FG moves to empower states on solid mineral resource control

• As Bagudu advocates inclusive planning to accommodate rural Nigerians• Ex-NPC boss faults Finance, Budget and National Planning merger

The Federal Government may have begun a process of ceding power to states to enable them to take control of mineral resources in their domain, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed has said.

Zainab was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Ernest Umakhihe at the joint retreat organized by the Senate Committee on National Planning and Economic Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Finance, on Monday in Abuja.

Umakhihe who was a member of the panel at the technical session while fielding questions said states must diversify to meet the needs of their people and reduce their dependence on federal allocation.

His words: “State governments should get their priority right. Planning should not be purely based on revenue allocation. States should devise a better way of generating revenue to meet the basic needs of their people.

“The emphasis at the National Economic Council is the diversification of the economy such that the states would become on their own self sufficient without relying heavily on the allocation from the federation account before they can execute some of their agenda.”

He continued that: “At the NEC level, a committee chaired by Governor Kayode Fayemi is already working on how the states can key into the exploration of solid mineral resources in their states.

“By the time the report of the committee would be ready, we would have states that would be able to exploit the solid mineral resources in their states and this would shore up their revenue profile.

“The Federal Government would be able to concentrate on critical national issues if there is no much pressure for allocation from the states. The states and the Federal Government are already partnering on a number of areas to ensure that the states are self-sustaining.

“When this is achieved, it would be easier to integrate the local,  state and regional modular plans into the national plan for rapid economic growth and development,” Umakhihe stated.

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Other panellists included Governor Kayode Fayemi, his counterpart from Kebbi State,  Atiku Bagudu, a former Chairman of the National Planning Commission,  Prof Ode Ojowu.

There was a consensus of view among the panellists that a robust,  all-inclusive and sustained national policy that would involve the active participation of government at all levels was critical to tackle the various social and economic challenges currently confronting the nation.

Umakhihe noted that the era where states would rely on the monthly allocation from the federation account to meet their needs would soon be over as the federal government was already addressing certain aspects of resource control.

The Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum Kayode Fayemi said there was also the need for the key representatives from the National Assembly to be members of the National Economic Council because they are not members at the moment.

He said policy no makers should figure out how to co-opt the legislature into NEC to strengthen development.

Another member of the panel Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi said there was a need to evolve a people-centred development plan which would adequately cater for the needs of the poor and vulnerable Nigerians.

He pointed out that any plan that does not capture rural dwellers irrespective of their political affiliation but concentrates on the urban dwellers and minute elite would be inadequate because the real population are in the rural areas and must be factored in all budgetary provisions.

He submitted that: “The Federal Government should come up with national indices for growth that all the states must key into so that it would encourage transition law.

“There should be a consensus around areas that Nigeria economic growth should be channelled,” he stated.

Arguing on a better measure to be adopted in the bid to improve the nation’s economy, Prof. Ode Ojowu, former Chairman of the National Planning Commission and member of the panel said no nation jettisons with the development plan and make remarkable progress on mere fiscal paper.

“The crisis we are facing as a nation in terms of development plans is that we don’t want to plan. We want to do MTEF / FSP which takes away the function of planning.

“The fiscal paper does not identify the problems of Nigeria. It is just meant to collect revenue and spend it. MTEF / FSP did not identify the number of vulnerable people scattered all over the country and how to meet their basic needs as a government.

“Nothing can be more deceitful than MTEF / FSP. Now,  the Federal Government has lumped budget,  planning and Finance together as a single ministry as if the statuary function of Finance as a ministry is not enormous enough.

“The National  Planning Commission exists by law. Why should the creation of the law be put under a ministry that was created by somebody?

“We cannot plan with the number we have because it is a mere enticement for revenue collection.

“The National Population Commission should devise a mechanism for determining accurate population growth especially with the use of digital technology so that we could know how to accurately plan for the people.

“We need to plan based on the commonality of our needs rather than our heterogeneity.  This is what is called a modular approach to development, which must reflect local needs and challenges,” he said.

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