Poverty spread, Nigerians seek relief as 36 states, 774 LGAs pocket N3.3tn allocations * Labour ask Governors to justify the jumbo allocations

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Statutory allocations from the Federal Account Allocation Committee to the 36 states and 774 local government areas from July to December 2023, increased to N3.34tn post-fuel subsidy era.

Figures obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics indicate an increase of N545bn or 19.5 per cent from the N2.79trn distributed to states and local government areas in the first half of the year (January-June).

Amid the worsening hardship, Nigerians, including the organised Labour leaders, in separate interviews with this paper yesterday, urged state governors to justify the increased allocations by ending the hardship among the masses.

President Bola Tinubu in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2023, terminated the fuel subsidy regime which he said was draining federal allocations.

He promised to invest the savings in social programmes and infrastructure.

However the policy threw the citizens into hardship leading to a hike in the prices of products and services by over 100 per cent.

The bulk of the revenue shared at FAAC meetings by the federal, state, and local governments are earnings from oil exports, taxes, and other statutory allocations.

Under the current revenue-sharing formula, the federal government gets 52.68 per cent of the revenue, states 26.72 per cent and local governments 20.60 per cent.

The fund is to ensure development at different levels of government and also to enable the states and LGs to meet their obligations.

But the LGs are not autonomous and how they spend their allocations is determined by the governors.

*N3.3trillion allocations*

A monthly breakdown reveals that the sub-national and LGs got the highest allocation of N627.73bn in September, followed by N610.5bn in December, N555.75bn in August, N533bn in November, N514bn in July and N497.97bn in October.

In the first six months of 2023, states and local government areas got N520.87bn in January, N432.21bn in February, N410.4bn in March, N403.39.It further increased to N504.38bn in the month of May and N521.71 in June, making a total of N2.79tn.

The report shows that compared with the corresponding period in 2022, allocations to the state government and LGs grew by an increase of N740bn or 22 per cent from N2.6trn on a year-on-year basis.

Data from the NBS showed that in 2022, states received an allocation of N3.16trn, up from N2.42trn in 2021 and N2.23trn in 2020.

The federal government had stated in its revised 2024 – 2026 Medium-Term Fiscal Framework that allocation to states and local government areas may increase by 109.74 per cent to N14.04tn in 2024.

Based on the projection, disbursement to states and local governments has been predicted to increase from the N6.69tn projected in 2023 to N14.04tn in 2024.

Revenue available in the Federation Account is expected to increase by 124.43 percent to N26.61tn in 2024 from N11.86tn in 2023.

The projected rise in revenue is supposed to happen because of exchange rate effects, higher oil production projections and subsidy removal.

Last year, the Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun, who was represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Okokon Udo, at a Federal Account Allocation Committee meeting in Delta State, admitted that allocation to states had improved from an average of N650bn monthly before subsidy to over N1tn monthly post-subsidy.

However, Nigerians have lamented that despite the increased allocation, some governors have not done enough to cushion the impact of the fuel subsidy removal on their citizens due to poor road infrastructure, rising kidnappings, and insecurity.

The Nigeria Labour Congress spokesman, Benson Upah, said Nigerians had not experienced a better quality of life despite the marked increase in allocations to states and LGAs.

“This matter speaks for itself. We have not seen a quality of life commensurate with the resources available to the government. If anything, things are getting getting worse. The quality of life is degenerating at an alarming rate. There is clear and present danger ahead except government changes trajectory,’’ he said.

Spokesperson for the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Bunmi Ogunkolade, noted that the FAAC allocations and the manner of disbursements were constitutionally captured, explaining that the Constitution had also allowed state governments to dominate the control of resources.

*Pensioners flay govs*

Ogunkolade noted, “The issue of federal allocation is a constitutional matter. The generation of the fund, the sharing formula, and the distribution are settled in law unless an Act of Parliament will do an amendment anywhere necessary.

“However, to say whether it is impacting the lives of the local people or the masses is another different issue on its own. Why? I insist, the type of administration that we run cannot bring out such dividends, both now, and even in the near future if it continues the way it is.’’

“There is no clear separation of powers in the states. Deliberately the governors do not allow the constitution to work, and you see, in Nigeria, the moment the government does not want to do something, they set up a committee; A situation where the local governments are not allowed to work.

“Is it the duty of the state governor to commission markets? Is that his job; A state governor commissioning a borehole? Then why do we have local governments? So, the federal allocation to the states, if we like, it may increase to the high heavens, we won’t see the benefits, it can never trickle down”, he said in a pessimistic tone.

The President of the Joint Service Council, Adoyi Adoyi, said the government must end hardship in the country to prevent protests.

He “Those of us who are working, our salaries cannot cope with the situation. It is a very sad situation. You can imagine those who have yet to be employed or those jobless.”

Speaking on the implication of the harsh economic situation, the labour activist said, “There will be a rise in criminalities. Those involved are bold in their criminal actions.’’

Lamenting the harsh economic conditions, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Hakeem Ambali, urged state and federal governments to come up with policies that end hardship in the country.

Also, the Chairman of the Centre for Accountability and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said there was no justification for the increasing allocations, adding that both the federal and state governments were not accountable.

“The straight answer is no. The increase in developmental projects embarked on by state and local governments is not proportional to the increase in the allocations from the Federation account, and that is because the federal government seems not to show any adequate interest in accountability, at the level of state and local governments. That is because even the Federal Government itself is lacking in adequate accountability,’’ he stated.

The Country Director of Accountability Lab Nigeria, Friday Odeh, in his response, said there was no justification for the increase in allocations to the state governments, adding that the standard of living of civil servants remained the same despite the huge allocations.

“My response is that data shows the standard of living or lives of civil servants and the masses has remained the same. All we see are governors, who decide how and where the money received is spent.

“Most of the time, the money is a consolation prize for political allies through procurement and contracts in the name of infrastructure. There is no justification for increased allocation if data shows no improvement in the lives of people in the communities they are supposed to serve.

“From my perspective, state governments are using these funds to build their political enterprises and not quality basic services of development of workers,” he concluded.

An economist, Austin Iraoya, stated that the state governments had no justification for the increasing allocations, highlighting the lack of institutions to monitor disbursements and utilisation of the funds.

Yusuf advises Tinubu

Meanwhile, Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kano State yesterday promised to personally meet President Bola Tinubu on the current hardship being experienced by masses in the state.

The governor made the remark during a meeting with members of the business community in the state at the Government House, Kano.

He said, “I will personally go and ask President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene and check the prevailing hunger situation in Kano State, so as to save our people from starvation.

“We know that other parts of the country are experiencing the same thing, but we will make a case for Kano State, being our constituency”, he said.

He said the situation had become so serious that the Federal Government must do something to get the people out of the predicament.

The governor bemoaned the prevailing hunger situation in the state, with people, especially commoners finding it difficult to eat three times a day.

According to him, the trend has been worsened by the soaring prices of foodstuff, particularly rice, maize, beans, and millet, which he said had made the items unaffordable to the people.

He, therefore, urged the businessmen, including the manufacturers and merchandisers, to bring out essential commodities and sell them to the people at affordable rates to alleviate their sufferings. *@ The Punch*

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