NYESOM Wike, Rivers State governor, recently donated 500 million naira to Sokoto State government over a fire incident that affected some farmers in the North-West state.
Though the gesture may make political sense to Wike and his supporters, it flies in the face of economics.
The ICIR checks show that the amount can build and rehabilitate 17 primary health centres (PHCs) in Rivers, his own state.
According to the statement signed by Muhammed Bello, spokesman to Tambuwal, the donation was meant to support the state’s rebuilding efforts and provide assistance to the affected traders.
“Rivers State government has pledged the sum of half a billion naira to support Sokoto State government in rebuilding the Sokoto central market ravaged by fire on Tuesday morning,” the statement read in part.
However, some are of the opinion that instead of donating to another state government, Wike should have focused on providing for the welfare of his people, for which he was elected. They argue that there are pending basic issues the governor should have channelled the 500 million naira proposed ‘gift’ to.
Some have tagged the governor’s promise as a political gesture, given that Wike belongs to the same political party as Aminu Tambuwal.
Others associate it with the politics of 2023. Wike was heavily criticised by social media users who condemned the governor’s action as financial recklessness and an act to score cheap political points.
N500 million can construct, rehabilitate 17 health facilities in Rivers
According to findings by The ICIR, the 500 million naira can construct and rehabilitate 17 primary health facilities in Rivers State.
Using the most recent publicly available budget of Rivers State, where the State’s Primary Health Care Management Board budgeted 30 million naira each for the construction and rehabilitation of 50 primary health care centres in the state, the ICIR’s calculations show that the amount donated by Wike could build 17 PHCs.
As highlighted earlier, the 500 million naira can provide 17 PHCs in the state.
Out of the 23 local governments in the state, if 17 of them are equipped with quality health facilities, they would lessen the health infrastructural deficit in the state, most especially in the middle of a pandemic.
APC, Group condemn governor’s action
Sobomoba Jackrich, convener of a civil society organisation called Network for Defence of Democracy and Good Governance (NDDGG) said the governor did not have a clear vision for the future of the Rivers State.
Jackrich said this in a statement on behalf of the group, stressing that Sokoto was not a territory of Rivers State.
“The NDDGG wish to sound it loud and clear that Sokoto is not a territory of Rivers warranting such unaccountable obligation,” the statement read in part.
He added that it was also worrisome that the governor made such promise a few days after confirming the receipt of 78.9 billion naira from the federal government as a refund for constructing federal roads.
“The action of the governor clearly proves that he does not seem to have a protected future at stake or vision for our dear state,” the group said.
According to NDDGG, Wike was unbothered about how Rivers State ranked as one of the states with the highest unemployment rate in Nigeria.
Chris Finebone, a former spokesperson for the Rivers State All Progressives Congress (APC), described the proposed gift as another politically motivated donation.
“People believe that Governor Wike is trying very hard to buy the 2023 presidential or vice-presidential ticket of the PDP with Rivers taxpayers’ money. This is the latest in the string of politically-motivated donations the governor has been making across Nigeria,” Finebone said.
He added that the governor who gave out donations to Sokoto farmers had, in the past, ignored some victims of flood and market fire disasters in his own state.
“This unbridled profligacy flies in the face of the fact that Rivers pensioners are owed gratuities and pension while …even some victims of market fire disasters and flooding in the state are ignored by the governor,” he noted.
Defending the governor’s action, Paulinus Nsirim, state commissioner for information and communications, said : “As Rivers people, we have our challenges but that doesn’t mean we have lost our sense of humanity and this is what Governor Wike epitomises with great equanimity and humility.”
NBS Job Data on Rivers State
Despite its humongous earnings as an oil-producing state, Rivers is among the top three states with worst unemployment numbers in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Rivers State unemployment rate is 43.7 percent, implying that almost one in every two citizens of the state is jobless. The 500 million naira donated by Wike to Tambuwal can pay the minimum wage of 30,000 naira for 1,388 jobless citizens in the state for one year. It can also set up micro businesses for at least 500 jobless people in Rivers, providing 1 million naira each to them.
According to Waheed Olagunju, former acting managing director of the Bank of Industry, one micro business creates a minimum of 3 to 5 jobs. Going by this argument, channelling the money to micro businesses could create between 1,500 and 2,500 new jobs in the state, with potential spin-offs.