Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Federalism, Nigerian style

In the USA, states rely on the national government for certain expenses and emergencies. In Nigeria, states have relied on the national government for nearly all their revenues. Can you guess why that makes states less powerful in Nigeria than in the USA?

Nigeria’s struggling states: Running out of road
Weddings do not come cheap, as Kano’s state government has found out. Over the past four years its Islamic morality police, the Hisbah, has arranged, and helped pay for, marriages for more than 4,000 lonely ladies… As Nigeria’s economy heads into recession, the state now says that it cannot afford to pay bride prices… Ten thousand disappointed daters have been left to find love and marriage the normal way.

They can hardly be so aggrieved as Nigeria’s 36 state governors. Most of them have little in the way of either local industry or foreign investment, meaning that they are incapable of providing for themselves. They borrowed heavily when oil prices were high, and also rely on monthly allocations from the federal government to keep afloat. But two years of low oil revenues have eaten nastily into those disbursements, leaving them unable to service their debts or pay their inflated workforces.

Out of the window have gone more pricey programmes, such as pilgrimages sponsored by Niger state… Politicians in Bayelsa, a southern state that has a reputation for oil and alarming kidnap rates, waved goodbye to a five-star hotel which has been over a decade in the making…

More important investments in roads and schools have long since dried up, according to BudgIT, a fiscal analysis group in Lagos. Civil servants no longer hope to get their salaries on time, and in some places their already meagre pay has been slashed by half…
Governors best known for fast cars and love nests are suddenly professing restraint. In Niger state, Mr Bello has said he will cut spending on housing for officials by at least 80%; an easy promise to make, given that his books are not made public.

This points to a general problem within federal Nigeria. With a couple of exceptions, its local and state governments do not publish budgets…

Last month Nigeria’s finance minister agreed to lend the states 90 billion naira, provided they start publishing audited accounts. That is a start. Meanwhile, the governors will take hope from a resurgence in their gross June and July allocations (thanks to higher federal tax collections)…

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