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Bayelsa Wants Budgets To Address Basic Needs

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Participants at a one-day town hall meeting in Yenagoa agreed that Bayelsa State Government should address the basic necessities of life which include shelter, education, health, agriculture and electricity.

The meeting which was organised by a civil society organisation called Niger Delta Citizens and Budget Platform (NDCBP) was at the instance of reviewing Bayelsa State budget of N161.2billion for 2011 and the need for the state government to implement rights-based budgets with priority on education and health sectors.

The stakeholders, after an analysis of the state budget for the 2011 fiscal year, were unanimous that capital projects allocations of N6.4billion (2.5 percent) and N3.9billion (1.9 percent) to the education and health sectors from the overall budget were too meagre for the realisation of government’s objectives for the sectors.

The participants regretted that agriculture was not allocated any capital funds even when the state government expressed its interest in diversifying its economy.

They equally observed that contrary to frequent denials that Bayelsa did not operate security vote, the 2011 budget, under ‘Overhead Costs’,provided for ‘General Security’ and ‘Security and Government House Operations’totalling N5.7billion without specific details.

The analysis also showed that general overhead costs gulped a whopping N30.3billion with Government House alone getting N10.6billion, being a sharp rise of nearly 100 percent from N5.6billion allocated in 2010.

Among others, that items listed under ‘General Administration received 28 percent of the 2011 recurrent expenditure and 17 percent of the capital expenditures, which the participants pointed out was at the expense of key sectors of education and health.

The participants noted that while the education sector recorded reduced allocation of N5billion between 2009 and 2011 with share of 4 percent in 2011, the health sector recorded geometrical reduction of not less than N600million each year during the period with 2 percent in 2011.

In his presentation titled, “A Human Rights Perspective to the Analyses of the 2011 Budgets of 5 Niger Delta States”, co-ordinator of NDCBP, Ken Henshaw, said government has constitutional obligations to work towards the fundamental rights of citizens “especially under the directive principles of state policy”.

Henshaw, who decried government officials’ interpretation of directive principles of state policy as “prescriptive”, argued that besides the 1999 constitution, Nigeria had ratified other international conventions such as United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which obligated it to ensure rights of citizens to quality education and health care.

“The budget is a fundamental tool with which a government can realise its rights commitment to citizens. These rights and obligation of governments are sometimes enshrined in the constitution as fundamental human rights, but most times as directive principles of state policy”, Henshaw emphasised.

Henshaw stated that Bayelsa had no reason to remain an educationally less developed state with poor access to health care at all levels.

In his remark, country representative of New York-based Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), sponsors of the budget monitoring and evaluation in the Niger Delta states, Dauda Garuba, called for synergy between civil society groups and citizens to make government accountable.

Garuba expressed the hope that the move by Governor Seriake Dickson’s administration to run a transparent government would be sustained while ensuring proper implementation of yearly budgets.

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Niger Delta

Headcount: NPC Commences Update Of Database In C’River

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The National Population Commission (NPC) says it has commenced an update on Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) in Calabar Municipality of Cross River State, in preparation for the national headcount which could come up in the first quater of 2022.
Federal Commissioner representing the State on the Board of the NPC, Navy Captain Charles Ongwa, in a press conference in Calabar, said pre-census trial test conducted by the commission threw up some issues in Calabar Municipality, partly because the methods used during the initial phase of the EAD were manual.
He explained that satellite imagery platforms, geo-referencing and other latest applications for data and population capturing would be used this time around and that the exercise is scheduled between July 28 and the last week of August, 28 days to be precise.
“We are doing an update of the EAD in Calabar Municipality. The Commission undertook a pre-census trial test and it brought out Calabar Municipality as the only LGA in Cross River State which we should conduct updates.
“What informed the choice of that LGA is because when the EAD was done in Calabar Municipality, it was manual. The pre-test was to see whether the manual method used and the new scientific method would align and be effective during the census proper.
“The Commission decided that all the phases which were done manually in Calabar Municipality will run and be updated scientifically so that we would not have the challenge recorded during the pre-test. It is not a fresh enumeration. Other States are doing similar thing in those LGAs which the pre-test threw up,” he said.
The Commissioner disclosed that after the completion of the EAD and updates in some LGAs across the country, what would be left would be for President Muhammadu Buhari to make a proclamation for the census to be conducted.
He said the international communities, including the United Nations, were mounting pressures on the country to conduct a head count since the last census was done 16 years ago as against the internationally recommended ten years period for new census to ascertain the true population of a country.
Also speaking, the State Director of the NPC, Mr Billy Bassey Eteng, believed that when the exercise is completed, the country would be happy for it.
He therefore, solicited cooperation from residents of Calabar Municipality and indeed all Nigerians to support the exercise to succeed.

By: Friday Nwagbara, Calabar

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Police Retirees Decry Poor Management Of Pension Scheme

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Retired police officers under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) have faulted the poor and inefficient management of the retirement programme in the country.
They disclosed this in a release made available in Calabar and signed by its 16 states Chapter Chairmen alongside four others.
Titled “Retired Police Officers Under Contributory Pension Scheme Applauded No One,” the group noted that Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) has denied police retirees of periodic increment of their monthly pension.
The retirees explained that the recently announced consequential adjustment of pension allowance by the federal government in line with section 173(3) of the constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria (as amended) did not include police retirees under CPS.
The release read in part: “No police retiree under CPS who has been exposed to the highest level of frustration and abandonment after suffering to keep the peace of this nation, will ever applaud those who have seized their terminal benefits to run a private profit making business in which the owners of the money (police retirees) are not stakeholders.
“It is unthinkable that police officers who enlisted into the force under Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS) and had served this nation up to pensionable years before the introduction of CPS could be coerced into a system that has robbed them of their entitlements.
“The group wondered why “Service Chiefs in other Agencies and the leadership of other organisations are working to better the living standard of their serving and retired personnel, while the police leadership is conspiring with the NPF Pensions Limited to cheat police retirees.”
”The approval of 2.5 percent by the President is not a favour done to anybody as it is the entitlement of the employee that is due the employee following the review of employer and the employee rate of contribution,” adding that, “the propaganda of 300 percent special gratuity for retired police officers awaiting the President’s approval is too old a story to be repeated after four years.”
They also frowned at the denial of the 300 percent annual basic salary and the 80 percent monthly basic salary as gratuity and monthly pension on retirement.

By: Friday Nwagbara, Calabar

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Alleged N3bn Diversion: Absence Of Defence Counsel Stalls Whistle Blower’s Trial

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The absence of defence counsel to a former General Manager of Radio Bayelsa, John Idumange, who raised an alarm over alleged diversion of N3 billion Agric loan by government officials was yesterday stalled at a Bayelsa High Court.
When the case was called for hearing, the prosecution led by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Bayelsa, Mrs Iyobosa Apulu, noted that the bench warrant issued on the defendant, Idumange, ought to be issued against his surety.
She urged the court to issue another bench warrant on the defendant’s surety, to produce his client in court.
“We do not know the whereabouts of the defendant, who was previously on bail before the case was transfered to this court.
“But his surety can be traced and that is why we want the bench warrant be issued against the surety, to prevail on him to produce the defendant in court,” Iyobosa said.
The court had on July 19 issued a bench warrant authorising the arrest of Idumange, whose counsel, Ebikebuna Aluzu, had informed the court that the defendant was involved in an accident and was hospitalised.
Justice Iniekenimi Uzakah subsequently adjourned the matter until September 10.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Bayelsa, Biriyai Sambo, (SAN) had filed a suit against Idumange for misdemeanour and seditious publications against government officials.
Reports had it that a Magistrates’ Court had on March 11 in Yenagoa, ordered Idumange’s detention for 30 days, pending police investigation.
Idumange, who alleged that officials of Bayelsa government had diverted a N3 billion Agric loan and subsequently submitted a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was arrested on March 10.
Some officials of the state government had reported to the police that Idumange had made seditious publications that maligned their persons in his claims.
However, the State High Court, Sagbama Division, granted bail to Idumange, who was also an aide on Research and Documentation and later Social Media to former Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson.
The Tide reports that the case, earlier assigned to Justice Ebiyerin Omukoro, was reassigned to Justice Uzakah.

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