Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State on Tuesday declared that the contemporary federal practice in Nigeria has hampered, rather than advance, development in states as a tier of government.
Specifically, he highlighted the areas in which the Nigerian federal practice had constituted a clog in the wheel of progress of the states to include the lopsided revenue allocation formula, the constitutional delineation of power between the federal and state governments and the issue of security.
Governor Ajimobi stated this in a paper entitled: The Challenge of State Development in Federal Nigeria,” which he presented at the Island Club, Lagos Business Session.
On the lopsided revenue allocation formula, he noted that while the Federal Government takes 52.8 per cent of all federally-collected revenue, the 36 states and the 774 local councils share 26.72 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
Ajimobi said: “The simple implication of this is that the Federal Government is surfeit with resources while state governments face serious financial challenges.
“This is in spite of the fact that the states are responsible for basic needs that impact on the social well-being of the citizens and the development of the states.”
He said that the issues of education, health, infrastructure and security at the state level were borne more by the states rather than the Federal Government.
He said: “For instance, the federal government caters for about 50 secondary schools and 40 universities. Oyo State alone caters for over 2,000 primary schools, over 700 secondary schools, one College of Education, one College of Agriculture, one Polytechnic and one (1) University.
“The State also shares responsibility with Osun State for the finance of the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso. This responsibility for hundreds of educational institutions, especially at the primary and secondary school levels, is replicated in the states.
“There is no gain-saying the fact that for the development that we seek as a nation, we need to put more resources in primary and secondary education than the states can afford to do at present.
“Yet, this is where we can lay the foundation for the knowledge of technology that will drive our leap into the league of prosperous nations.”
The second feature of the federal system that hampers the speed of development in the states, according to Governor Ajimobi, is the constitutional delineation of power between the Federal Government and states governments.
Ajimobi said: “At present, the federal government controls 68 legislative items under the exclusive list and shares 24 with state governments on the concurrent list.
“Apart from the fact that the long legislative list raises issues of effectiveness at the federal level, given the expansive nature of the country, many of the items could be better executed by the states, rather than the federal government.
“Such matters include education, health, and even provision of public infrastructure within the states. For instance, rather than appropriate funds to the federal government to provide township roads, would it not be better for such monies to be appropriated to states that are in daily contact with the townships and their needs?”
On the issue of security, the governor contended that the foundation of all development was peace and security, stressing that this had, in essence, put the burden of security on any state government in search of development.
He, however, expressed the regret that security had been made the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government.
He said: “The states face enormous security challenges but are arm strung by present constitutional provisions.
“We need to rethink the constitutional provisions on security for efficiency and effectiveness.”
Governor Ajimobi said that the anti-federal provisions in Nigeria’s federal system included large number of matters on the exclusive legislative list and limitations to the competence of states in matters on the concurrent list.
Others, he said, included the provision of emergency powers that allowed the federal government to take over the affairs of states; over-centralization of control of the police as well as provisions on local government that allowed federal interference.
The governor also identified the extant laws, which were anti-federal, to include the Land Use Act; the Laws on Petroleum and Gas that gives the resources to the federal government and the Federal Inland Revenue Act of 2007 which empowers the Federal Inland Revenue Service to collect revenue for the three tiers of government.
According to him, the other extant law is the monitoring of revenue allocation to Local Government Act of 2005, which compels states to set up joint local government account committees and which empowers the Federal Government to deduct from funds allocated to states money they failed to pay to local governments in the previous year.
Governor Ajimobi posited that one major lesson that the democratic dispensation had brought into bold relief was that the state, as a tier of government, had a duty to develop its own vision and mission and design strategies to advance its development, within the context of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The days that the vision and mission of state governments were espoused in the national budget as it was under the military government are gone for good. Every state has a responsibility to work for its development within the confines of the national policy for development,” he said.
The governor called for a review of the nation’s constitution to grant responsibilities that were best performed at state level to the states.
This, he said, should be complemented with a concomitant amendment to the revenue allocation formula to free more resources for the states to discharge their responsibilities.
In spite of the constraints imposed by the extant federal system, he, however, said that his administration had, in the last 22 months, strived to ensure the development of Oyo State.
He said: Our quest to meet the expectations of our people, on assumption of office, was tempered by the twin-problem of the ruins we inherited as a government and the limitations placed on our path by extant federal provisions in the Nigerian Constitution.
“However, we were determined to making a difference in the lives of our people and this had dictated the path we had taken in the last 22 months.”
Governor Ajimobi added that his administration’s vision was to create a society in which everyone could be the best he legitimately desired to be.
“Our focus is the provision of an efficient public infrastructure and urban renewal; human capital development through education, skill acquisition and efficient healthcare delivery; development of value-chain agriculture and agro-allied industry; improved security and peace as well as good and transparent governance,” he said.
He expressed happiness that even his worst critics had admitted that he had done well in the delivery of his promises in these areas.
He said: “In infrastructure and urban renewal, we have successfully changed the commonly held view that we are the dirtiest state in Nigeria.
“The story coming out of Ibadan is no longer that of filth but one of a commendable urban renewal effort.”
Ajimobi acknowledged the barrage of commendations, which he had received from far and near, for the successful urban renewal initiative in Ibadan and other parts of Oyo State.
He said: “Let me state with all emphasis at my disposal that we are just beginning. We are determined to make Ibadan and Oyo State in general attractive and inviting to investors and tourists.
“Next month, we are going to commission the first indigenous flyover in the ancient city of Ibadan. We are at present dualizing all the major entry points to Ibadan and other notable towns like Oyo, Ogbomoso and Iseyin. In 22 months, we have rehabilitated over 250 roads across the length and breadth of the State. We are still counting.”
The governor also disclosed that his government would be signing an agreement with the University of Texas, United States of America on the programmes of the newly-established Oyo State Technical University, whereby students would share their four years in the university by spending two years in Ibadan and two years in Texas.
He commended the Island Club for organizing the lecture, saying that it had carved a niche for itself as a platform for the generation of great ideas which had helped to foster national unity and development.
The governor also paid glowing tribute to the founding fathers of the Club for realizing, about 70 years ago, the need to provide a platform for the elite of the society to interact across professional, religious and ethnic borders.
The interactions, he said, had fostered friendships and business relationships that had helped deepen the country’s unity and the development of its economy, for the benefit of the people.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Club, Prince Ademola Dada, had extolled the virtues of the governor as a member of the Club, whose membership dated 13 years ago.