Memo to Yoruba Governors (2)

“Do not remove the ancient landmarks that your fathers set”-Prov 22:28.

Yoruba nation continues to remove the precious landmarks established by our forefathers in the order of strange children. A people known for being the first in noble things are now making it to the top in negative reckonings.

The first television station in Africa was birthed in Ibadan just two years after Britain watched TV and before Southern France could have that pleasure. It was also the space where the first tallest building  in the country, Cocoa House was constructed. And in spite of these wonders and extra-ordinary conquests in human development, the Western Region under Oloye Obafemi Awolowo paid the highest minimum wage in the country, even higher than what the Federal Government paid to its workers.

One of the areas Yorubaland is leading negatively today is in the area of domestic debts. A report by Sunday Punch of August 20, 2019 quoting figures from the debt a Management Office showed that South-West has more domestic debt than other regions of the country with an exposure to the tune of N1.04tn as of March 31.

The statistics also showed that the six geo-political zones of the country were exposed to a total domestic debt of N3.97tn as of March 31.This means that the South-West geopolitical zone of the country accounts for 26.2 per cent of the country’s total subnational domestic debt.

Lagos, the commercial capital of the country accounts for much of the indebtedness of the zone as it has domestic debt of N542.23billion.

Thus, the state, which is the largest subnational economy in the country, accounts for 51.92 per cent of the domestic debt owed by the six states in the South-West.

Osun State with N147.7billion accounts for 14.2 per cent of the indebtedness of the South-West region while Ekiti State with N118.01bn accounts for 11.35 per cent of the domestic debt owed by the South-West geopolitical zone.

Ogun State accounts for 9.34 per cent of the domestic indebtedness of the region with a total of N97.09billion while Oyo State with N94.14billion accounts for 9.03 per cent of the domestic debt of the region.

Ondo which has the least domestic debt in the region accounts for 5.48 per cent with N56.96b.

The South -East geo-political zone is the least indebted with a total debt portfolio of N305 .67b.

What value has accrued to the people of Yorubaland from these humongous debts is the natural question?

Our borrowings seem not to conform to both Keynesian and Monetarist views on the subject.

Keynes advocated higher government borrowing in a recession. Keynes noted in recession, firms cut back investment and households cut back spending. This causes a rise in private sector saving and a rise in unused resources. In this circumstance, government borrowing will not cause crowding out, but inject money into the circular flow and ‘kickstart’ economic activity. Government borrowing will enable economic recovery and an improvement in tax revenues

Monetarists on the other  are more critical of government borrowing arguing that government borrowing is often due to political pressures. As Milton Friedman stated “There is nothing so permanent as a temporary government programme” Friedman argued government borrowing arises due to vested political interests which keep governments committed to raising spending on programmes like social security, farm subsidies and healthcare.

My brother, Babatunde Gbadamosi helped out with a chilling exposure on Lagos Light Rail project as an example of where the money has been going.

A 27.5km  yet-to-be completed light rail starred by Lagos in 2009 was valued at $1.5b compared to Ethiopia that started a  standard gauge 759km rail two years after Lagos started its own and already completed  it at $4.5billion.

A little arithmetic shows that while Ethiopian heavy  rail costs $5.2m per km while Lagos light rail is $54m per km per km,about  10 times cost. The worry here is that it is CRCC  from China that got the contacts for both rail lines.

The worst scandal of the whole deal is that the 2010  Q1 report of CRCC showed that the  actual cost of the Lagos Light Rail  was $181m, leaving the state with over $1.2n disappearing into thin air.

It’s a monumental tragedy that Lagos with the highest revenue in the country plus being the most indebted state today has nothing on the ground that can be commended to other states to copy  the way you see in some states that have  financial endowments like the state.

In spite of aviation being on the exclusive list on the present suffocating and anti-development 1999 Constitution, Ibom Air, the Akwa Ibom commercial airline took off on June 8, 2019. Governor Emmanuel Udom was so fulfilled as he said, “Akwa Ibom State is, therefore, the first to achieve this, and we should all collectively give ourselves a pat on the back.” Mr Emmanuel’s address was presented by the deputy governor, Mr Ekpo.

The governor said the takeoff of Ibom Air was a testimony to his administration’s vision for “rapid industrialization” of the state.

The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly approved a budget size of N672.98billion for the 2019 fiscal year while the Lagos State House of Assembly appropriated N873. 532billion for 2019. But while the former has floated a commercial airline the latter only boasts of private jets in the fleet of its former officials !

There are various sectors there could have seen creative interventions to solve the problems confronting people living in the South West with the available resources and the debts being piled here and there if there are enough hearts for the people. The pitch darkness that envelopes towns and cities in the zone where  we would play under street lights as kids in the late 60s and and early 70s has been left unchallenged. My neighbourhood in Lagos had to make a special arrangement with a power company to have a 20-hour electricity supply a day. This is costing inhabitants N47 a unit of electricity as against N21 in other areas of the city with epileptic supply. This invariably is a poverty worsening project as most of the money earned by many families would now go into payment of electricity bills.

Lawyer-cum rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) speaking at the launch of a report by SERAP “From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are paying the price for corruption in the electricity sector,”on August 8, 2017; urged state governments to generate and distribute their own electricity to improve the well-being of the people of their states.

He quoted items 13 and 14 of of the schedule to the bad constitution that we have which stipulate that state governments shall have power to generate electricity outside the national the national grid.

“I generate electricity in my home and my office. So why can’t 20 million people? We must really challenge the control of our affairs by the government in Abuja.”

There is none of our states that has taken up this challenge. Why can’t one state launch a major offensive against darkness and let us see the Federal Government that wants to stop such without the Épe experiment of EFCC officials at Ambode house.

Besides, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) as Minister of Power cleared some air in a keynote address he delivered at the Punuka Annual Lecture Series in Abuja on May 9 where he said:

“Clearly therefore, contrary to widely held beliefs, state governments can establish their own power stations, can generate, transmit and distribute electricity in areas not covered by the National grid within the state and establish their own electricity to promote and manage their own power stations.”

Why is this nor being explored while we deal with the larger issue of the command and control National grid, a clear anti-federalist thing? It can only be about abdication of responsibility….

  • To be continued.
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