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10 Point Opportunities For Nigeria In Covid-19 (B)

Enhancing the Economic Viability of Nigerian States

Following from point 2 in the previous article, Covid-19 has further exposed the non viability of most Nigerian States. A recent report stated that state governments in Nigeria generate less than 25 per cent of their monthly income internally. In fact, there are a few states that depend over 90 per cent on the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) monthly largesse in order to meet their basic monthly expenditure to operate as a state. And as the monthly FAAC disbursements are declining to a dangerous level due to the very low oil revenues at this point, many states are likely to go totally broke.

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We have seen many states, in the past, lining up to beg the Federal Government for bail out funds to meet even salary payments. Infrastructural developments in many states have become nearly nonexistent. In a nutshell, most Nigerian states lack the capacity to meaningfully contribute to generating the kind of economic activities that would strongly support inclusive GDP growth as well as shared prosperity for the teeming population of Nigerians.

Nigerian leaders at all levels of governments must give serious thoughts on the way forward for our states. Do we reduce the number of states in the country? Or do we provide more incentives (as discussed in point 2 above) for states to drive revenue growth. Does the governance system in our states give room for fiscal responsibility and efficient financial management? Do the governors have the freewill and capacity to generate ideas to transform their states as economic giants? What constitutional amendments are required to empower our states to act in the overall best interest of the Nigerian masses? 

Refocusing Human Capital Investment in Nigeria

Despite the huge resources Nigeria has generated over the years from oil revenue as well as several loans secured for national development, successive governments in Nigeria have paid grossly insufficient attention to human capital development – especially in the areas of health and education/ talent development. In 2018, Bill Gates, during a visit to Nigeria, noted that “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to give birth”. Our literacy, life expectancy, and other human development indices are nothing to write home about.   

Medical facilities are very inadequate and obsolete; primary and postprimary educational institutions are grossly under-funded and in constant dire need of base infrastructure and tools; brain drain is taking a bad toll on teaching quality across all levels of education; corporate education and training is very poor especially among Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

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Over the years, Nigeria’s budget for education and health sectors (as a percentage of the total budget) have remained below 10 and 6 percent respectively. This is well below the UNESCO recommendation of 20 and 15 per cents respectively for the education and health sectors for there to be meaningful and inclusive growth and development of developing nations. And much of the budgets are for recurrent expenditures in these sectors with little or no attention for capital spending. No wonder our medical and educational facilities are horrible sights in most parts of the country.

With Covid-19 teaching us a very bad lesson on the need to make our hospitals standard for both the rich and the poor, it is now imperative that we sit up and fix these sectors urgently. When the chips are down – as they were in the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic – we would all depend on our local facilities to boost the health and lives of our people.

So, from the health and education sectors all the way to hospitality/tourism and entertainment industries, the more we invest in our people’s health, education, living standards, and overall well-being, the better prepared we become in building a prosperous nation. 

Featured Image Source: Srinivas Bonagiri

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