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Nigeria: Governors to Blame for Palliative Inequality

In the spirit of fairness, imagine a kind-hearted individual giving out N10 to 10 people. If each person is seen as equal, they would all get N1 each, right? Similarly, if that same person had N200 million to give to 200 million people, again, everyone would get N1. That is simple sharing.

However, Nigeria’s revenue allocation process is a bit more complex. The constitution requires the government to look at factors like the population of each state, how much money the state itself generates, the size of its land, the nature of its terrain, and the inequality level of the state. This is done to ensure that resources are distributed in a way that meets the unique needs of each region. The idea is to share money with the citizens based on fairness and individual needs. That is why the oil-producing states get 13 per cent of the federation’s oil revenue under the same law.

The governors were not unaware of this law. They are also not unaware of the existing data on population, poverty rate, unemployment rate and many more. Meaning they are fully aware of the level of inequality in their states. However, they sat in the federal executive council to accept the approval of the N5 billion subsidy palliative, five trucks of rice for each state. The unanswered question is how they arrived at this sharing formula. The palliative subsidy is meant to be shared with poor households, and data across senatorial zones exists.

Adopting a formula where revenue is shared equally among states simplifies the distribution process. However, this approach has overlooked each state’s unique needs and characteristics. It is like giving the same size shoe to every person in a village regardless of the differences in their foot sizes. Even though equality in distribution may seem fair on the surface, it might not address the actual needs of states with larger populations or those with specific challenges related to infrastructure, terrain, or other factors. I do not want to imagine the drama that will happen if all 36 states and the FCT are asked to share oil revenue allocation equally.

We cannot deny that the shock of subsidy removal touches every corner of Nigeria, from businesses to the common people. However, certain areas have been affected more than others due to population density and poverty rates. That is why it is important to balance equity based on individual circumstances and equality of uniform distribution to ensure that each state is adequately supported unless some citizens are regarded as more important than others.

The North has the highest poverty rate, with Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa, and Bauchi leading the poverty chart ahead of Akwa Ibom in seventh place. Of the 19 states, seven governors are serving their second term. One wonders how they agreed to accept a flat payment of N5 billion. Reports show some governors are already announcing sharing the palliatives while others already broadcast what they shared. None of them is questioning the sharing formula. Rather, they are making it look like it is a favour done to the people. It is not.

Given the information they have, it is truly unfair for the governors of the affected states to accept the blanket approach formula. The onus ideally lies with the state governors, who represent their constituents at the National Council of State and National Economic Council, to advocate for a more equitable allocation that aligns with the specific needs of their people.

Their acceptance of this seemingly skewed sharing formula raises concerns about their commitment to addressing the deep-seated poverty in their states. This is looking like a punishment on our population growth and socioeconomic challenges. If so, it is wrong.

With the acceptance of this N5 billion and five trucks of rice, the governors have joined hands with the federal government to take punitive measures on the suffering citizens. It is even more surprising to hear the deafening silence of the six opposition party governors, especially those serving their second term and those with legislative experience. They are expected to support equitable policies centred on uplifting every citizen, not punitive policies.

Let’s be clear: federal allocations are not a handout or a benevolent gesture but an inherent right of the citizens, rooted in equitable resource distribution and nation-building principles. Every Nigerian citizen deserves a fair share of the resources, regardless of religion, ethnicity, region or socio-economic status.

So, it is unjust to penalise people for their systemic poverty, household size, or economic condition, particularly when they are not the architects of the policies that may have inadvertently or directly contributed to their socio-economic predicaments. Some policies disproportionately disadvantage certain regions and groups. Similar policies have undermined social cohesion and perpetuated cycles of poverty and inequality.

In many cases, poverty is not merely a result of individual choices but a systemic outcome of poorly conceived and implemented policies. Governors have a critical role in influencing people’s socio-economic conditions. So, when governors consent to policies that propagate an unequal distribution of wealth, they inadvertently establish a pattern that can perpetuate disparities for generations. Setting such precedence not only exacerbates the existing inequalities but also undermines the very essence of democracy and the promise of equal opportunity for all.

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