It was a well-balanced mix of intellectual vision and executive power. Moderated by former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the panel consisted of two state Governors, Simon Lalong and Godwin Obaseki of Plateau and Edo States respectively, as well as Prof. Pat Utomi of the Lagos Business School and the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Muoghalu.

According to NEWSWIRE Law and Events Magazine correspondent at the Eko Hotels and Suites venue of the plenary, the issue at stake was around the ability of sub-national units in Nigeria, such as states, to take a huge leap in exponentially enhancing their internally generated revenues (IGR) in the face of a legislative framework seemingly designed to restrict, if not undermine, such ability.

Prof. Muoghalu’s concise and direct views on the subject matter centred on the need for the Nigerian nation – at central and sub-national levels – to ‘soar’ away from their present over-dependence on crude oil revenues. He identified the structure upon which the nation is presently organised as the most serious single impediment to a more robust revenue-generation mechanism, and called on Governors like Obaseki and Lalong, by virtue of their current offices, to demand more forcefully a constitutional review which reverts that mechanism back to the sub-national units – as was the case during the short-lived First Republic.

Playing on the theme of the 2022 NBA-AGC, Gov. Obaseki said Edo State has made a ‘bold transition’ in terms of pivoting away from oil to the development of human capacity – so that today, he said, the state generates the bulk of its IGR from a growing service sector, including education. This, he said, was in addition to the state government’s ongoing investment into agriculture (including the regrowing of the state’s vast forest reserves, which he described as key to his administration’s Net-Zero Target initiative in combatting climate change). However, like Prof. Muoghalu, Obaseki lamented the legislative strictures contained in our present Constitution – with its top-heavy exclusive list – and its negative impact on the revenue-generation ability of states like Edo, and called for a restructuring of the Constitution to provide for a return to the primacy of regional government. “The political DNA of our people” Obaseki said, “is federalism.”

Also weighing in, Prof. Utomi called for a state of emergency in the energy sector in response, not just to the huge generating and distribution gap in the country at present, but also to global events and trends. “We need energy to produce,” he declared, and also cited recent moves by nations such as Japan to transit to hydrogen as an energy source, he described as a wake-up call on Nigeria. On leadership and its ability to drive the transition we need, Utomi expressed the belief that as far as knowing what they need the most, the Nigerian people are generally smarter than their leaders, and called on said people to be more politically active in order to bring on board a leadership that matches their aspirations. Citing the late American economist Douglass North’s Nobel Prize-winning studies on the impact of institutions on economic performance, Utomi also called for an overhaul of the nation’s regulatory mechanism in order to eliminate what he called ‘bullies’ to growth.

Taking up Prof. Utomi’s argument in respect of institutions and economic development, the moderator, Dr. Kachikwu tasked the panelists on institutional measures specifically in terms of energy transition. The panelists’ responses echoed those of Gov. Obaseki, who spoke of his state’s keen interest in solar energy as the preferred energy source (in view of the abundance of sunshine), and Prof. Utomi, who said every part of Nigeria possesses endowments of one kind or another, which can be developed into value chains. He lamented that Nigeria, especially it’s northern constituents, has always opted for a ‘lottery,’ whose effect today has made the North poorer than it was in, say, the 1960s. It’s time, he said, for the Nigerian elite class to invest in things that lead directly to production rather status symbols that pander to their ego.

Prof. Muoghalu’s final submission was on the critical imperative of fiscal federalism (which he called the basis of any kind of federalism) and local resource control – based on a revenue-sharing ratio between the states (or regions) and the central government of 60℅ to 40℅.

Only a political transition based on devolution of powers to sub-national units, the panelists agreed, can enable those units to achieve effective energy transitions and substantial improvements in their IGR profiles. Those, plus the needed political will, and an improvement in the country’s security situation – as emphasised by Gov. Lalong.

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