The main source of local government revenues is federal government allocations. As a result of increase in world oil prices, LG revenues have been rising sharply over the past ten years. This has not translated into improved basic social services. Nigeria has one of the worse socio-economic indicators in the world and basic health care and education services are in a state of decay. The situation has not improved since the end of military rule.
LGs budgets are guarded as highly secretive documents. This gives local government chairmen many opportunities to divert and embezzle funds. There is no way for the population to hold their officials to account, let alone engage in discussion on a community’s real developmental priorities.
SDN, using informal channels and extensive research, managed to obtain most of the budgets for 2000- 2010 for three local governments: Gokana and Tai in Rivers State and Ogbia in Bayelsa State.
Their analysis exposed common patterns of corruption, diversion and mismanagement of funds. LG budgets were vague and lacking in transparency. The most obvious examples of corruption were enormous allocations for “miscellanea”, “security vote” (funds used to maintain peace and security at the chairman’s discretion) or “chairman’s office”. SDN obtained LG budgets not only to expose government corruption but also to give communities viable tools to challenge their officials, hold them accountable and make them fulfill obligations and deliver on the basic socio-economic rights of the population.
The three core oil producing states of the Niger Delta, Rivers, Delta and Baylesa are anything but poor. Their combined budgets in 2010 were $4,761,857,941. This wealth, if utilised effectively, could go a long way to ensuring a peaceful and prosperous Niger Delta. Even if 30% was utilised effectively, the Niger Delta region would at least achieve the minimal benchmark set by the MDGs.
The realities of service delivery and opportunities for sustainable development in the region clearly demonstrate how successive governance regimes have failed to utilise the resources at their disposal for the good of the people.
The budgets of the core Niger Delta states are locally perceived as secret and are not formulated based on clear or defined assessments of the core needs of the state. Recent public moves towards improved budgetary transparency, which have occurred in particular in Bayelsa state and to a lesser extent in Rivers and Delta States, have been hollow and failed to ensure greater local transparency or space for scrutiny or input. The state budgets remain a key tool in the dominance of a self-serving patronage system and the PDP elites.
To put this into perspective, if the annual budget of Rivers State $2,860,000,000, Delta State $1,447,840,024 or Baylesa state $454,017,917 is compared to that of Ghana $6.039,000,000, it is clear that there is a systematic failure of state structures to utilise this wealth for development.