16 April 2013

Nigeria: When Governors Self-Examine

The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), aided by their development partners, recently presented their State Peer Review Mechanism report in two states, Ekiti and Anambra, flagging off the scheme in Nigeria. Chibuzo Ukaibe, x-rays the report.

When Governors turn the mirror on themselves, what they ordinarily should see are reflections of the reality of the times. This much the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) decided to do with the State Peer Review Mechanism (SPRM).

The overall idea of the SPRM is to assist states foster good governance and accelerate the pace of development through periodic review of progress in the implementation of policies, plans and programmes.

Primarily, state governors should be able to learn from their peers innovative and good practices that they could adopt in their respective states through participation in the peer review process.

However, much more to the peer review, some analysts opine, is the window it offers to show the quality of stewardship both for incumbent governors and past office holders.

As such, the two states that flagged off the pilot project were Anambra and Ekiti. And with personalities like former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Uwais, as chairman are Sen. Bukola Saraki, Mr. Donald Duke, Prof. Oladipo Adamolekun, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo, Mrs. Ayo Obe, Ms Ijeoma Nwaogwugwu, Amb. Tunji Olagunju, Dr. Yemi Kale and Dr. Precious Gbeneol, in the Steering Committee of the SPRM, the out come of the peer review of these states was not so charitable afterall.

So, when the technical team- the foot solders of the SPRM- set to work on the two states, they ensured that all the areas for assessment, including health, development, agriculture, education and revenue profile among others, were covered bearing in mind the uniqueness of each state, in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

The technical team, in their report, which they submitted two weeks ago, expressed dismay at the poor Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profiles of the states.

While the team described the IGR of Anambra as very poor, it noted that there was room for improvement in Ekiti state. This is moreso as the over dependency of states on the federal purse for sustenance has been an issue of national discourse.

The national coordinator of SPRM, Dr. Afeikhena Jerome, who led the technical team, said in spite of commendable practices recorded by the states, including peaceful environment, contract and debt management, transparency and accountability, their weak IGR profiles and over dependence on federal allocation by the states poses a major challenge.

Speaking on the IGR in Anambra State, Jerome, while quoting the report said, "Anambra States Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has remained very low, hovering around N500m monthly or 20 percent of the actual revenue receipts since 2007 despite the great revenue potential."

The report further noted that, "experts during the technical Review Mission, estimated that the state is capable of generating up to N2bn revenue monthly from internal sources, especially as it has about 63 major markets whose revenue are currently being diverted into private hands."

The report further revealed that while the State's Board of Internal Revenue is still poorly funded, there is failure to professionalise the organization, while the working environment, facilities and equipment for revenue administration are hardly satisfactory.

The report said, while Ekiti State has raised, "its internally generated revenue from a mere N106m monthly in 201 to N1bn monthly by 2012. According to the Ekiti Internal Revenue Service, this feat was achieved through the blocking of leakages in revenue collection, and making tax payment affordable and convenient for people in the informal sector. However, the IGR as a proportion of actual total revenue was on the decline from 2009 to 2011. It was 9.8% in 2009, 7.9% in 2010; and 7.6 in 2011.

"The fact that IGR as a proportion of total income was low over the three years (2009-2011) shows that there is considerable room for improvement with a lot of work still to be done to reduce the state's high dependence on allocation from federally collected revenues. It is also important to examine the possibility of widening its tax base to increase the contribution of IGR to its revenue."

The SPRM further lamented that since 1999, both states have not conducted local government elections and urged the states to urgently set up a machinery in motion to conduct credible local government elections.

They found it appealing that boths states have not conducted Local government elections since 1999, a situation which they described as causing a lot of problems. This however, revisits the debate over local government autonomy as canvassed against by the governors who claim that this arm of government should not be given constitutional recognition.

The item is however listed as one of the item for deliberation as the constitution amendment continues.

The SPRM assessment on education in both states reflected the good and the bad. They noted their worry in poor standard of education as captured in the results of examinations conducted in the state by both the West African Examination Council and the National Examination Council. Still, the report highlighted the efforts and progress achieved by the states also.

For Ekiti State, reputed for being a highly educated state, the state Peer Review said, "the quality of education in the nation's Fountain of Knowledge has deteriorated." The review team added, "the examination results show that with the exception of JSS candidates who recorded 98 per cent and 96.4 per cent passes in 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 respectively, poor performances were recorded in the other examinations by SSS candidates. The results are as follows: NECO: 11 per cent in 2009/2010, and WAEC: 18 and 33 per cent in 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, respectively.

However, the report pointed out that, "in line with the states' focus on education as a vehicle for individual social mobility, the current administration is merging universities, re-equipping schools and starting teachers on a whole range of training and retraining, adding, "the state has distributed 11000 solar-powered laptops to secondary school students and 7000 to their teachers under a partnership with Samsung.

In Anambra state, the report disclosed that it is "leading other states in ICT through the establishment of Micro Soft Academy" and gave a thumbs up to its move to return 56 secondary and 1040 primary mission schools to their owners and the disbursement of N6bn as take-off grants. They were however cautious with their commendation as the report quipped, "it is hoped that this will turn the education system around and restore moral values".

However, while the report applauded Ekiti for its Human Resource Management, describing it's work-force which it put at 25, 671 as very educated, it noted "there are insufficient skills to drive the machinery of modern government in the state. For example, it has low ICT penetration and weak record management capacity- factors that are key to enhanced service delivery."

Still on Ekiti, the report, while focusing on the economy of the state, noted that the National Bureau of Statistics data on the incidence of poverty shows that poverty has worsened from 20.11 percent in 2004 to 59.1 per cent in 2010.

The state also had the second highest absolute poverty incidence in the South-West (after Ogun with 62.3 per cent). The unemployment index at 14 per cent (13.8 per cent for male and 14.2 percent for female) is also said to be quite high for the South-West, next to Ondo and Osun States.

The report posted more poor rating of the state thus, "Ekiti State also performed poorly in the World Bank's 'Doing Business in Nigeria' 2010 report, which comprises regulations in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. It ranked 34th in terms of ease of doing business".

But it was not all that bad economically. The report states that the index economic activities used as proxy by the UNDP to compute state's Gross Domestic Product shows that Ekiti State has the third highest GDP per capital among the six states in the South-West and that only Lagos and Ondo States have higher per capital than the state. It said, "sound economic management received a boost in Ekiti State with the formulation of the Ekiti State Development Strategy which derived its reference from the government's 8-Point Agenda. The policy framework is complemented by institutional reforms to ensure that resources are harnessed and used in an optimal way to achieve maximum benefits for citizens".

Ekiti also faired well in health. The report noted that the state has the second lowest HIV/AIDS infection in the country; the lowest being Kebbi. "At 1.4 per cent down from 3.1 per cent in 2003, the rate of infection is the lowest in the South-West which has an average rate of 2.8 percent."

On electricity, the report say Ekiti State has improved following the replacement of transformers in "most communities" even though the energy required in the state is 100MW and the maximum capacity produced by the state is 40MW.

The report nonetheless underscores some of the challenges pulling back the state's stride. For instance, it pointed out the resistance by civil servants to the Governor Kayode Fayemi- reform programme for the civil service through training.

Also, the political turbulence in the state in view of competitive electoral politics has not helped the development, the report cited.

Ahead of the governorship election in 2014, the report says tension in the state is mounting as politicians and political parties have started justling for votes.

Still, the report said of Ekiti State governor, "within two years, it has restored confidence in Ekiti State among local and international development partners and investors with its people oriented governance, while not shying away from making tough decisions. It is in appreciation of these landmark achievements that LEADERSHIP Newspaper conferred on him the "Governor of the year 2011." Complacency, however, would be a very costly disposition. The government must continue to restore and rebuild public trust in governance and recreate the necessary institutional architecture required to deliver change."

Meanwhile, in Anambra State, much like in Ekiti, the economic development, according to the SPRM report, "shows a high incidence of poverty."

"Across the three senatorial districts surveyed, the average head count poverty index was 58 per cent. This is corroborated by the National Bureau of Statistics data which indicated that the incidence of poverty in the state increased from 20.11 per cent in 2004 to 68 per cent in 2010.

"However, the state has the lowest poverty incidence in the South-East, after Imo State with 57.3 per cent. Anambra also performed poorly in the World Bank's "Doing Business in Nigeria" 2010 report, which compares regulations in 36 states and the FCT. It ranked 35th in terms of ease of doing business," the report said.

The report further bemoaned the state as a paradox of plenty thus: "Anambra State is sadly very much afflicted by the Nigerian paradox- the paradox of plenty: persistence of institutional and resource deficits amidst the country's abundant human and financial resources. While it can take exceptional pride in its contribution of its illustrious sons and daughters such as Chinua Achebe, Dora Akunyili, Chukwuma Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Ben Nwabueze, Chimamanda Adichie and a host of others who have either conquered the world stage or played interventionist roles in the national scene,....many of Anambra's well-to- do people, including professionals, live and own homes in other parts of Nigeria and come home infrequently, or only to attend special events."

On the unique ecological problem experienced in the state, the report noted that communities hit most. By soil erosion are Agulu, Nanka, Oko, Awka, Uga and Ozubulu where it is said to have devastated several houses. The state is said to have about 1000 erosion sites. It however mentioned the team work by the state government, local government and communities to fund and implement several erosion control projects.

As far as human resources management goes, the report decried the ageing workforce at the top of the chain, as well as many junior officers at the entry point; even though it noted the state has done "fairly well" in trying to keep the public service focused on effective service delivery in the face of some challenges.

More so, the report worried that, some departments such as Forestry, Pharmaceutical Services, Surveying and Environmental Health, there are only grade levels 15 - 17 officers and a few GL 08 and 09 officers down the line who can rise to the top level when the current senior officers retire without some loss of competence.

Citing an instance, the report says that, "the workforce in the Forestry Department is particularly depleted. At the creation of the state, the department had over 600 personnel manning six Forest Reserves.

"The staff strength of the department is a mere 22. The result of this has been illegal activities of all forms and the massive depletion of forests, which has encouraged soil erosion thus posing serious threats to the state."

The state was nonetheless, praised for its good network of roads linking the state capital to all the local government areas. It was also commended for releasing about N6bn as take-off grant to missionary schools returned to their original owners. The Fadama III project is currently rated best in the South- East and one of the best in the country owing to regular funding.

In all, the report said of the state Governor, Peter Obi, who has barely months to stay in office, "from being a state where political violence, kidnapping, illegal militias and wanton destruction of public property characterised politics and administration, Anambra state has become more stable and better governed...however much still needs to be done to sustain the gains made and add value to the quality of life of people of the state by entrenching the prevailing climate of peace and security."

For the Director General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru, the "SPRM has become our flagship programme, the first of its kind at the sub-national level in the world."

Speaking during the presentation of the report, he said the programme is already helping to re-invigorate the art of governance in states where it is being implemented.

Underscoring why the governors have decided to support the peer review scheme, he said that the mandate for SPRM flows from a resolution of the National Economic Council in 2007, where all the 36 states agreed to peer review themselves in a manner modeled on the African Union Peer Review Exercise.

"This NEC resolution was consequently endorsed by all the 36 state governors in the country under the NGF platform," he adds.

It would seem that the report was not fashioned to be a public relations stunt for the states, yet, it is left to be seen how much can be learnt by the key stakeholders of this process.

However, the expectation is that other governors would open their doors to objective review, with a mindset to share ideas and improve capacity.

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