The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on Thursday said the Federal Government has a critical role to play in addressing the fundamental structural challenges undermining sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the states of the federation, among which is unbundling the potentials of each of the federating units.
Ambode said this in Kaduna at the 4th Progressive Governance Lecture Series, organized by the Governors of the All Progressives Congress, with the theme: “Building The Economy of States: Challenge of Developing Inclusively Sustainable Growth.”
Ambode said the Federal Government must allow the states to develop the natural resources within their domain and create the necessary infrastructure that would attract investors.
Ambode, who spoke on the Lagos State experience of de-emphasizing reliance on oil, said Governors must also be encouraged to tap into multiple streams of income within their domain, especially with the Federal Government allowing the states to develop their potentials. Ambode lamented a situation where Governors have powers over the land in their domain but cannot tap into the resources under the land and even the water.
He said such must stop so that Governors can have powers over both the land and resources underneath, thereby unbundling the potentials of the states.
He said: “We need to start looking at some changes that we need to make within and among ourselves as a government irrespective of whether it is federal, state or local government – that will now unbundle the potentials of each state which is the cornerstone of the whole message we are talking about.
“There is a great need for all of us to decide once and for all to unbundle the potentials of each state; take the comparative advantages of each state and fuse them together for the needs of our people. “Governors are the owners of the land in their states but underneath the land and even inside the water, the Federal Government is structured in a way that it controls those potentials.
In a situation where the states are being spoon-fed, because I call the federation account more or less like spoon-feeding. The federal government collects total revenue on Value Added Tax (VAT) and various revenues on behalf of all of us and makes us to come to Abuja and more or less share it to us as peanuts thereby not allowing us to reach our potentials as competitive states individually.”
While alluding to the fact that the insignia of progressivism in Nigeria should be first seen in the APC states, Governor Ambode said all critical actors must work together in the common interest of the people. He said: “There is just one economy in this country and so we need to first of all accept the fact that there is nothing like private sector as against public sector; there is nothing like Federal Government as against State Government. We are collaborating together to drive the economy of this country.
So if that describes what Nigeria is and what it ought to be, we also want to say that government should be seen as an enabler; a platform that more or less creates the enabling environment for the public sector to thrive.
“If we see ourselves as messengers to allow enabling environment to thrive, that means that whatever it is that we are doing, we must do it in such a way that will allow that enabling environment so that commerce, industry and our people can feel that sense of inclusion and that is why all of us are here. We are making progress because we are there because of our people and if we are there because of our people, it is just those basic little things that our people need that we should go ahead and address.
“We all must be in one set and whatever that we are doing in terms of policy; what it is that we are doing in terms of what I now refer to as re-arrangement, we should now focus on people and then we should be people-friendly. And that is the only was we can create that inclusive growth.”