Paris Club re­fund not for salaries!

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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,

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