Yesterday, May 29, 2023, like the president and his vice, 28 governors were also sworn in to take over the helms of affairs of their states. Gubernatorial elections did not take place in eight other states because they are yet to exhaust their terms.
Of the 28 governors that took oath of office, 18 are in their first term while the other 10 are starting their second term in office.
The governors, especially the new ones, are coming into office at a most challenging time when the nation is facing a myriad of problems in almost all the sectors. They will have to contend with the high rate of unemployment, especially among the youth.
Recent data show that Nigeria’s unemployment rate will increase to 40.6 per cent this year from 37.7 per cent in 2022. This is in addition to the high poverty rate which the recent data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put at 133 million.
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Other issues that will be facing our new leaders include a decadent education sector, as well as a health sector that is faced with shortage of qualified manpower and infrastructure.
But the more worrying factor is the huge debt they would have inherited from their predecessors.
According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), the 36 states of the federation had a debt profile of N5.34trn (domestic) and $4.46bn (foreign) debt as at December, 2022.
The DMO data show that 18 governors who took oath of office for the first time will have to contend with N2.27trn domestic debt and $1,7bn foreign debt that they inherited from their predecessors.
The situation may be worsened by the decline in revenue from the principal source – the Federation Account – over the last months due to declining revenue from the sale of oil, the nation’s major revenue earner.
Daily Trust congratulates all the new and returning governors as they take on the task of governance and urge them to hit the ground running rather than spend time complaining about what their predecessors failed to do. They should focus on changing anything they consider wrong and come up with policies that will improve the lives of their people.
One place to really look into is how to rejig their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) processes. They must widen their tax net, and more importantly, plug all loopholes where unscrupulous officials use to siphon the revenue being generated. This, they can do by introducing technology into the collection and remitting of revenue. Governors can borrow from the federal government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has proven effective in monitoring the remittance of government revenue.
They should also avoid the use of fictitious or unqualified consultants who often work for themselves and a few government officials. They must show transparency in the collection and use of the resources collected from their citizens. This will encourage people to pay what is due to the government.
The governors must also take bold steps to expand their respective state economies to create more jobs for their people. This is one sure way of also increasing their IGR and reducing crime.
Furthermore, we believe that the governors will do better by making local government councils more effective in service delivery. The present practice where local councils are reduced to just paying salaries is detrimental to the growth of our nation. Governors have a duty to look into the state joint account and ensure that their local councils are allowed to receive their allocations, generate their revenue and spend the money for the benefit of their people.
The governors should also use their new mandates to deepen cooperation among themselves. It is sad that in the last administration we observed unhealthy rivalries and buck passing among governors, especially in tackling the security challenges in the country. It is time to use associations such as the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) to address the myriad of problems facing the people. The governors must use such gatherings for more cooperation, peer review and learn from one another how to address issues facing their people. The era of looking up to the federal government to solve every of the country’s problems should be over. The governors should understand that they are closer to the masses than the central government, and as such, it is expected that they are hands-on at all times.
We also call on the people to support the governors by doing their part of being good and responsible citizens. It is only when they comport themselves that way that they can actually hold the governors to account. Together, we should work to solve the many problems facing Nigeria.
Daily Trust wishes all the new and returning governors successful tenures.