Bailing Out Nigerian States -By Uche Durueke

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Uche Durueke

Uche Durueke

 

There should be public scrutiny of any state that must get bailout. Many states are in red because of the absence of due process mechanisms in their financial management, the non-application of value for money audit principles, and the reckless misapplication of funds… For transparency and accountability, it is canvassed that the accounts of states in need of bailout be subjected to independent audit.

The governors in the country are all over the place seeking and advocating for economic bailout. I am not opposed to bailout, if necessary. However, before any bailout, each of the governors should make public disclosure as to what led to the ‘economic arrest’ of his state. The governors are now like accused persons in law.

They desire bail, isn’t it? Not so fast. Each of them needs to state what he knows know about the empty treasury of his state as the chief executive officer. This should be the first step in the push for any bailout.

Thereafter, the federal government could decide, based on set parameters, whether there is a prima facie case of complicity on the part of each of the governors. Even for states that have genuine grounds for bailout, they must not be given this on a platter. The federal government must set clear guidelines and guarantees for the repayment of these bailouts. Bailout funds are not free and should not be taken for granted. Bailout funds are given on clear and definite conditions.

Today, there are principles for granting bailout funds. In the case of the states that have failed in their responsibilities to their citizens, care should be taken to ensure that failed governors don’t blackmail the federal government into taking over the responsibilities they blatantly failed to carry out. Nigerians must insist and demand to know what really happened to the funds they have been collecting over time.

This is important for national planning and to avert recurrence. As Nigerians, we are entitled to know what happened to the finances of the states, and corruption should not be ruled out.

I contend that, presently, the people who really need bailouts in the country are the poor and middle class folks who have been oppressed and raped by our mindless leaders over several years. The poor and the middle class are in severe pain. They need bailouts to live meaningful lives.

I am emboldened on this view by the press interview granted by the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole. The comrade governor had squarely blamed the current situation in many states of the federation on corruption. If what Mr. Oshiomhole said is anything to go by, it means that both re-elected and past governors should come forth to explain to Nigerians what happened to the finances of their states. This is not the time for silence.

I urge Nigerians to say no to bailout without a proven record and account of what actually happened to the previous funds that accrued to the states. Rendition of public accounts by the states in need of bailout – their accruals and their expenses – should be a condition precedent to the granting of these funds to them.

There should be public scrutiny of any state that must get bailout. Many states are in red because of the absence of due process mechanisms in their financial management, the non-application of value for money audit principles, and the reckless misapplication of funds. Some governors spend so much money that are most likely to be state funds on social events, such as birthdays, seasonal gifts, etc. For transparency and accountability, it is canvassed that the accounts of states in need of bailout be subjected to independent audit. It will greatly help the nation, in the present circumstance, to utilise this opportunity to start instilling discipline in the management of public finance by the states.

State governors in Nigeria are known to abuse funds meant for the local government councils. It is no guess or speculation to submit that large amounts of state funds were criminally appropriated by governors in past election campaigns. I contend that, presently, the people who really need bailouts in the country are the poor and middle class folks who have been oppressed and raped by our mindless leaders over several years. The poor and the middle class are in severe pain. They need bailouts to live meaningful lives. A socio-economic revolution is, in my mind, necessary in Nigeria. We must stand to be counted for the future of our nation.

Uche Durueke is the President of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO).

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