nobody is asking questions on what the governors are doing with council funds. The governors have only succeeded in circulating poverty in the land. In fact, there should be a national audit of the funds that have been allocated to the local governments from the federation account.
“The governors have only concentrated development in state capitals and neglected the rural areas. Despite the huge arable lands available for agriculture, governors have ignored the agro sector which could boost development of the rural areas. Most of these state capitals were even built and developed during the colonial periods and require only maintenance of infrastructure but the governors are finding it difficult to maintain such infrastructure. Now, they are presenting annual budgets quoting figures for projects for rural areas, but none will be implemented,” Ozobu said.
The National President of Igbo National Congress, INC, Comrade Chilos Godsent, said only the control of their resources will absolve the Federal Government of the bulk of blame on the poverty rate.
Godsent stated that a situation where the states go to the Federal Government every month to beg for allocation instead of generating revenue and paying tax to the Federal Government, places greater percentage of the responsibility to lift the country out of poverty on the Federal Government.
“The poverty rate in Nigeria should be blamed on the Federal Government and not state, because as it is, Nigeria is practising unitary system of government. In a unitary system, the states have little they can do in terms of regulating policies that control the economy. The constitution places on the Exclusive List many of the things that would have driven the economy. So, you don’t expect any state to perform a miracle when a state goes to the Federal Government every month to beg for allocation instead of generating revenue and paying tax to the Federal Government in a proper federal system. The Federal Government is naive in this context of blame.”
Govs responsible for over 60% of Nigeria’s problems —Prof. Ofoeze
A political science teacher at the Abia State University, Uturu, Professor Hatz Ofoeze, aligned with the position of the Federal Government, saying that the governors should have 60% of the blame for the underdevelopment of rural communities in the country.
He said that some of the governors behave like captains without bearing.
His words: “The governors are truly responsible for underdevelopment in the rural communities. In fact, the governors are responsible for over 60% of Nigeria’s problems. Salaries of workers are not paid, and monies meant for local governments are hijacked, who is responsible? Is it not the governors?
“So long as we continue to play around with local government autonomy there will be no meaningful development in the rural communities; even the council autonomy has its own limitations. The point remains that so long as governors continue to monopolize power at this level and, at certain level they collude with the Federal Government.
“Even if the Federal Government wants to do something, the governors usually hijack the process and corner everything to themselves. It’s a multifaceted issue that can be addressed when we begin to have serious discussions in the country.”
Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, in their reaction, accused the governors of mindless looting of council funds which it said was the reason the rural communities are not developed. President-General of COSEYL, Goodluck Ibem said that the governors, out of their greed, had impoverished the people who gave them mandate to champion their cause.
“Truly, so many state governors have created poverty in their states via looting of the local government allocations, corruption and outrightly abandoning roads that lead to rural areas which have made it very difficult for farmers to bring their goods and agricultural produce to the urban areas for sale.
“The people gave governors their mandate to govern and better their lives but unfortunately, the governors have turned the opportunity to inflict hardship, poverty and pain on the same people who elected them. So many rural areas have no hospitals, health centers, schools, pipe-borne water which have exposed them to all kinds of diseases or sometimes death. Some of our governors have made the rural areas to be capital of poverty as the people are left to their own fate while the governors loot the common resources of the people for their personal gains. Our people are really suffering in the hands of our governors.”
FG contributed more to high poverty rate—Prof Igwe
In his view, Prof. Obasi Igwe said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration bears the greatest responsibility in the matter. according to him, the Buhari administration has failed to protect the rural farmers who are under constant attack by terrorists. “The federal and state governments are jointly responsible for the poverty in Nigeria; but the Buhari administration bears the greater blame. From day one, they were confused and overwhelmed and things have degenerated so much,” Igwe said.
Former presidential aspirant and ex-President of Nigeria Economic Summit, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, agreed with the Federal Government that state governors are responsible for underdevelopment in the rural communities but noted that some governors are exceptional in terms of rural development. Ohuabunwa called for the abolition of joint allocation account between state and local governments, describing it as a way through which some governors siphon council funds.
“The Federal Government was spot on, only that there are exceptions. Not every governor is that bad. Some have made appreciable efforts towards development of rural areas. It is true that council funds are mismanaged through the joint accounts. So, the minister is not wrong although some governors are exceptional.
“If the state governors are effectively supporting councils and allowing them to use their funds, our rural areas would not have been stagnated,” Ohuabunwa said and called for the separation of councils from the apron-strings of states.
“Council revenues should go straight to them and let them be allowed to carry out their constitutional responsibilities. States should have oversight over them. We should stop running councils with transition committee system. It is part of the decay in the system. We need local government autonomy. If we do that, councils will stop giving excuses. That is why we are pushing for restructuring,” he noted.
Pioneer Director-General of National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Chief Chuku Wachuku, also agreed that “there are some elements of truth in what the Federal Government said,” and blamed underdevelopment in rural areas on misplacement of priorities on the part of governors.
“Perhaps I can better characterize it as misplaced priorities. Some of the states seem to use flyovers as bragging rights, whereas the production in the real sector must necessarily depend on agriculture and small and medium economies.”