Paris Club refund not for salaries!
Arecent report with The Guardian of Nigeria, said that by 2040 (less than two decades from today), the United Kingdom, UK, will join France to launch its first fleet of electric cars. If it succeeds despite the hurdles being anticipated with a transition from a fossil-fuel dependent transport system to a battery powered one that means that our fossil-fuel dependent economy would go kaput soon. Those who are familiar with the Israeli economy would know that one of the biggest pilot programmes to test-run electric cars has already been initiated. The whole world is watching the programme - which has the capacity to cut oil exports by as much as 40% - with great interest.
But Nigeria and the Niger Delta are seemingly uninterested. In 2016, funds allocated to the Niger Delta include N423billion for Akwa-Ibom, N170billion for Bayelsa, N303billion for Cross River, N286billion for Delta, N116billion for Edo, N307billion for Rivers State. With the many commissions set up to accelerate development in the region - DESOPADEC, EDSOGPADEC, OSOPADEC, etcetera, the story is sadder than sad. A report published by ThisDay said that in twelve years, more than $40billion has been allocated but without tangible results in the development of the region. Total monies which have been allocated for six Niger Delta States and their development commissions in 2016 came to about N3.5trillion. But despite these huge funds being pumped into the Niger Delta, the region is unbelievably in debt - Akwa-Ibom (N162billion), Bayelsa (N116billion), Cross River (N154billion), Delta (332billion), Edo (N94billion), Rivers (147billion) in 2016. The naira and kobo question I ask now is: Where did all the monies go?
While we ponder at how we could get out of that logjam of indebtedness, a so-called‘windfall’the Paris Club - came. The total amount was N522.74billion and every state in Nigeria got a share of the N388.304 released by the Federal government. In the light of the very precarious conditions of the states, one would have thought that prudence rather than profligacy would take centre stage, but no. Nearly all the monies of the first trance have all been allegedly squandered.
As at the time of writing this, details of how a second tranche of the Paris Club refund have been shared is in the public domain. Niger Delta states like Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa would get lion’s shares of N10billion each, and have been requested to use about 75% of those monies to take care of the salaries and pensions of its civil servants. I will beg to disagree with the Ministry of Finance and its suggestions to the governors. I want to suggest that civil servants in Nigeria already have their salaries embedded in the statutory allocations which governors collect every month. If the governors have spent the monies, they should be held to account. In these Niger Delta states, billions have already been collected through statutory allocations to the state governments, the development commissions and through the Ministry of the Niger Delta Ministry.
Certain critical areas of the economies of the Niger Delta - areas like Health, education, transportation, human capital development and industrial development need massive investment. But while I make this submission, it just occurred to me that if some of the South-South states have cumulatively received and shared over half of the budget of the entire nation, and we cannot put our finger on what they have achieved with those humongous sums, what would N10billion do to education, health, transportation and industrial development? What would happen to us if electric cars start running around tomorrow? Where would a Paris Club bailout come from then? Bob MajiriOghene Benin City. Etemiku,