In the build-up to the November 16 gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State, claims and counterclaims have continued to trail media conversations; party loyalists promote their flagbearers in a bid to garner the highest number of votes from the electorate at the poll.
Notable among these is a claim on Bayelsa’s population, allocation and the effect on unpaid salaries. A Twitter user, who made the claims, questioned the fact that Bayelsa’s government owes a nine-month salary amidst having the highest allocation in the country – N66.76 billion. He further based this argument on the apparent population of the state – the same size as Alimosho local government area of Lagos State.
The statement was premised on the state government’s response to a claim by the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees that it currently owes council workers in the state 16 months’ salary arrears.
Does the Bayelsa State government owe local government workers nine months’ salaries?
INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE: It is hard to know for sure, consequent on the lack of transparency and uniformity in the salary payment system set in place across LGAs in the state.
Findings show Bayelsa State does not have a unified salary distribution system amongst its various local government areas (LGAs). Owing to this, the salary arrears in different LGAs will vary, according to Nathan Nwakama, a Bayelsa-based journalist who works for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“That 16 may be accurate for some local governments,” Nwakanma said, adding that it is at the discretion of individual local government chairmen to pay salaries once they receive the funds from the state. “So, if they are owing seven months’ salary arrears in a local government, it could be eight, 10 or 12 in another local government.”
Hence, people could take advantage of the lack of uniformity in the salary distribution system for political reasons; such as admitting the least indebtedness, particularly with less than a week for the state to go to the poll. This discrepancy makes it cumbersome to accurately ascertain the truth. For all intents and purposes, the government could be owing 16-month salary or 5, we would not know.
Does Bayelsa State have the same population as Alimosho LG?
FALSE: Alimosho is the most populated local government area (lga) in the country, according to available records. Yet, it is still smaller in size than Bayelsa State which has the least population size among the 36 states of the federation.
Normally, we would refer to the nation’s population census. This would contain details of Nigeria’s population with a breakdown of states and local governments’ contributions. However, the last census was conducted in 2006.
The data show Bayelsa State had a population of 1.7 million in 2006 when the last population census was conducted. This is higher than 1.31 million population recorded in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State.
Also, with Bayelsa’s annual population growth rate of 2.9%, (based on the 2006 population census), the state’s population was projected to have hit 2.27 million in 2016. This is as against Alimosho estimated to have a population of 1.81 million people in the same year.
How much does Bayelsa get from the Federal Account Allocation Committee?
MOSTLY TRUE: Clearly, Bayelsa received the fourth highest allocation in the country, at least for most of this year. However, the N66.76 billion allegedly received by Bayelsa could not be verified. The amount contradicts the state’s monthly and quarterly allocations, as well as its aggregate allocation for the first half of this year.
Fact-checking claims on Bayelsa state’s finances would require us to first understand how states in Nigeria make money. Next, we establish the claim that Bayelsa receives N66.76 billion as allocation; making her the fourth-highest recipient in the country and displacing Lagos state.
There are three major ways states raise money excluding special grants from local or international sources. These include:
- The monthly Federation Allocation Account Committee (FAAC)
- Internally generated revenue which includes taxes and revenues from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)
But, since the claim expressly said federal allocation, we will limit our focus to the FAAC.
FAAC was established under Section 6 of the Allocation of Revenue Act 1982. The section prescribes the basis for the disbursement of federal government’s revenues credited into the Federation Account.
BusinessDay collated FAAC disbursement from January to September 2019 (the latest data on FAAC’s monthly disbursement on NBS as at when this report was carried out). It was observed that Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Lagos received the highest allocation in that order for most of the months within the period. This allocation excludes revenue distribution to local government councils of the federation.
Lagos state displaced Bayelsa from the fourth position in June and July 2019, but the south-south state reclaimed its spot in August. This occurred following the receipt of N13.4 billion, to beat Lagos state which received a net amount of N9.7 billion as allocation.
Similarly, the cumulative allocation disbursed to Bayelsa state for the first nine months of this year stood at N102.4 billion. This edges over an aggregate allocation of N88.4 billion distributed to Lagos state.