Osinbajo told governors: Don’t bank on monthly allocation

States should think out of the box to grow their economy and boost their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told governors on Thursday.

He said the chief executives should concentrate their investments in areas where they have comparative advantages rather than waiting for monthly handouts from the Federation Account.

The vice president spoke at the maiden Ekiti Economic and Investment Summit tagged: “Fountain Summit 2021” in Ado-Ekiti. It was part of activities marking the third anniversary of Governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration.

He said the states should grow their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) like an independent country.

He, however, cautioned against double taxation so as not to discourage investors.

Governors Fayemi (Ekiti); Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) called for the robust multi-layer policing system to protect citizens and investments.

They argued that the current policing structure that prevents governors from taking charge of security in their domains was negatively affecting investments, development and wellbeing of the people.

The vice president said: “The attractiveness of investments to any state should be radical because that is the revenue hub and determinant of how happy the people of any state will be in terms of economic development in relation to their standard of living.

“But, while trying to grow investments, we must be cautious about multiple taxations; it weighs down businesses.

“Ekiti is a business-friendly environment. Ekiti has also excelled in the aspect of ease of doing business. You have vast arable lands for agriculture.

“Also, of recent, the government of Ekiti divested 76 per cent of shares in the Ikun Dairy Farm for Promasidor for the production of 80,000 litres of milk daily. Let me say that Ekiti has a bigger economy than many Africa nations.

“The question we should ask ourselves is that if I were the landlord of this nation, how do we survive?”

Recounting how the Lagos State grew its economy between 1999 and 2007, Osinbajo said: “During my time as a commissioner in Lagos State, we started with N600 million monthly (IGR) in 1999.

“The seizure of Lagos State funds by former President Olusegun Obasanjo made us think like a sovereign state. Today, Lagos is making over N45 billion monthly.

“The surest way forward is to deepen investments in the areas where Ekiti has a comparative advantage. We should also make a good investment in technology to grow the knowledge economy, which is education.”

The vice president commended the foresight of Fayemi, especially in the area of technology advancement, for promoting technology as the best way to go.

He said: “What is in vogue now is that well-trained people in technology are the game changers,” he said.

Osinbajo, however, urged the people of Ekiti to leverage on their values in education, which he said they had acquired for the development of the state’s investments.

“I believe Ekiti have not lost this value. It has to be Fountain of the Knowledge Economy, not just the Fountain of Knowledge,” he said.

Fayemi stressed the importance of creating a multi-layer policing system.

He said “This request does not mean abrogation of the central Police. If you have the problem of security in Kaduna, Gov. Nasir El-Rufai can easily take charge.

“My recent experience and many of our governors were not even palatable where we wanted to procure drones and Mr President was with us on the issue, but the NSA (National Security Adviser) refused us; the end-user certificate, but we got it one year after.

“As of now, security is on the exclusive list. Even, if the Federal Government is ready to allow us to procure some arms, we have to sign MoU with the Nigerian Air Force.

“We have to work together collaboratively because investors consider security as number one in any state.

Fayemi said he had signed a Bill into Law establishing Ekiti Economic Council to plan and implement this summit and ensure that the outcome outlives his administration.

He said the dwindling revenues to states had encouraged governors to block leakages in the revenue collection and leverage on areas where they could get support from the Federal Government, especially the social intervention programmes.

Fayemi said he had completed many of the projects bequeathed to him by the administration of former Governor Ayodele Fayose.

He noted that abandonment of projects on the basis of lack of interest and change of party constitute a great impediment to growth and development.

Echoing the calls for state policing, Obaseki said police should be removed from the exclusive list.

He said: “If you have a business, you have to protect them and you must have the apparatuses. Security is on the exclusive list and we are looking up to the Federal Government to remove it for the states to take charge.

“We must provide facilities for the police to be able to train our local vigilance group, because in Edo State that was what we did.

“We raised a vigilance group to police our villages from the kidnappers and other criminals.”

Speaking about ICT as a driver of the economy at the subnational level, Obaseki advised the states to use ICT to recast primary education by making children at that age see computers as part of their lives.

Sanwo-Olu noted that insecurity bedevilling the country posed a threat to investment, adding that investors only invest in a safer environment.

The Lagos governor said: “When you have investments, you would have to protect them and take also responsibility for whatever happens. The investors will rely on the governors for protection and it is sad that we are not in charge. This is the area where the federal government must look into the issue of state police.”

Suggesting how Ekiti can transform its IGR, Sanwo-Olu, said Ekiti should go digital to curb sharp practices.

He said: “You must have robust technology and ensure people don’t collect money with hands, so that. Make sure your money is centrally collected. Also, block all loopholes. Also encourage your staff by giving them a small bonus, so that they can deliver more. Ekiti has the potential to think like a country.

El-Rufai described security as a big problem that every Nigerian should be concerned about.

Laying the foundation for why the policing system should be decentralised, the Kaduna governor said: “We have 150, 000 personnel in the Nigerian army. Police were 400,000 by the time this government came on board, but has gone down to 300, 000 now. We need multi-level police. Policing is local just like a unitary environment like Britain.

“Kaduna State is about 46,000sqkms in size. Boko Haram has been chased from the Northeast by ISWAP and now occupying the Northwest. But if they are dislodged here, where would they go? This is why we should all be concerned,” El-Rufai said.

The summit was organised to proffer solutions to some of the socio-economic challenges confronting the state.

According to investments by states in the areas of strength would ensure the desired sustainable economic growth and make the states less dependent on the Federal Government’s allocation for survival.

He said it was high time for governors to start thinking about how to grow their economies like a nation, noting that they can achieve this by investing in the most appropriate ways in areas of their economic strength.

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