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Dwindling oil revenues: Lessons for Nigeria from Cross River (Pt.1)

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Ex-governor Liyel ImokeAs an investigative journalist and a policy wonk, I have studied and written about many public policies in place in the several States of Nigeria – from the North to

the South. More specifically, I pick on present-day tough public policy challenges and study how the particular policymakers in question overcame such challenges.

Late last year, I covered some States of the North, and was supremely impressed with Yobe’s significant strides in deforestation despite Boko Haram and meager revenues. This year, I went South-South, specifically Cross River. I wanted to see how that State managed itself after the sudden loss of some 76 oil wells around 2007 when Senator Liyel Imoke became governor. That very loss reduced Cross River’s share of federal allocations to a trickle compared to what it was under Donald Duke.

My purpose is to simply call attention to how governance goals were still attained despite sudden revenue shortfalls. And so, in this season of dwindling oil revenue, my hope is that the Federal government and the States will look to Cross River to learn useful lessons on how they can still perform despite the far less cash brought about the dwindling oil price that is affecting Nigeria at this time.

If they can, our policymakers need to consult Senator Imoke to tell them the story of how boundary adjustment pauperized Cross River State during his tenure. Simply put, it is an untold story of more money before 2007, and then less money from 2007. It was an epic struggle of sorts, yet Liyel Imoke’s dexterity and creativity ensured that Cross River State still triumphed throughout his tenure.

Imoke even managed to increase salaries of civil servants and executed many projects, as if no oil wells were lost. Now, we know that many States can no longer pay their salaries and are otherwise near-bankruptcy.

Besides the recent federal bail-out, those States need to speak with Liyel Imoke to advise them on a more sustainable path to surviving these hard times. And as I gathered in the course of my research, there are many tough policies and projects Imoke saw through despite the significant shortfalls in federal allocations throughout his tenure.

I dare say that Imoke’s survivalist approach was the first of its kind since 1999, and all of Nigeria needs to borrow a leaf. I will flag some of those projects and policies in the second part of this piece. Please watch out for it.

Danlami wrote from ibrodanlami@yahoo.com

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