Oil Producing States; The Biggest Losers of ‘Feeding Bottle’ Federalism
Oil producing states are equally suffering from this ‘feeding bottle’ disease which we call the ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria’.
LGAs in Delta State are owing workers seven months salaries. Bayelsa state is owing for over four months. This is happening despite the fact that these states receive the highest allocations from the federation account. What could be the cause?
First, states like Bayelsa should not have been created in the first place. It is one of those political mistakes that is now difficult to correct. There are so many of such states in Nigeria. Bayelsa does not have the economic sufficiency to earn it a state status. The whole of Bayelsa State should not be more than five LGAs of either Rivers or Delta State. Most of the LGAs in Nigeria should not have been created too.
Because the state was created to be funded by Abuja money (allocations) it became infected with the ‘feeding bottle’ disease. Free money leads to reckless spending; bloated civil service, bloated contracts, unsustainable projects, unnecessary political appointments, establishment of unsustainable state owned institutions, unimaginable and official corruption, annual increasing recurrent expenditures, etc. States became charity organizations. This is what happens when states depend on federal allocations for too long. They refuse to be prudent, they become unreasonably reckless. All they think of is spend, spend, spend. Its a disease. Because there is so much free money, they do not even know what to do with the money. So much money at the state govt houses but nothing at the grassroot levels. Poverty rate remains alarming. Government projects everywhere, poverty everywhere.
Today this recklessness is no longer sustainable. It is now difficult to cut down the size of the civil service because over 1/3 of the state population are directly or indirectly earning salaries from the state in the name of civil servants. To sack these workers is to cause chaos. The best thing to do now is to remain stagnant, spend all your income paying salaries and even borrow to do same. This is the new reality. Bayelsa is not alone in this madness.
We cannot exactly estimate the damage this ‘feeding bottle’ federalism has caused Nigeria until we are able to estimate the damage it has done to the Oil producing States.
It is not surprising that there is so much poverty in the oil producing states despite the abundant wealth in their communities.
People will say corruption is the cause. Yes, corruption is a problem but corruption is only a symptom of the ‘feeding bottle’ disease. To kill the disease, we must look at its root cause. We must restructure Nigeria and entrench true federalism.
Rich government officials, poor citizens. Effects of a skewed federal government.
We must now be willing to do the right thing by either merging states or allowing states to die natural deaths.
Restructuring Nigeria is a painful but necessary pill we must swallow if we are to make genuine progress as a country.