Towards True Federalism: South-East, South-South Can Work Together

A bill for a new minimum wage has just been passed by both chambers of the National Assembly. President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to sign the bill into law anytime soon. When the law takes effect, employers of labour would compulsorily be required to pay their workers a minimum of N30, 000 per month. What does this portend for the 36 state governments and 774 local governments in the country?

Private companies may succeed in paying some of their unskilled workers less, but any government that fails to pay the new minimum wage risks a protracted struggle with organised labour. Yet, we know that many state governments have yet to start paying N18, 000 as minimum wage, eight years after the law took effect.

This is the time for Nigeria to seek true fiscal federalism. A new revenue allocation formula may take a long time before it comes, for obvious reasons. Every state now has to look inwards for the resources it needs to provide the good life for its people.

While it is widely believed that only three or four states will be able to pay the new wage, we beg to disagree. Every state has enough resources to cater to the needs of its people; what is lacking is political will or ability to envision the endless possibilities and work towards their realisations. It is a mark of laziness – every month finance commissioners converge on the Federal Capital Territory Abuja to share the proceeds of mainly crude oil harvested from under the soil of nine oil-producing states.  The feeding bottle mentality of state governors and other elected representatives should end. Rather than rely on cake sharing, they should learn to rely on cake baking.

If 36 states are not viable, nothing stops Nigeria from collapsing them into six or seven. Already, six geopolitical zones have been recognised: they are perhaps an improvement on the original three regions upon which the Nigerian federation was founded at independence in 1960. Every zone should start putting its house in order, in preparation for the country’s political and economic reforms.

To the governments and the peoples of the south-east and south-south, we have a few suggestions to give.

Now that the two zones have achieved unity once more – this is discernible from their voting patterns over the years – they should start collaborating on the economic front. Seaports abound in Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar. With a little dredging of the River Niger, Onitsha, Asaba, Oguta and two or three other towns in the two zones would also have seaports. A functional airport near Onitsha is imperative. A rail line connecting all the current 11 state capitals is also necessary. Regular power supply will be achievable when the scientists from the two zones go to work.

The funds needed for the execution of the above projects are not beyond what 11 state governments can afford. Regardless of public funds, however, there are individuals in the two zones who can mobilise billions of dollars for the projects within a short time. And once the projects are completed, they will certainly become cash cows for the two zones. Their sons and daughters who have been running helter-skelter in all corners of the globe will be attracted to return home and make their investments.

Modern markets, technology hubs, housing and industrial estates would inevitably follow. New cities would develop overnight, and businesses would boom throughout the length and breadth of the south-east and south-south. There would emerge tens of thousands of new entrepreneurs who would need millions of workers. There would be jobs for almost everyone.

Had there been visionaries among the political leaders of the two zones since the return of democracy in 1999, this dream would have since been achieved. There would have been no agitation for a separate state, as currently canvassed by groups such as IPOB, MASSOB and Niger Delta militants. It is the lack of opportunities for business and employment that often causes youth disturbance as well as crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, cyber fraud or 419 that have brought shame upon many families today.

With: The Oracle Today

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