The Rivers State Government recently obtained a revolving loan of N200bn from banks for project execution in the State, with a plan of repayment through Internally Generated Revenue on an agreed interest rate.
The decision of the State Government is in apparent conformity with the desire of the Rivers State Governor, Rt Hon. Chibuike Amaechi to complete all projects initiated by his administration. In seeking the loan through a request of approval by the State House of Assembly, the Governor explained that it does not imply that Rivers State was broke, rather it became necessary to meet up targets by ensuring that money is not a constraint to speedy delivery of ongoing projects.
In the course of its deliberation and subsequent approvals of the two loan requests, the Rivers State House of Assembly, certified that the internally Generated Revenue, (IGR) profile of the state was buoyant enough to service the loans on agreeable terms. The State lawmakers also consented to the necessity of the loan in view of the “many people oriented project embarked upon by the Governor”. The Assembly therefore gave the governor smooth ride to stave off all distractions through its legislative backing.
Pundits and virulent critics of the Government has however expressed reservation over its decision to obtain the loans, referring to it as “a booby trap for fiscal impropriety and profligacy in the State”.
In the general estimation of analysts, the propensity for loan is a predisposition to mortgaging the economic future of the state to serving of accruing interest of accumulated loans.
Analysts believes that Rivers State by all standard is disposed financially to carry out projects without recourse to borrowing, and as such accuse the State Assembly of a tacit connivance to squander the state resources.
But the Rivers State House of Assembly Stand by its decision and as a follow up is exploiting its legislative will to augment governments decision and to get it appropriately channeled towards accountable governance. Recently the State Assembly initiated a bold move to forestall the looming prospect of a debt burden for the State.
The initiative came at the instance of the leader of the Assembly Hon Chidi Iloyd through a privately sponsored bill, calling for the establishment of a debt management office in the state. The bill referred to as “Rivers State Debt management office (Establishment) bill 2011”, is an initiative of the Emohua born lawmaker to strengthen the Rivers State Government on borrowing and debt management to forestall a crippling debt burden in the State.
Introducing the bill on the floor of the House, Hon Chidi Iloyd, said “the law is to provide for the raising of loans through the issuance of bonds, notes and other debt securities and for connected purposes”.
He said the bill when passed as law; “will serve as a legal framework to guide the government in the raising of bond and loan for pursuance of projects, building of infrastructure for the economic development of the State”.
Reacting to public criticism of the bill, Hon Chidi Iloyd denied allegations that the bill stands to institutionalized profligacy in the spending of public fund, by giving limitless powers to the Governor to Squander the state. Hon Ilyod said the bill was part of the process of consolidating the state revenue based.
The bill had undergone its first and second readings on the floor of the house and it is presently been debated upon by members of the state Assembly.
The bill which has 27 clauses and 28 citations, came under debate on the floor of the House after members gave it proper perusal and digesting it details for proper deliberation.
While the lawmakers appreciated the fact that Government’s decision to borrow, presupposes the fact that there must be proper management of the loan obtained for fiscal propriety in the state, some of them expressed reservation on the workability of the bill.
In his contribution on the floor of the House, Hon Victor Ihunwo representing Port Harcourt constituency III called for the withdrawal of the bill on the grounds that it demerits out-weights it merits. Hon Ihunwo reasoned that beyond creating employment opportunities for Rivers people, “the bill did not include how the debt management will brief the House periodically to avert the temptation of borrowing by subsequent governments. He also argued that the state do not require more borrowing.
Debating on the issue, Hon Golden Chioma kicked against the recommendation that the Rivers State Commissioner for finance should be the head of the debt management office.
He called for an independent chairman for the office arguing that the state commissioner for finance was already saddled with executive functions. He called for fresh nominees to appear before the House for screening for appointment as directors of the debt management office, while the Hon Commissioner for finance, the secretary to the State Government, (SSG) and the Accountant General of the state should serve as members.
Hon Chioma who supported the bill, said it was in line with ‘the federal government act which made provision for the establishment of debt management office” while calling for the domestication of the bill in Rivers State, he said the five years duration of tenure recommended for the directorate should be reduced to four years.
Hon Ikunyi Ibani of Andoni Constituency, supported the bill and stated that “if the government is committed to borrowing it should also have a modified means of repayment.
He thanked the leader for sponsoring the bill and tasked the Assembly on the need for proper monitoring of the loan facilities.
His words: “If the Assembly has power to grant the executive request to borrow it also has the power to regulate the mode of repayment”. Hon Ibani also suggested that the debt management office should be established as a department in the Rivers State Ministry of Finance.
Hon Augustine Ngo of Abua Odual constituency who also supported the bill said it was timely and also provided the opportunity for “the Assembly to put the records straight and wade off criticism and media hypes over alleged endorsement of profligacy in public spending”. Hon Ngo also shared the same view with Hon Chioma that the directors should be fresh nominees to be screened by the Assembly.
Hon (Dr) Innocent Barikor of Gokana Constituency also supported the bill on the ground that it will check the tendency of abuse of public fund. He said people with proven integrity and the right technical expertise should be appointed in the directorate.
Also contributing, Hon Belema Okpokiri, of Okrika constituency said the establishment of the debt management office was necessary but suggested that “overriding powers should be vested in the Assembly on the activities of the office”.
Hon Michael Chinda representing Obio/Akpor Constituency I, described the establishment of the debt management office as “part of Government planning strategy on debt management.”
Hon Chinda called for the inclusion of a clause in the bill stipulating that “all debts incurred by a particular government should be zeroed to bearest minimum, by ensuring that all such debts are liquidated within the last lapse of the administration.” He also suggested that the Attorney General of the State should be a member of the board of directorate of the debt management office.
Hon Gift Nwokocha of Ogba Egbema Ndoni Constituency I, supported the bill and pointed out that, “issues of debt management is necessary but it is important to know when it is necessary for the state to borrow and when not to borrow”.
The deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Leyii Kwane who presided over the session, said the bill debated on the floor of the house was critical to the development of the state, and added that members will be given due opportunities to contribute on the issue.
The Rivers State debt management office (establishment) bill 2011, is the first privately sponsored bill since the resumption, of the 7th House of Assembly in Rivers State. Subsequent deliberation of the House will determine if the bill will scale through as law.
APC: C’River LP Disowns Decampees
The Labour Party (LP) has disowned one Mr. Maurice Ekeng, who claimed to be Chairman of the party in Cross River State, and his purported exco who defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC)
The party, in a press statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, described the action of Ekeng and others as “laughable and unfortunate for an old man who parades himself as an elder of the church”.
The statement signed by Comrade Dr. Ofem Lekam, State Publicity Secretary of the party said, “The attention of the leadership of Labour Party in Cross River State led by Ambassador Ogar Osim as Chairman and Comrade Asuquo Etim as State Secretary has been drawn to publications claiming that the State Chairman and members of his executive have decamped to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
“Mr Ekeng is an impostor who was never made a State Chairman at any Congress. We challenge him to publish the names of his executive, pictures taken in 2021 extra-ordinary NEC meeting in Benin City where the National Chairman, Julius Abure and the Secretary, Alhaji Farouk Ibrahim were elected, as well as that of Home Land Hotel Calabar where the National Leadership represented by the Vice Chairman South South, Prince Reuben Nuka inaugurated the current State Caretaker
“The impostor from all available evidences is a member of APC sponsored to create confusion in a peaceful party of idealists who are making sacrifices in travelling round the nooks and crannies of the state to revive the structures of the party at all level in the state which is already making monumental impact in the state ahead of 2023.
“We want to put it on record that, Labour Party is intact, and is not contemplating merging with All Progressive Congress (APC) and any other political party; rather it is a party to beat come 2023.
“We appeal to the general public to disregard any news making the rounds that the LP Chairman and his executive have decamped, it is the imagination of political jobbers and mischief-makers whose occupation is to sacrifice their integrity and ideology just for peanuts.
“It is also instructive to advise Mr. Bassey Ita serving at APC Secretariat at Marian Road Calabar not to allow the temporary excitement of the moment to cloud his sense of reasoning by accepting people claiming a platform without verification.
“It is pathetic that Mr. Bassey Ita is yet to realize that with Governor Prof. Ben Ayade now as leader of APC CRS, the days of kangaroo administration of APC CRS should have been over by now in Cross River State.”
INEC To Deploy 5,346 Personnel For CVR
INEC said on Monday in Abuja that it would deploy 5,346 personnel to 2,673 registration centres for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) resuming nationwide on June 28.
Its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the declaration at the presentation of INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) and online registration portal for the exercise at a meeting he held with media executives.
IVED is an Android tablet to be used in place of the existing Data Capturing Machine used for CVR in previous exercises.
Prof. Yakubu said that before now INEC had 1,446 registration centres where it registered 14. 2 million voters between 2017 and 2018.
“Learning from the experience of what happened, we have now almost doubled the number of those centres.
“Our hope is that unlike 14.2 million we registered in the previous exercise, we are targeting a minimum of 20 million registrants this time. It will take the number of registered voters to about 100 million,’’ Yakubu said.
He said that majority of the 5,346 personnel to be deployed would be INEC officials, while ad-hoc staff would be used where the Commission lacked the required number of personnel.
He said that the Commission was working with stakeholders for the security of personnel and equipment to be deployed.
Yakubu disclosed that the design for both the online portal and IVED were done by INEC engineers, taking into consideration Nigeria’s peculiarity, including weather, for its durability.
He said registrants would be able to know where machines for registration are located via the portal.
He also noted that the Commission was working on ensuring that Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for internally-displaced persons were reproduced for them so as not to be disenfranchised.
Many would have lost their cards while under siege, he said.
Prof. Yakubu also said that PVCs for newly-registered voters would be produced on quarterly basis after the registration, noting that the list of the registrants would be displayed at the registration units for claims and objections.
Presenting the online portal and IVED, INEC’s Director of ICT, Mr Chidi Nwafor, said that the online portal was designed to serve various needs of eligible Nigerians for the registration.
These, according to Nwafor, include new registration, review of registration, and review of personal details or voting centres, PVCs replacement or collection.
“As a new voter, you can pre-register online, or as a registered voter, you can revalidate your voter registration, request to update your information or transfer your voter registration to another polling unit, Nwafor said.
He said that registrants could register their details online before going to the nearest registration centre selected by them for photographs and finger prints capturing to complete the exercise.
Nwafor said that the portal was designed in a way that once an intending voter completed the online registration, an appointment for physical registration would be generated by the portal for the registrant.
He added that any registrant who could not meet up with the appointed date and time could reschedule the appointment via the same portal.
He said that the portal also made provision for people to contact the Commission in the event of challenges during online registration.
He noted that a registrant had 14 days to complete the online pre-registration and a year to complete the whole process.
He advised registered voters to make use of the portal to identify polling units or centres nearest to them.
Nwafor also assured that the Commission was putting adequate security in place to protect the device and the portal against hacks or cybercrime.
He also said that concerns about underage voter registration would be taken care of as those that registered online would still visit the registration centre before the process could be completed.
The media executives in a communiqué issued after the meeting suggested that the CVR be devolved to INEC LGA Council offices based on thorough appraisal of security situations and related factors.
They also recommended that the CVR be gradually devolved to other designated registration centres nationwide after assessments of security situations and other factors relating to safety of personnel and materials.
They tasked relevant stakeholders, especially political parties, traditional institutions, religious leaders and Civil Society Organisations to mobilise all eligible registrants to participate in the CVR.
PDP NWC Harps On Unity Over Anambra Guber Poll
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) has called for unity among stakeholders in Anambra state, ahead the June 26 primaries for the state governorship election.
The party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, made the call during the NWC meeting with the party aspirants, leaders and other stakeholders from Anambra, held in Abuja on Monday.
Secondus said the meeting was called to enable the NWC to interact with stakeholders, as elections held off season were always very stormy and tough.
“We are here basically for us to make sure first and foremost that all our leaders and all our aspirants are in unity. It is very important for this trying period and you know the period, we are in,”he said.
Secondus said that unity was key, especially now that the country was passing through challenges including insecurity that must not be taken for granted.
He said the only way to get out of that was to make sure that things were done properly.
“Let there be fairness, equity and justice, which is in deficit in our country; and that is what the PDP stands for.
“We stand for fairness, equity and justice under the rule of law. This is a party that believes that all Nigerians are one. We must live together as brothers and sisters,” he said.
The party chairman said that Anambra was key to the mission of rescuing Nigeria and uniting the country.
“Anambra is the economic key of our country and we must conduct our affairs to show the world that PDP is different and ready to rescue this country.
“That is why we are to interact with leaders of our party, and at the end of this meeting, I think we will go home happy that on Saturday it will be the freest congresses ever that are conducted.
“So, Anambra, we want to advise, we want to call our people, the time to put down ourselves is now.
“This is the time to look at each other. We must not allow both Anambra and our country to fail. We must show that good example.
“You have been leading in several areas, you must lead politically now. Our leaders must be statesmen. They must look beyond an individual and narrow interest.
“It is time for us to look at Nigeria. If we get it wrong, the consequences will be great. It will reflect on other parts of the country,” Secondus said.
Also, PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, said the meeting was customary anytime PDP had major contests.
Akobundu said the meeting was called to ensure everybody was carried along in the primary to ensure peaceful outcome.
“It is for this reason that the NWC directed to meet with all stakeholders in Anambra.
“This is just a cross section of our quality stakeholders in Anambra that were invited to attend this meeting.
“It is simply to rub minds, have an interactive session and discuss ways and means that we can employ to have hitch-free primary with everybody on board.”
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