Experts Warn Governors on Nigeria’s Grim Economy as Buhari Urges Delivery on Promises

Experts Warn Governors on Nigeria’s Grim Economy as Buhari Urges Delivery on Promises

It was a preparatory programme for the governors who will take over the mantle of leadership and be sworn in May 29, but the economic outlook picture painted to them with statistics is scary and nothing to sheer. For those returning, the warnings may not sound too strange but for the newly elected they portend

It was a preparatory programme for the governors who will take over the mantle of leadership and be sworn in May 29, but the economic outlook picture painted to them with statistics is scary and nothing to sheer. For those returning, the warnings may not sound too strange but for the newly elected they portend a task worthy of rolling up their sleeves; indeed, very daunting.

The 2023 Governors’ Induction Programme for Newly-Elected and Returning Governors at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja on Monday, May 15th, 2023. The induction which was themed “Governing for Impact: Building Subnational Governance” was enlightening, solution-oriented and suggesting a new paradigm shift in government at all levels. It was a mixed blend of the good and the difficult. A sweet-bitter experience sharing moment for the audience which also included governors that have completed their terms.

Buhari Urges Governors to Deliver on Their Campaign Promises

For eight years, President Buhari was on the hot seat and had seen it all. In a speech delivered by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, President Buhari commended the democratic process in Nigeria, highlighting the recent general elections that saw the election of a new President and 18 newly elected or returning governors, democracy he said is an ongoing process that requires constant self-reflection and improvement to ensure inclusivity and faith in the system.

The President shared his personal experience as a veteran of the democratic process, urging patience, tolerance, and the appropriate channels for seeking redress in case of unfair practices. The President noted the improving sophistication of the electorate warning the governors to deliver on the promises made or be ready to be booted out at the next election cycle.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Paints a Gloomy Economic Situation, Warns Governors to Work More on IGR

Blunt as ever, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of the World Trade Center, painted a grim economic outlook to the governors. While addressing the 36-member Nigerian Governors’ Forum, especially the incoming governors, she stressed the need to build trust following the elections, confront challenges on the fiscal side and emerging global challenges and seize opportunities in global value chains and the digital space.

Her warning was not without basis. According to Okonjo-Iweala: “Nigeria’s gross debt level has climbed from N19.3 trillion in 2015 to N91.6 trillion in 2023. The debt-to-GDP ratio has almost doubled from 20 per cent to 39 per cent over that time period. While the debt-to-GDP ratio may not look so alarming, as revenues decline, the burden of debt servicing has increased dramatically.

“The debt service to revenue ratio is certainly alarming, at 83.2 per cent in 2021 and 96.3 per cent in 2022, according to the World Bank. This means that at the federal level, after servicing our debt, there is little room to pay for recurrent expenditures, let alone investment,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala said that dealing with the fiscal deficit would be more difficult with an oil subsidy bill of N3.36 trillion for the first half of 2023 (or N6.72 trillion if it is not removed).
She added that the deficit was made worse by revenue losses from oil theft.

“On the revenue side, states have a substantial responsibility. Too few states are raising internally generated revenue of any significance,” she said. She tasked the governors to improve on the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of their states as well ensure transparency in the management of state resources.

Tony Elumelu Rekindles Hope with Youth Employment

“The dynamics of governance in our country calls for preparedness and this programme is laudable in laying the important groundwork. No one can underestimate the role of good governance in contributing to the development of “said Mr. Tony Elumelu, a successful entrepreneur and Chairman of the HEIRS Group.

“Our country has a population of about 220 million people – the largest in Africa. Each state in Nigeria has different dynamics, but there is one constant, the great majority are young people. Success will mean prioritizing the largest stakeholder Group in our States, our youth.

“Nigeria’s destiny can only be achieved with public and private sectors working together for the common good. An entrepreneur has a stake in our country’s success. An entrepreneur carries others, family, employees, communities with him or her. An entrepreneur wants stability, power, education, respect and certainty in their environment. With this foundation, entrepreneurs can be the engines of our growth. This is why I champion entrepreneurship amongst our youth.

“Every state in Nigeria can be a country and Governors must see themselves as the Presidents of their states, CEOs and lead mentors. Look at Singapore, a country with 6 million people, no oil, no abundance of natural resources, just human resources and purposeful leadership. Today, the per capita GDP stands at USD55,000, up from USD 500 in 1965 making the country one of the most developed countries in the world.

“But how did they get there? It was not a mistake; it took deliberate actions by focused leadership – a combination of sound financial and economic policy coupled with a corruption free environment and technological advancement.

“It is not rocket science. If we focus on the young people in our respective states, empower them, create an enabling environment for them to succeed, we will solve our problems in this country. It is lack of economic hope or opportunity that leads a young man to carry an AK47 and join a terrorist or bandit group.

“My final advice to our Governors and Leaders was to pause and reflect as they commence this journey – to reflect on their legacy. How will history judge you? What greater legacy is there than your gift to the next generation – Give our youth economic hope, and they will transform our country.

Tambuwal Looks at the Positive Developments in the last 8 Years

On his part, Chairman of the NGF and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, expressed his gratitude for President Buhari’s presence and lauded his administration’s commitment to fruitful engagements over the past eight years.

Governor Tambuwal highlighted some constitutional reforms that have empowered states and brought about landmark changes. “One such reform was the inclusion of Electricity, Railways, and Correctional Services in the Concurrent Legislative List, granting states the constitutional authority to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity within areas covered by the national grid.

“Furthermore, the financial independence of State Houses of Assembly and State Judiciary has been established, enhancing their autonomy. President Buhari’s prompt approval of constitutional alteration bills has brought about significant changes in the country’s governance structure,” he said.

Governor Tambuwal stressed the importance of diversifying Nigeria’s economy, moving away from dependence on commodity exports such as oil, gold, and agricultural produce and the need to rearticulate the national industrialization policy, improve power supply, and invest in human capital development to foster genuine development, alleviate poverty, and generate employment opportunities.

They should always ask themselves: How will history judge me? How would I want history to judge me? The next four years would be a referendum for the fresh governors, when the people would decide on how well they have fared or how poorly they have performed with their votes.

The induction programme was an impetus need for a head start by the governors. This is no time to gloat over their new status but call to service and hardwork. The incoming governors were reminded of the difficult tasks ahead, particularly addressing unemployment, poverty, and insecurity. Building strong institutions and ensuring security of lives and property were identified as essential components for achieving sustainable growth and leaving a worthy legacy for future generations.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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