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Ekiti guber: Tough task for PDP at appellate court

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Ekiti guber: Tough task for PDP at appellate court

The Ekiti State Election Petitions Tribunal recently affirmed that Governor Kayode Fayemi was duly elected in the July 14, 2018 governorship election, but it does not appear to end there yet, WALE ELEGBEDE reports

 

It was jubilation in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State capital recently, when the election petitions tribunal sitting in Abuja, validated the election of Dr. Kayode Fayemi as duly the elected as governor of the state in the July 14, 2018 governorship election that held in the state.
Fayemi, who contested the poll on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), polled 197,450 votes to defeat Prof. Olusola Eleka of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who emerged the runners up with 178,121 votes.
But dissatisfied with the results as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the PDP and Eleka approached the Governorship Election Tribunal set up for the state. The tribunal commenced sitting in the state, but had to relocate to Abuja for security reasons.
The joyous crowd, which celebrated Fayemi’s victory at the tribunal in the state capital, was made up of party members and folks with no known political affiliation. There were also celebrations in other parts of the state including Ijero, Aramoko, Ikere, Okemesi and Ifaki.
It was instructive that there was no single incident of mayhem or fracas in the course of the jubilation. Also, no clash was reported between supporters of rival parties, particularly the ruling APC and opposition PDP in the state.
The incident-free celebrations which coursed through Odo-Ado area to the government House and back to the APC secretariat in the Ajilosun area of town was the opposite of what obtained during the immediate past administration in the state. Indeed, it was the view of many observers that the mood was indicative of a genuine victory by Fayemi.
During that era, such processions would have been met with violence from miscreants, who held the state capital by its jugular at the time. Truly, a new season has dawned in the state.
Above all, one particularly instructive reason the news of the tribunal judgment was believed to have been received with such excitement is the change in the lifestyle of the people. In just a little over 100 days in office, things have begun to change significantly for the people.
At the moment, pensions are being paid, salaries are regular and students now enjoy free education, while the aged are beginning to savour a great sense of belonging in their own state.
Delivering the unanimous judgement, Chairman of the three-man panel of justices, Suleiman Belgore averred that the petition against Fayemi’s APC lacked merit and stated that the PDP and its candidate at the election, Eleka failed to prove their case with any credible evidence that the election that returned Fayemi was marred by irregularities.
The justices who were rather disappointed in the manner the PDP pursued its case, added that some of the oral evidences provided by the petitioners supported the respondents’ case that the election was free and fair and the winner duly announced.
According to Belgore, both PDP and Eleka did not substantiate their claim that governorship election in many polling units were characterised by lack of accreditation, over-voting, mutilation of results, inaccurate ballot account, votes-buying and snatching of election materials as well as cancellation of results, where the PDP and its candidates secured highest number of votes among other irregularities.
He therefore contended that in the absence of credible evidence substantiated with pleadings, all allegations that were raised by the petitioners were therefore deemed abandoned.
“Evidence of facts not pleaded goes to nothing,” Belgore said, adding that the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with respect to the election would continue to enjoy the assumption of regularity, until such assumption is displaced with credible evidence.
“On the whole, we hold that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations on the balance of probability. In fact, oral evidence of some of the witnesses called by the petitioners strengthened the case of the respondents.
“It was clear that the irregularities claimed by the petitioners cannot be substantiated. We found no reason to disturb the results,” Belgore stated in his lead judgment.
Expectedly, the APC in the state welcomed the verdict, thus, the mood among its supporters in the state. But it was not so within the ranks of the PDP. They had reasons not to celebrate.
In his reaction, Deputy Chairman of the APC in the state, Hon. Sola Eleshin, described the electoral victory as well-earned without any underhand tactics to warrant cancellation of the victory by the tribunal.
According to him, the APC did not perpetrate any electoral fraud and so expected the victory to stand.
“We’re happy over the outcome of the election, but we are not in any way surprised. The governorship election that held on July 14 2019 was transparent.
“It was clear that Governor Fayemi won fair and square, so we are not afraid even if they want to appeal the judgment, we are ready for them, because we had no skeleton in our cupboard”
But in their reaction, the PDP said it would appeal the verdict at the appellate court as provided for in the subsisting Electoral Law.
An associate of former Governor Fayose and Director of Media for the Eleka campaign, Lere Olayinka, told reporters that the PDP would appeal the judgement.
“That is not the last bus stop as regards the election petition Tribunal. The law is very clear regarding the hierarchies of courts we can approach to seek redress on this issue. We are surely going to appeal the judgement,” Olayinka said.
Analysts however feel appealing the verdict could turn out efforts in futility. Those who hold this view insisted that nothing good would come off an appeal of the verdict, more so the realities on the ground seem to support this assertion.
One, the allegations of widespread irregularities was wide off the mark. Yes, there were instances of alleged votes-buying but both the PDP and the APC were reportedly guilty of this abuse according to election monitors. Even the PDP was accused of making funds transfer to civil servants few days before the election with an accompanying urge that they should vote for his candidate.
Two, unlike the Osun State governorship election, where both foreign and local observers noted glaring irregularities, including intimidation of opposition party supporters with the connivance of security agencies, such was not the case with the Ekiti election that returned Fayemi. Observers – both local and foreign – gave a pass mark to the conduct of the election.
Third, with the rancour free-jubilation and celebrations that greeted the tribunal verdict, observers insisted, was instructive of the feeling among people of the state that Fayemi won fair and square.
Even the notorious faction of the union of road transport workers, which was alleged to have been used cause crisis in the state also welcomed the judgement, further lending credit to the contention of observers that the verdict scored good in both the court of public opinion and the temple of justice.
“The verdict of the tribunal represents the view of a cross section of our people. They believe that the tribunal has served them true justice in the case,” said a Lagos-based legal practitioner of Ekiti decent, adding that “If indeed the PDP had won as some of its leaders claimed, the judgement would have been met with protests among supporters of the party in the state.”
Analysts, who reviewed the tribunal’s judgement are of the view that it would be difficult for the appeal court to upturn the verdict of the tribunal on the strength of evidence that the PDP presented at the tribunal.
Analysts reasoned that if the party had any more evidence to substantiate its claims, the party would have presented it at the tribunal. In fact, some insisted that the move to appeal the result was interpreted as PDP’s penchant for theatrics and playing to the gallery.
However, there are those who hold the view that the threat to appeal might just follow the same pattern. They contended that the party at the state level lacks the resources to engage in another round of legal battle even as they insisted that the PDP at the federal level does not seem to be giving any serious thought to appealing the verdict, given the body language of the party hierarchy since the verdict was pronounced.

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Election petitions and the abolition of justice

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Election petitions and the abolition of justice

‘When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want remains’ – CS Lewis

On Friday November 1, 2019, the Appeal Court sitting in Enugu ruled in the legal contest between Senators Victor Umeh and Uche Ekwunife, and unanimously held for Ekwunife, thereby validating her election as the Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Anambra Central Senatorial Zone.

My personal opinion on this matter remains that the position of the law with regards to Section 285(13) of the 1999 Constitution as amended was not given its proper interpretation, and it will continue to be a contentious and recurring discussion.

Section 285 (13) provides that “the court or tribunal shall not declare as winner any person who has not participated in all stages of an election”.

The appeal tribunal added to the confusion on the true position of the section given that in the matter between Hon. Dozie Nwankwo (APGA) and Hon. Ayinka Valentine (PDP) delivered in the morning of the same date by same panel of justices, the election of the PDP candidate was nullified on the grounds that Section 285(13) is both a pre-election and election matter and therefore can form the basis to challenging whether the nomination of a candidate complied with the requirement of the electoral act. Surprisingly, the same panel of justices in the afternoon of same date dismissed Umeh’s petition which was anchored on Section 285(13) as a pre-election matter. The volte face of the three-man panel was puzzling to say the least and will remain a legal mystery.

Do we now abolish the courts due to the uncertainty of justice? Why go to court to waste time and money when justice is not predictable no matter how white the law is? The law is fatally wounded when it strictly becomes what the courts say it is and not what the lawmakers enacted and codified in the law book. We have more often than not argued against executive interference in the judiciary, sometimes knocking our head to unconsciousness without paying adequate attention to the antics of judges who themselves handcuffed their hands due to hunches outside the much taunted executive interference. We sadly make men without chest and expect virtue and enterprise from them.

In the instance case, whatever is the argument against the judgement of the appeal tribunal is now like medicine after death. I know there is God’s hand in the affairs of men hence I concede to the will of God in this matter. The sensible thing to do now is to congratulate Senator Ekwunife for her hard-won victory at the Appeal Court. I wish her well and pray almighty God to give her the wisdom to serve well.

Many of Umeh’s critics are ignorantly celebrating that he has been defeated. They forgot that defeat is not the worst failure, that not to have tried is the true failure. I salute him for fighting hard and going through all the legitimate process as provided by law with decorum. He has proven he is a warrior, a positive force for good and a fair fighter who never lost his cool even in an awful battle.

The few months he was in the Senate representing Anambra Central, he discharged himself creditably. He showed what effective representation is. His accomplishments are things of pride. History will record him with greatness. We will continue to celebrate him as a hero and the voice of the people. I join his grateful constituents and all the people of Anambra Central in saying thank you Victor Umeh for a job well done, and wishing him well in his future endeavours.

What happened on November 1st is not a dead end. There is a great future ahead. There are new battles to be fought, problems to be fixed, challenges to surmount and wounds to heal. Above all, there is humanity and God to serve.

I also commend and congratulate everyone who stood on either side during this period for their contributions towards building a just and egalitarian democratic society.

In the same spirit, I extend my congratulations to President Muhammadu Buhari and his party for their victory at the Supreme Court over the legal challenge mounted by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Now that all the legal challenges resulting from the 2019 general election has been resolved, I think it’s time for the country to move on. Beyond politics, I believe in the peace, unity and prosperity of Nigeria. My partisan opposition against Mr. Buhari is over. I pledge to offer my prayers and support to him and his government which will be rooted in constructive criticism and advisory.

Moving forward let me remind the president that the 2019 elections fell short of expectations irrespective of what the courts have said. INEC also was unable to justify the huge expenditure invested on them. Thankfully, both INEC and the Civil Society Organizations who played key roles in the elections had all concluded their review and post-mortem of the election. Areas of shortcomings have been identified meaning there are rooms for improvements.

It is rather unfortunate that we are still grappling with the challenges of electoral rigging. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is still facing the issue of logistics with regards to movement of election materials so much so that all the general election were postponed with huge costs and other consequences. There is also the unnerving situation where security agencies like the military and police were involved in ballot box stuffing, ballot box snatching and mutilation of result sheets. It is sad that successive elections in Nigeria have been recording low voter turnouts because voters believe their votes do not count.

The Kogi and Bayelsa held last week already showed dangerous signs. Armed thugs were on the prowl, harassing and intimidating opponents while the security agencies look the other way.

All these flashpoints calls for an urgent need for electoral reforms and the need to revisit the electoral amendment bill which the president in an unprecedented manner rejected for a record four times for reasons bordering on inelegant drafting, cross-referencing errors or simply due to the closeness of the amendment to the last general election.

I have always maintained that President Buhari can shape Nigeria the way he will want to be remembered. He can leave a positive legacy or an embarrassing one. He can grow this democracy or destroy it further. The choice is his to make, but if I am to offer a valuable advice, my honest take is for him to think above self and the party and think of the nation. He can immediately set up a small committee to take another look at all the major electoral reforms beginning from the recommendations documented from the Justice Muhammadu Uwais electoral reform committee to Sheik Ahmed Lemu committee on post-election violence of 2011 to the 2014 National Conference report to the Senator Ken Nnamani presidential committee on electoral reform down to all major election observer reports and submit to the National Assembly for prompt legislative action. Unlike in 2015 when the National Assembly spearheaded the electoral reform process, President Buhari must, this time round, seize the initiative patriotically.

Some of the recurring key electoral reform issues include the need for electronic voting and electronic transmission of results; granting of voting rights to Nigerians in the Diaspora through Out-of-Country voting; enhancement of participation of marginalized groups in the electoral system through affirmative action for women, youths, and persons with disabilities; provision for early voting for millions of Nigerians who are disenfranchised from voting due to their election-day duties.

To safeguard our democracy, we need a law that will protect all institutions of democracy, especially the opposition parties from being attacked and weakened by the ruling government using the instrument of the states. Deliberate targeting of opposition candidates and their parties to gain political advantage should be criminalized.

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Bayelsa guber: Election didn’t hold in 25% PUs – YIAGA AFRICA

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Bayelsa guber: Election didn’t hold in 25% PUs – YIAGA AFRICA

YIAGA AFRICA said its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology showed that the last Saturday’s governorship election did not hold in at least 25 percent of the polling units of Bayelsa State.
At a press statement in Abuja Monday, YIAGA AFRICA said it deployed 21 mobile observers and 500 citizen observers for its PVT to a statistical sample of 250 polling units located across all eight local government areas of Bayelsa State.
It also disclosed that eight LGA result collation observers were deployed to the LGA collation centers.
The statement, which was signed by Dr. Aisha Abdullahi and Ezenwa Nwagwu, Chair and Co-Chair respectively of YIAGA AFRICA, alleged that the collation process for the Bayelsa governorship election was manipulated, particularly for Southern Ijaw local government.
“This calls into question the official results announced by INEC and credibility of this election,” the statement added.
Although it said its PVT could not determine who has won the governorship election for Bayelsa, “regardless of the outcome, the PVT estimates suggest that the official results were manipulated during the collation process.”

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Bayelsa decides: Declare me winner, Diri urges INEC

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Bayelsa decides: Declare me winner, Diri urges INEC

The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)in the just concluded Bayelsa State governorship electin, Senator Douye Diri on Monday called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare him winner of the election.
He said since INEC could not produced the Appeal Court’s stay of execution order that All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed allowed them to partake in the election, he authomatically becomes the winner of the election.
Speaking in Yenagoa during a press conference to express his displeasure on the outcome of the electionl, he said: “PDP contested with other political parties and not with APC because they were not supposed to be on the ballot paper by law based on the judgement of a high court in Yenagoa”.
Hear him: “INEC should declare me winner of the election. It is a shameful and laughable act by INEC to declare 83,041 votes in favour of the APC in Nembe where they had driven away almost everybody out of town. I have the results from our monitoring room.
“Based on the results from our monitoring room, APC scored 55,903 while PDP scored 98,582. Based on this result, PDP is the winner of that election .
“The PDP agent at the collation center, Odiyovwi Osusu wanted them to provide a stay of execution judgement but they couldn’t provide it.
“Ogbolomabiri materials were hijacked by Gabriel Jonah. I see those figures that were used to declare David Lyon winner as a charade and rouse. No PDP supporter should mourn that we lost. We won the election. INEC will surely announce PDP winner whether today or tommorow.
‘”Democracy is under threat, raped and anarchy is looming because soldiers have become thugs working for the APC as they militarialised the electoral process in Bayelsa State.”

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Group tackles call to cancel Kogi election

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Group tackles call to cancel Kogi election

A coalition of 16 governorship candidates in Kogi State Monday, condemned the call by some civil society groups for the cancelation of Saturday’s gubernatorial election election in the state.
Some civil society groups, who monitored the election, have been calling for the cancelation of the already declared poll, claiming the insincerity of the entire exercise.
But the group, at a press conference in Lokoja, the state capital, said the idea of calling for rerun, might lead to more loss of lives.
Addressing journalists at the conference, the governorship candidate of the Young Democratic Party, Dr. Sanni Shaibu Teidi, said the 16 candidates have since accepted the the result of the election, urging the losers to work with the winner of the election towards achieving accelerated development in the state.
“We congratulate His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello for the overwhelming victory at the poll and all others that participated in the election.”
While appealing to the winner of the election to be magnanimous in victory and prepare to mend fences for an all-inclusive governance, Teidi urged all Kogi stakeholders to accept the winner for participatory governance.
Governor Yahaya Bello, was on Monday declared winner of the November 16 gubernatorial election in Kogi State, a victory that has been rejected by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

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Kogi guber election, a declaration of war – Wada

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Kogi guber election, a declaration of war – Wada

*Heads to tribunal

Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi State, Egnr. Musa Wada has described last Saturday’s election in the state as declaration and execution of war against Kogi people.
Wada, who addressed press conference in Abuja Monday alongside his running mate, Bamidele Aroh, said he would challenge the outcome of the election at the tribunal.
He said what happened in Kogi State on Saturday was an organised ‘war against democracy’; “coup against the people and seizure of power through brigandage and the barrel of the gun with members of the police and other security agencies coordinating the stealing of the people’s votes.”
The PDP candidate accused the police of aiding alleged armed thugs of All Progressives Congress (APC) to invade polling units with impunity, shoot and kill voters and carted away ballot boxes to government facilities where results were written in favour of APC and handed over to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce against the will of the people.
“Police helicopters were used to attack polling units, fire tear gas on voters and provide cover to APC hoodlums and policemen who brutalized the people of Kogi State and stole their mandate.
“The APC turned our state into a theatre of war. No fewer than nine innocent Nigerians were killed. Many more were maimed and injured by the APC in their desperation to seize power at all cost.
“It is therefore distressing that INEC went ahead with a shameful collation and declaration of fabricated results despite the glaring disruptions that characterized the shambolic exercise.
“In order to achieve this ignoble goal, INEC cancelled our votes in areas of our stronghold, subtracted from our votes in many other areas and padded the votes of APC to give a semblance of victory for APC,” Wada Stated.
He said people of Kogi were horrified, brutalized and dehumanized, adding that there have been weeping across the state since the announcement of another four years of Yahaya Bello was made.

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Gov Bello dedicates victory to his mother, Kogi people

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Gov Bello dedicates victory to his mother, Kogi people

* Appreciates Buhari, Osinbajo, Tinubu, Oshiomhole, others

Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello has dedicated his victory in the last Saturday’s governorship election to his mother, Hawawu Bello.
He said the people of Kogi State are the winners of the election for breaking ethnic, class and age difference in the state by re-electing him during the poll.
Governor Bello while giving his acceptance speech during a press conference at Government House in Lokoja, shortly after he was declared winner on Monday, assured the people of the state that they will all benefit from the state resources.
The governor, who condemned the violence and killings in different parts of the state during the last poll, consoled with those who lost their love ones.
He therefore called on Inspector General of Police and other security agents to go after those behind the violence and killings, and bring them to book.
He also appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife, Aisha; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; APC National Leader, Asiwaju Tinubu; the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; the Chairman of APC Kogi State Governorship Campaign Council, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and other governors and party leaders for the role they played and contribution to his victory.

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Kogi poll: Join hands with Bello to attain next level, APC tells PDP

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Kogi poll: Join hands with Bello to attain next level, APC tells PDP

The Kogi State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdulahi Bello, has called on the opposition especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to join hands with the party and Governor Yahaya Bello to move the state to the next level.

Bello made the call on Monday shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission returned Governor Bello as the winner of the Saturday election.

The APC chairman told our correspondent on telephone that the victory was “well deserved.”

“Considering the efforts put in place by APC during electioneering campaigns, we are not surprised that victory is achieved today.”

He said that Bello’s victory was not only for all Kogi citizens but for lovers of democracy all over Nigeria.

Reacting to PDP’s refusal to sign the final collated result, the chairman said that it does not in any way take the shine away from the victory as PDP did not campaign anywhere near the home ground of the governor.

“It shows that they are good politicians who know their areas of strength and weakness and decided to restrict themselves to his area of strength.”

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JUST IN: Court of Appeal begins hearing Ganduje/Abba’s case

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JUST IN: Court of Appeal begins hearing Ganduje/Abba’s case

Muhammad Kabir, Kano

The Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna on Monday commenced hearing of the suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for Kano State, Abba Kabir Yusuf challenging the electoral victory of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

In an earlier judgement, the Kano Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, headed by Justice Halima Shamaki, had on October 2 upheld the electoral victory of Ganduje.

But the PDP and its governorship candidate, Abba Kabiru Yusuf, not comfortable with the judgment appealed the ruling.

Barrister Ma’aruf Yakasai is representing one of the defendants, Abdullahi Ganduje, Barrister Bashir Yusuf Tudun Wuzirci is representing one of the petitioners, Abba Kabir Yusuf and Abdulkarim Maude Minjibir is standing for INEC, another defendant in the suit.

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Kogi decides: Yahaya Bello sweeps 12 LGAs

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Kogi decides: Yahaya Bello sweeps 12 LGAs

Based on results from the 21 local governments of Kogi State so far declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has won in 12 local governments while Engr. Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has so far won in nine local governments.

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Revenue shortfall: Govs at a crossroads

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Revenue shortfall: Govs at a crossroads

Onyekachi Eze reports on the challenges being faced by state governors as a result of the dwindling revenue in the face of increasing wage bill and infrastructure need

 

I

t is really not the best of time for Nigerian governors. In the face of dwindling revenue, the state chief executives are grappling with increasing wage bills. This is also affecting socio-economic development in most of the states.

 

Of recent, some policies of the Federal Government and its agencies have taken huge tolls on the finances of state governments. A mention of this could suffice.

 

 

On June this year, commercial banks across the country began the implementation of the Nigeria Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU) directive, barring state governors from tampering with funds meant for local government councils.

 

 

Three months later (September), deductions for the repayment of N614 billion bailout fund granted to the states by the Federal Government began. Also, organized labour has given directive for the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage to workers by state governors by December 31 this year.

 

All these were happening at a time Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) accruing to the states is less than 40 per cent.

 

 

The N614 billion bailout fund was given to the governors in 2015 by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay salary and pension arrears of workers. The repayment process generated a lot of concern when the Federal Government announced plans to begin the deductions from the monthly allocations to states from the federation account.

 

 

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the governors did not object to the deduction, but the repayment plan during last month’s National Economic Council (NEC) meeting. The meeting was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

 

The minister said the governors unanimously opposed the two repayment plans proposed by the Federal Government.

 

 

She said: “The budget support facility was initially for a 20-year repayment period. And when we made the first deduction in September, the states had complained that the amount deducted, which was N252 million, was too harsh.

 

 

“So, since then, the Central Bank of Nigeria has revised the condition to make the repayment period longer. And so the new repayment period is 30 years. This means that the states will be paying N162 million monthly. But again today, the states still were not satisfied with the condition.”

 

The deduction is expected to remove a huge chunk of money from monthly allocations to the states from the federation account, and so means a big revenue loss to the states.

 

NFIU, an arm of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on May 6, issued what it called “Guidelines to Reduce Vulnerabilities Created by Cash Withdrawals from Local Government Funds throughout Nigeria.”

 

This guideline, which came into effect on June 1, directed that state and local government joint accounts should be operated solely as transit accounts from which funds will be distributed directly to the accounts of the local governments.

In other words, state governors have been removed from the management of the allocations accruing to the local government councils from the federation account. Attempts by the governors to reverse this directive failed.

In a letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari on May 15, shortly after the directive was issued, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the umbrella body of the 36 state governors in the country, accused the NFIU of mischief and deliberately seeking to cause disaffection in the polity.

 

The letter, which was signed by the then chairman of the forum, Abdul’aziz Yari (then governor of Zamfara State0, described the guideline as illegal and total disregard for the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

Yari argued that Section 7 (6) (a) and (b) of the constitution confers on the national and state Houses of Assembly the powers to make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to the local councils.

 

His words: “Similarly, Section 162 (6) of the Constitution expressly provides for the creation of the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) into which shall be paid all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the federation account and from the government of the state.

 

“Section 162 (7) of the Constitution goes on to canter on the National Assembly the power to prescribe the terms and manners in which funds from the SJLGA may be disbursed, and in sub-section (8), the Constitution empowers the state House of Assembly to prescribe the manner in which the amount standing to the credit of the local councils in the state shall be distributed.”

 

He further argued that local governments are creation of the constitution and not a financial institution nor a reporting entity, which could be brought under the NFIU in the manner contemplated by the guidelines.

“We appeal to Mr. President to direct that the said guidelines be disregarded in view of its unconstitutionality and total disregard for due process.”

 

The President, however, refused to act, and on June 1, commercial banks in the country compiled with the directive, and the governors lost the battle and also a major source of revenue.

 

They equally fought against the N30,000 increase in workers’ salaries and lost. During the negotiations, the state chief executives said payment of N30,000 minimum wage was impracticable unless labour would agree to a downsizing of the workforce “or Federal Government accedes to the review of the national revenue allocation formula.”

 

Yari who led the NGF during the negotiations, argued: “We still said that we want to pay, but the issue is the ability to pay. If we say no, just pay, I don’t know how this formula will work and I don’t know how we can get solution to the issue.

“Today it is N18,000. In 2015 when the President assumed office, 27 states were not able to pay, not that they chose not to pay. Now you say N30,000, how many of us can pay? We will be bankrupt.”

 

The governors proposed a N4,500 increment, which amounted to N22,500, but said the tripartite committee on the minimum wage set up by the presidency on the review of the minimum wage did not include their submission on the claim that it came late.

At the moment, the battle has shifted to the implementation. Although the governors agreed there would be “consequential adjustment,” which “will be determined on what happened on the state-by-state basis because there are different number of workers at state level and there are different issues at the state level,” organised labour has already set the template for negotiations by its members.

 

Despite the financial challenges facing the states, IGR is still a big problem. Before last month’s NEC meeting, commissioners of Finance from the 36 states of the country converged on Abuja, for a peer-learning workshop, which was the fifth in the series. The purpose was how to generate more revenue for the states in order to meet increasing demands.

 

World Bank Country Director in Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri and a representative of the Department for International Development (DFID), a United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid in Nigeria, Chris Okeke, were among experts invited to tutor the commissioners on revenue generation.

 

Minister of Finance, Ahmed, who addressed the commissioners before they went into a technical session, said Nigeria needs fiscal sufficiency and buoyancy, which must come through domestic revenues, to be sustainable.

 

Her words: “We currently have a pervasive revenue generation problem that must change to successfully finance our development plans. Our current revenue to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of eight per cent is sub-optimal and a comparison of oil revenue to oil GDP and non-oil revenue to non-oil GDP performance reveals the significant area that requires immediate and dire intervention as the non-oil sector.”

 

On his part, the incumbent chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi, called for expansion of the revenue base, so that governors can provide to citizens, quality health care, education and world class infrastructure.

 

“We must work towards closing the wide revenue gap in order to position the country to meet the growing development needs. This responsibility lies in the capacity of our revenue authorities to improve tax administration capacity and governance especially in the non-oil sectors of the economy,” the Ekiti State governor said.

 

The general believe is that the country’s IGR is hampered by over reliance on oil revenue. This explains the consequent effect on the economy whenever there is a fall in the price of oil in the international market.

 

Both the World Bank and DFID agreed that low revenue mobilisation in Nigeria is as a result of over reliance on oil revenues and the absence of a social contract between the government and citizens.

 

World Bank’s Country Director, Chaudhuri, said he had always argued that the best measure of development of a country is not per capita GDP, but the quality of the services that the sub-national government could provide.

He advised the Nigerian government to invest in the people – the youth, children, health care, education and social protection – as well invest in infrastructure which requires revenue.

He, however, noted that right now “Nigeria does not have enough of it, most of the investments will come at the state level.”

 

For Okeke of DFID, the low level of domestic revenue mobilisation of the states is inadequate to support growth and development of key sectors of the economy, including health and education.

 

He sees the current fiscal crisis as good opportunity for both the federal and state governments to take difficult decisions to reform the oil sector, reduce dependency on oil revenue, diversifying the economy, tackle corruption and vested interests, and improve IGR.

He said: “We must resist the temptation to focus on raising IGR without understanding that taxation is a core component of the social contract. For people to willingly pay tax, they have to be convinced that the government will provide them with quality services.

 

“Global evidence on domestic revenue mobilisation shows that government can optimise IGR by focusing on equitable, diversified and sustainable sources, securing better links between taxes and public services, encouraging civil society support, educating citizens on tax, strengthening taxpayer’s rights and improving the capacity of revenue agencies.”

 

 

No doubt, this is food for thought for the governors in their quest to improve the revenue base of their respective states. They should also guard against leakages in revenue, which is a common trend at both federal and state levels.

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