Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State’s governor and chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, is doing a fine job in his two offices. Last week, he rushed to the defence of his Benue colleague, Samuel Ortom, who said he ran a good one and a half kilometres to escape from Fulani assassins. A marathoner he must be! A man running for his life had the time to count the persons pursuing him!
Back to Fayemi. After Ortom’s ‘narrow escape’, the Ekiti governor appealed to the Federal Government to suspend counterpart funding as part of the basic requirements for states to access the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund. According to him, the build up of funds domiciled in the UBEC account is as a result of the inability of states to raise counterpart money to access it. He spoke when the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, led other members on a courtesy visit to the governor in Ado Ekiti.
Fayemi said that the counterpart funding condition, if suspended, would enable states to take “accelerated actions that will substantially improve the condition of schools and the quality of learning” received by students. “It is necessary to step down counterpart funding in order for States to access the money that is just sitting there and the President has agreed with us. That will enable states to take more accelerated actions on schools but it will now be more of a programme for result arrangement rather than counterpart funding arrangement.”
He has done Nigerians one big favour by adding to the state governors’ unable-to-do list. They are unable to pay the N30000 national minimum wage to their workers, to execute development projects, to stock hospitals, to put millions of school age children in school. Now they are not just able to give a token to access hundreds of millions of UBEC money. They are not able to generate IGR of their own. But they are able to set aside a huge budget for their personal comforts. It’s a big shame.
The insolvency of most of the 36 states in the country invalidates their viability claim when they demanded to be created in the first place. They all said they would sustain themselves with little or no financial support from the central government. Today, we know better. Apart from Lagos, the other states are no more than cry babies who demand to be spoon fed. They demand that every kobo of federally generated revenue be shared. This makes it impossible for the federal government to save for the rainy day. It was what killed the sovereign wealth innovation of former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has moved on to head the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. Switzerland.
As it is, the states have succeeded in blackmailing the federal government to do just about anything they imagine. When they cry out that they cannot pay salaries, Abuja rushes out bailouts. These they cannot pay back and their internal and external borrowings continue to mount.
We believe it is time to stop feeding this baby who cannot grow to be an able bodied adult. The requirement of counterpart funding is a global standard practice. It is to make whoever needs anything not just a beneficiary but also a responsible stakeholder. If the federal government makes the mistake of “suspending” the counterpart funding requirement, it will have set the stage for the UBEC fund to be cleaned out by the states. It is our strong belief that those states that genuinely desire to improve their education standard will strive to provide the counterpart funding. By their fruit we shall know those that ain’t.