By Akanimo Sampson
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on Christmas eve presented the 2019 Appropriation Bill of around half a trillion naira to the state House of Assembly for necessary legislative action without inviting the press for the presentation ceremony.
Wike does not seem to be enjoying getting the press closely involved in the activities of his administration. Neither his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu nor Information Commissioner,Emma Okah, enjoys picking calls and responding to text messages from journalists.
The cold shoulder the Wike administration has been offering journalists practicing in the state has been a matter of serious concern to the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists.
Local sources in Port Harcourt, the state capital, say as a former Chief Press Secretary to ex-Governor Peter Odili, ‘’it was expected that Emma Okah will bring unparallel synergy between government and the press in the affairs of Rivers. Sadly, that has not been happening. All we have been getting are press releases’’.
True to type, Nwakaudu in a statement to this reporter on Monday said his boss, Governor Wike presented a 2019 budget outlay of N480 billion to the Legislative arm of the state government for consideration and approval.
Most likely, a huge chunk of the fiscal proposal will be going into funding Wike’s re-election and those of his ally on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform. The governor is facing an epic challenge from the All Progressives Congress (APC) driven by kinsman, Chibuike Amaechi, Transportation Minister who also doubles as the Director-General of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Campaign Organisation.
He is however, claiming that the strategic thrust for the 2019 budget is to promote economic growth and diversification, create jobs and reduce unemployment; take as many of Rivers people out of poverty and improve the standard of living of the state.
But Nwakaudu’s statement did not provide any evidence to show how far his principal has gone in taking Rivers people ‘’out of poverty’’ nor any data to show the number of the electorate whose standard of living have significantly improved.
According to him, ‘’the budget is premised on an oil price bench mark of 55 United States dollars per barrel, which is five dollars lower than that of the Federal Government. The 2019 Rivers budget is christened: Budget of Sustainable Growth and Development.
‘’The governor proposed N323, 288,970,085.00 as capital expenditure, while Recurrent Expenditure will gulp N157, 122,354,564.15. The capital allocation of 323,288,970,085.00 for the 2019 fiscal year represents 65 per cent of the total budget. This sum is however less than the figure for 2018 by N57, 708,717,319.00 due to the reduction in the total size of the 2019 budget as against that of 2018.
‘’The 2019 Appropriation Bill has set priorities for human capital development and infrastructural provision. A substantial part of the capital budget is allocated to the Ministries of Agriculture; Education; Employment Generation and Empowerment; Health; Sports Development; Women Affairs; Works; and Youth Development.
‘’N72, 911,765,640.21 billion naira for the construction and improvement of the State’s road network and transport infrastructure.This sum, which constitute about 24 per cent of the total capital budget, will be utilized to continue with the funding of the construction and completion of roads.
‘’The sectoral allocation of the capital budget is as follows: (Proposed) Administration Sector; N17, 820,704,443.79 ,Economic Sector: N99, 053,565,640.20 ; Law and Justice Sector; N 4,350,000,000.00; Social Sector; N127, 292,200,000.00 and ; Special Heads, N50, 347,500,000.00; Loan Repayments , N24, 425,000,000.00.
‘’The following roads will be completed in 2019. They include: the dualization of Kira – Sakpenwa – Bori – Kono road; the Andoni – Opobo Unity road; the Oyigbo town – Ebete road; Tema – Ifoko road the Mbano camp road; Eleme – Obete road; Eteo – Sime – Bayayira-Nonwa-Kira road; Rumuji – Ibaa – obele – isiokpo road; Akabuka – Omoku road; Flyover bridge at Garisson Junction abd Abonnema ring road.
‘’Others are: Abua-Degema –
Emoh-Iyak-Ighom-Elok road; Ula Ehuda – Odioku – Anwunugboko – Ubeta –
Ihuechi – Odiereke road; Rumuche road in Emouha Local Government Area;
Flyover bridge at Rumuokwuta roundabout; Flyover bridge
at University of Port Harcourt Junction
Ahoada – Odiemerenyi – Ihugbogo-odieke road; Isiodu roads , Ahoada – Ekpena road; Omoku-Aligwu-Kreigani-Oduoboburu road, Odieku internal roads; Bolo internal roads; Rumukpakani internal roads; and
Umuogba – Umuokpurukpu – Umueke – Umunju Umuelechi – Eberi roundabout link road.
‘’N17,112,000,000.00 is proposed for the Bureau for Special Projects to fund the completion of land reclamation at Bakana in Degema Local Government Area, land reclamation at Abalama in Asari Toru Local Government Area; land reclamation and shore protection at Kula in Akuku Toru Local Government Area; the Secretariat buildings for Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Labour Congress, National Union of Rivers State Students and Rivers State Students Union Government; and the Fruit Garden market in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area.
‘’N25, 300,000,000.00 is allocated to fund healthcare delivery in the state. Key projects in the sector will be completed and delivered in 2019. Government will continue to give security of lives and property all the attention that it deserves in spite of the obvious lack of cooperation from the Federal Government.
‘’N18 billion has been proposed to fund all aspects of securing and keeping Rivers safe, peaceful and secure, including the operationalisation of the recently established State Neighbourhood Safety Corps programme. The Neighbourhood Safety Corps programme is very dear to us as a government.
‘’Apart from the number of youths that it will employ, the programme has the potential to enhance our collective security. And so we are prepared to do whatever it will take to ensure its implementation in the course of 2019.N4.35 billion has been proposed for the Law and Justice sector to further strengthen and enhance the justice delivery system in the state.’’
Their recurrent expenditure proposal goes thus: Personnel
Emolument N79, 585,058,808.60, Overhead
N 17,025,380,000.00, Pension N33 billion and others
‘’With this, the state government will be in a position to pay the minimum wage whenever the National Assembly approves it. We also made provisions for staff promotion arrears and new recruitments into the state’s civil service.
‘’The sum of N33 billion is proposed for the settlement of pension liabilities. The challenge about the plight of pensioners has lingered for too long and we are determined to tackle it this time around. Certainly, our senior citizens deserve better treatment than what they are presently getting’’, Wike was quoted to have said.
They said the udget will be financed as follows: Internally
Generated Revenue N120,492,891,302.00, Statutory Allocation
N73,169,813,022.00, 13% oil minerals fund N145, 070,991,780.00, Value Added Tax N26,377,628,543.00, Refunds N27,337,926,155.08, Local Credits N45 billion, International Credits N30 billion, Capital receipts N300 million Exchange gain; N8.00 billion, Prior year Balance; N4,662,073,844.92: N480, 411,324,647,00
Governor Wike, according to his media aide, said the 2018 budget total revenue receipts from all sources (except internal and external loans) as at November, stood at N288,721,423,336, which represents about 79 per cent performance on the revenue side with respect to the totally projected IGR and FAAC receipts for 2018.
The governor said that the aggregate capital releases to MDAs as at November 2018 stood at over 65 per cent of the total capital expenditure, adding that despite inheriting a collapsed economy from the immediate past APC administration in the state, his administration has revived the state’s economy.
‘’We came in with a clear vision and mission: a vision to repair and renew the promise of our state; a mission to pull our people from the cesspool of despair and restore our hopes for brighter future. Three and half years after, we have substantially achieved our commitments on all directions of human advancement.
‘’Under our watch, Rivers has emerged from the brink of economic disaster to an era of fiscal sustainability. Today, our Gross Domestic product has increased and our economy is growing at a rate above the national average and attracting new investments even when the national economy continues to be weak, wobbly and troubling.
‘’Under our guardianship, we have invested at record levels to provide critical social and economic infrastructure across the State; especially roads, schools, and health facilities. In the process, we created hundreds of thousands of jobs across the construction value chain’’, Governor Wike reportedly said.
In their opinion, next year’s budget is intended to consolidate on the administration’s achievements and enable it to put the State on an irreversible path to sustainable economic growth and development.
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani said the House will give the budget the required consideration in the interest of the state, noting that the House has already approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, which will form the basis of the budget’s consideration.
Expectedly, the budget passed through its first reading immediately after Governor Wike laid it on the table.