Chris Steven, Abuja
Over 200 Civil Society Organisation under the banner of Governors Go To Work Campaign on Tuesday stormed the coal city of Enugu in their thousands to demand that state governors get down to work and deliver democratic dividends to the people.
The protesters, backed by the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) blamed what they termed as incompetence of state governors for the current hardship being witnessed in the country.
In his address, the Enugu state chairman of CNPP, Barrister Ken Ikeh said while many Nigerians blame the federal government for the current woes, state governors should and must be held accountable on how they spend their allocations.
Barr Ikeh who is also the state chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state said only the obscenely rich can claim that times are not hard in today’s Nigeria.
He said situation are so bad that Nigerians are resorting to desperate acts that would have been comical but for the tragedy they portray.
“The stories in the mass media and social media are proof that the populace are taking hits from what is going on. Women who carry pregnancies to term only to sell the babies N20,000 apiece. Parents who are forced to exchange children for bags of rice. Thieves who snatch pots of food off the stove. Armed robbers who only want food and other absurdities are stories that have exposed the depth of desperation in the land.
“What made the economic recession more bitter is well known. Years of neglect of critical infrastructure and failure to diversify the economy left all Nigerians vulnerable and now we are paying the price.” He said
He said Nigerians are yet to see meaningful impact of policies from state governments.
He said, “Unfortunately, we are not seeing the states, being the second tier of government doing anything meaningful to ease the burden on Nigerians. If anything, the governors running the 36 states, across political divide, are carrying on as if there is no economic emergency in the land:
“The governors, without exception, still embark on foreign trips as if there are no costs attached to such unwarranted outings.
Where they manage to execute capital projects, contracts are still inflated and are often awarded to foreign firms that do not use direct labour thereby denying their local population of employment.
Many of the projects at state level have not direct bearing with the immediate needs of the people but are instead meant to serve the ego of the “Excellencies”.
The state governors are still in denial of the recession and have therefore been unable to come up with meaningful solutions that will provide palliatives for the populace.
Even the bailout funds that the federal government provided to states were largely mismanaged by governors who would not cut back on their ostentatious lifestyles and snaking convoys.
The funds that would have trickled down to the people through the local government area councils, as the third tier of the government that is closest to the people, have equally been converted to pocket change by the governors, who have effectively killed off the local government.
“The governors have consistently passed across the image of helplessness and often lay the whole blame on the centre without verifiable efforts at pulling their weight in view of the mandate spelt out for the states as the second tier of government in the constitution.
We are therefore by this march demanding that:
The federal government accelerate implementation of measures to ease the economic hardship in the land.
Each state governor must immediately present to their people what they have come up with by way solution to the recession at state level. This must include details of cuts made to non-essential expenditures like trimming down the size of their convoys.
“States must also cancel catering for official functions. Food served at such events to already sated officials go to waste and poor citizens are then forced into the dehumanizing position of eating from the leftover.”
According to Ikeh, state governors must immediately allow the local government area councils operate independently as envisaged by the constitution.
He said this will include an immediate end to diversion or hijacking of local government allocations from source so that the third tier can do its work and positively affect life at the grassroots.
“State governors must immediately put an end to further foreign trips except those they are personally paying for. The money saved from calling off future foreign trips should be assigned to other more pressing expenditures.
“The 2017 budget for each state should not include provision for foreign trips.
In essence, the states must start bearing their own weight and the governors must become more responsible to the people they sought office to serve and stop pushing everything over to the federal government as if they do not have separate budgets.
“We are holding this march to draw the attention of the state governors to what we have highlighted in a friendly manner. If the state governors continue to hide their incompetence behind the federal government, we fear the desperation in the land will soon force their citizens into the streets in their millions to protest against the system.