Random Reflection With Okafor: Another Look At Buhari's Bail Out


Last week, the Federal government announced the much anticipated relief package, aka "bail out," to enable distressed states clear the backlog of salaries they are owing as well as encourage economic boom and productivity. 
The relief package, This Day, July 7, 2015, reports came in three measures: one, the allocation of N413.7 billion proceeds from NLNG among the three tiers of government; two, CBN Special Intervention Fund of N250 – 300 billion and three, the restructuring of commercial loans of N660 billion by Debt Management Office (DMO) with a view of increasing their tenure to 15 years so as to reduce debt service obligations of  distressed states. 
Although I had my initial thoughts on how we could encourage these distressed states to exit financial insolvency and become productive permanently, I must commend the foresight of President Muhammadu Buhari on this score. The president  has shown a great quality of leadership which is responsive courage.  No matter how we want to look at it, Nigeria exists to provide security and seek welfare for its people; so, in this era of army of distressed states, the Federal government is under obligation to explore ways of finding quick-fix solutions to this national issue and ensure peace and prosperity in the country.
The fact is, Nigeria is already having bad times in the hands of Boko haram terrorists and other sundry security and criminal challenges. So, we cannot afford to keep owing workers salary for many reasons. One, the workers whose salaries are being owed are our brothers and sisters with kids in schools and universities. Two, you can imagine what we shall be dealing with if their kids and undergraduates are withdrawn from schools because of their parents inability to pay tuition fees. 
Similarly, it would be a national shame if civil servants and their families start dying of hunger, malnutrition and inability to provide good medicare. More importantly, thousands of jobs had been saved through President Buhari's relief package and our economy is solvent for good. However, CBN should be on guard to use monetary policies to fight whatever be the inflationary effects that would follow this presidential gesture because it is possible that workers would use their soon to be paid salaries to force inflation on the country.
Beyond that corruption has been implicated as Nigeria's enemy numero uno. If we continue owing civil servants to upward of 11 months, we are invariably sanctioning corruption to fester and ruin the system. Therefore, the relief package of President Buhari is a welcome development capable of setting the country on the path of rediscovery and prosperity. 
However, Nigeria cannot elect to be a country that encourages laziness and spendthriftism; it must enthrone a model that encourages hard work and diligence in the management of public fund so that it can speedily attain economic development. Again, given what states receive monthly from the federation coffers as monthly allocation, there is absolutely no reason why Ebonyi pays its workers as at when due while Rivers and Osun are owing their own workers from 4 to 11 months. The only word to explain this massive wonder is mismanagement. 
Luckily, all states in Nigeria are massively blessed by providence with material and human resources to excel and reach the sky; from Sokoto to Anambra and Osun, our soils are arable and harbour natural resources, we also have competent people to drive our economy if state governors had developed synergy with the federal government towards the development and encouragement of exploration of natural resources in their domains. 
Our greatest bane has always been the error of putting square pegs in round holes in the leadership cadre. Henceforth, all states should elect governors with sound education, exposure and experience to lead, manage and husband human and material resources for accelerated and integrated development. 
And the governors, so elected, must look inwards and identify ways and means of increasing their IGRs and run cost effective government. It is codswallop and ultimately inhumane for a governor owing state workers to fly charted and private aircraft as well as lead ostentatious lifestyles in the midst of encroaching poverty and security risk posed by non-payment of workers' salaries. 
Strangely, nothing is being said of the people who made these states distressed through wanton mismanagement. Elsewhere it has been said that re-election and election campaigns are the reasons why some states are unable to pay their workers today. Some people were and/or the governors of these states. It is therefore pertinent that as the president extends relief package to the distressed states to clear this mess with the right hand, he should also extend EFCC, ICPC, etc to the people who brought these states on their knees. The president must use this time to show us how committed he is in fighting corruption and retrieving whatever that might have been stolen from the public till in the days of impunity. By and large, Nigeria can choose to strengthen its anti-corruption agencies now or be ready to be extending relief packages to distressed states perpetually.  
Moving forward, returning governors who put their states in this present economic mess must also be compelled to work under Federal government supervision in the use of this stimulus package and its eventual repayment schedule. The DMO, CBN and Federal Ministry of Finance should jointly ensure that this relief package impact positively on the economy and our people as such it would not be out of place for President Buhari to set up a supervisory committee to monitor the disbursement and use of this money if not some state governors would divert the money without paying their workers after all a beggar, they say, have no choice. 
For me, we must not create a tradition that would encourage state governors to continue to rape the treasury of their states or even go on borrowing spree that would be repaid by the next generation given the restructuring of loans by DMO. So, stringent guidelines must be set for accessing the CBN Special Bail-out Intervention Fund of N300 billion in order not to set a precedent for rewarding laziness and low productivity.
Above all, this is the first landmark achievement of the Buhari presidency. It's now time he moved into redefining our federal structure as well as the economy, infrastructure, power, security, fiscal responsibility, corruption and encroaching poverty.

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