Budget Governance: Report Indicts Bayelsa
A report on budget open
ness and implementation by state and local governments in the Niger Delta, has indicted the government of Bayelsa State for lack of budget governance under Governor Seriake Dickson.
The report, a product of a year-long research in five states in the region namely Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers, carried out by the Niger Delta Citizens and Budget Platform (NDCBP), reviewed the 2014 budgets of the states covered.
The report which is titled “Campaign Votes: Citizens’ Report on State and Local Government Budgets in the Niger Delta 2014″, was co-ordinated by a civil society group, the Social Action Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) with support from the Strengthening and Civic Engagement Programme of USAID, Nigeria, and over seven NDCBP implementing member organisations, including the Bayelsa State Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (BANGOF).
Dickson, in the 2014 fiscal year, signed a budget of N332.826billion with recurrent expenditure profile of N183.989billion (55.3%) and N148.836billion for capital expenditure (44.7%).
The report was presented at a one-day forum in Yenagoa for stakeholders in Bayelsa State organised by BANGOF and backed by Social Action and USAID.
Ekpere Prince, Social Action’s Project Officer, who spoke on the theme, “State of Open Budget in the Niger Delta,” noted that Bayelsa scored only eight out of the 28 indicators used to assess its transparency in budget governance.
He listed some of the indicators to include “no executive consultation on budget”, legislative defence holds but not open to public”, “no public hearing by legislature on the budget”.
He said that Bayelsa’s attempt to make the budget document public started in 2008 and ended the following year 2009, adding that despite claims of operating a transparent government, the Dickson administration did not comply with Freedom of Information Act-in relation to the 2016 budget of the state.
He said: “In 2008, Bayelsa State became the first in the state Niger Delta and perhaps in Nigeria to post its annual budget on-line. At the time, this was a major departure from a tradition of secrecy which prevailed in relation to state budgets.
“This practice was brought to an end in 2009. Since then, the state budget has been recluse.
“In 2016 Freedom of Information request was dispatched to to the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Ministry of Information and Ministry of Education requesting 2016 budget and other basic information.
“None of the agencies responded to the request. The practice of opaque system in Bayelsa State has continued despite the passage of a transparency law ostensibly meant to make fiscal information proactively available in the public space”.
68 Students Of Heritage Polytechnic Get N1.572m For Tuition
Chairman of Eastern Obolo Local Government Area (LGA) of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Abraham Odion, has paid the sum of N1,572,500 as tuition fees for 68 students of Heritage Polytechnic in Eket.
Odion made the disclosure during a chat with the students in Eastern Obolo LGA on Monday, and described education as a key for a glorious future and a tool towards growth, and achievement of students.
He noted that the 68 students who benefit from the largesse was selected based on the courses they are studying at the institution.
Odion added that the beneficiaries were the first set of students he is paying school fees for the first semester of the 2022/2023 session for Eastern Obolo Students of Heritage Polytechnic, Eket.
“The council doles out the sum of N1.572,500 tuition fees to 68 students currently undertaking their educational studies at the Heritage Polytechnic in Eket because of my desire to advance education,” he said.
Odion charged the students to remain focused and resilient in their studies while warning them to eschew all forms of negative vices such as cultism, examination malpractices and joining illegal organisations in or outside the school environs.
Responding on behalf of the beneficiaries, Mr Jeres Adolphus, a Public Administration, Higher National Diploma (HND-1) student, commended the Chairman for selecting him as a beneficiary.
He explained that the gesture was apt due to the cash crunch recently ravaging the country.
“I really appreciate the kind gesture of the Council Chairman and prayed for his success in all ramifications,” he said.
The Tide’s source reports that students in their National Diploma 1 and 2, HND 1 and 2 were also beneficiaries of the tuition fees in the institution.
In another development, the Chairman also distributed educational materials to the pupils of St. Silas Primary School, Okoroete Town, in Eastern Obolo LGA.
According to him, the gesture was apt because without quality education in a community there would be no meaningful development.
He said without education, children’s hope to be future leaders in the society would amount to nothing.
Weekend Banking Excites Edo, Delta, Bayelsa Customers
Most commercial banks in Edo, Delta and Bayelsa States opened for business at the weekend in compliance with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive.
The Tide source reports that the CBN had on Friday, confirmed the evacuation of banknotes from its vaults to Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) across the country.
In a statement issued by Dr Isa AbdulMumin, the Acting Director, Corporate Communications, the apex bank also directed all DMBs to open for operation on Saturdays and Sundays to meet their customers’ demands.
According to AbdulMumin, a substantial amount of money in various denominations has been received by the banks for onward circulation to their customers.
“The CBN has also directed all banks to load their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) as well as conduct physical operations in the banking halls through the weekends.
“Branches of commercial banks will operate on Saturdays and Sundays to attend to customers’ cash needs,” he said.
A survey conducted by The Tide’s source in the three states saw customers on queues, with bank officials making efforts to meet their cash needs.
The banks were, however, dispensing the old Naira notes.
The source reports that while the banks were paying over the counter, the Automated Tellers Machines (ATMs) were also dispensing cash simultaneously.
Some of the customers, who spoke to the source pleaded that the banks continue to work at weekends so as to increase the Naira notes in circulation nationwide.
The respondents also appealed for increase in the daily withdrawal limit, saying the approval of between N10, 000 and N30,000 was not sufficient to keep small business operators afloat for now.
In Benin, almost all the banks were open for business.
A customer, Miss Destiny Obeh, said she was able to withdraw N20,000 from Access Bank, as there were only a few customers at the bank.
“I don’t think many people are aware that banks are working today because the queue is very short, unlike during the weekdays.
“But people have started calling their friends and relatives to come to the bank to withdraw cash”.
Another customer, Mr Prince Efosa, said he was happy to have collected N10,000 from Zenith Bank without wasting much time at the bank.
“I usually spend up to three hours waiting to collect money at the bank, but today, I spent less time.
“I am happy that the cash crunch is easing off, the situation was really bad at the market yesterday (Sunday).
“Some Point of Sales (POS) operators at Ikpoba Hill Market charged as high as N4,000 to withdraw N10,000 yesterday, and this was really terrible,” he said.
Mrs Iyobosa Bello, while expressing happiness with the new development, urged the CBN to increase the daily withdrawal limits.
“I like the cashless policy, that is what I use for my cloth business but the network can be really bad sometimes, affecting transactions.
“I went to the market to buy goods two days ago but transfer did not work, I then went to the bank and I was told that I could only withdraw N10,000 which was not enough to pay for the goods I wanted to buy.
“I was unable to buy the items and I went home disappointed.
“So the CBN should make enough cash available and remove the daily withdrawal limits to enable small businesses like mine to grow for now”, she said.
In Warri, Delta, many of the commercial banks opened their doors to customers between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The source reports that most customers were able to withdraw between N10,000 and N40,000.
An official of one of the banks expressed joy at the smooth conduct of the exercise, adding that customers were happy with the development.
“We opened for operations at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday in line with the directive of the CBN. We disbursed the amount requested by the customers and we do not discriminate,’’ the staff said.
Mr Anthony Onajite, a customer, said he was able to withdraw the sum of N50,000 he filled out in his withdrawal slip.
In Asaba, it was, however, different as some banks did not open, though their ATMs were dispensing cash but had long queues.
Some of the customers, who spoke, said the CBN directive had reduced the sufferings caused by the currency swap in the last one month.
According to Mrs Jane Umukoro, I cannot remember the last time I used the ATM until today.
“I am so happy. I decided to give it a trial after closing from the church and within one hour, I was able to withdraw N10,000.’’
“I am happy to an extent because it has been a challenge even getting N2, 000.
“But today with less stress, I have been able to withdraw N10,000,’’ Philip Aka said.
In Yenagoa, the weekend operations helped to reduce the long queues usually being experienced at the banks and ATMs.
Checks at some of the banks within Yenagoa showed that the long queues had disappeared as most of the ATMs dispensed cash while customers also withdrew money across the counter.
Customers were able to withdraw cash ranging from between N15 000 and N30,000.
APC Seeks Sylva’s Disqualification Over Non-Resignation
Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State have called on the national leadership of the party to disqualify the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, from contesting the governorship primaries of the party over his refusal to resign his position as minister.
The party faithful numbering about 40 across 43 Wards in Ekeremor, Ogbia, Sagbama, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas of the State, in a petition to the party’s national leadership, noted that as at the time the minister was screened, he had not resigned.
The petition, which was signed by Doubra Kpoku, Nelson Gbeinbo, Charles Fyneman, Ogbel Joseph, Dressman Isowo, among others, and addressed to the National Chairman, National Secretary, Legal Adviser and National Organising Secretary of the party, said the minister’s action is a violation of the party’s constitution.
The petition reads in part: “Request for disqualification of Chief Timipre Marlin Sylva, the Hon. Minister of State, Petroleum Resources from Participating in the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bayelsa State gubernatorial Primaries Scheduled for April 14, 2023 or any other date.
“We are card-carrying members of the APC, Bayelsa State Chapter, from various Wards in different Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State and refer to the above captioned matter for your urgent attention and action to avoid our dear party from being ridiculed in the forth-coming Governorship Elections slated for November 2023 or any other date”.
The Party members gave their reason for calling for the disqualification of the Minister thus:
“The grounds for our objection are as follows: ‘As at 25th March 2023 when the Honourable Minister, Chief Timipre Marlin Sylva presented himself for screening at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Abuja International Hotel, Abuja in his bid to contest the primaries which is expected to be conducted any time soon, the Honourable Minister had failed, refused and or neglected to resign his Ministerial position as Minister of State for Petroleum of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“This is against the extant provisions of Article 31 paragraph (iii) of the APC Constitution, as amended.
“The Honourable Minister and now aspirant for Governor of Bayelsa State is a member of the APC holding political office by virtue of his membership of the APC and as Leader of the Party in Bayelsa State.
“It is only reasonable that he should respect the Party Constitution by resigning 30 (thirty) days before the Primaries scheduled for April 14, 2023.
“It is clear that as at 25th of March, 2023 when the Honourable Minister presented himself for the screening, it is already less than 30 days to 14th of April, 2023 being the date schedule for the APC Governorship Primaries in Bayelsa State for which the Honourable Minister is an aspirant.’’
The petition added that: “In our opinion, the Honourable Minister cannot and should not be encouraged to eat his cake and have it.
“This was the same scenario that played out during the nomination and expression of interest for the Presidential ticket of the Party by Political Office Holders in the Government of His Excellency Muhamadu Buhari as all Political Office Holders as Ministers in the Federal Executive Council resigned before the APC Presidential Primaries: Cases in point are Chief Rotimi Amaechi and Chief Godswill Akpabio all resigned as Ministers of Transport and that of Niger Delta Affairs respectively ahead of the Presidential Primaries.
“Of more fundamental import is the implication of the Honourable Minister who has been sworn in twice as Governor of Bayelsa State in 2007 and 2008 bearing in mind the clear provision of section 180 (2A) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“The Honourable Minister’s ambition in the circumstance is one likely to be mired in controversy and ultimately cause the Party in Bayelsa State to lose its fortunes at the Polls in November 2023.
“It is in view of the above that we now request that the aspiration of Chief Timipre Marlin Sylva to partake in the primaries be refused and he be disqualified by the Screening Panel set up by our beloved Party.
“Take notice that where this Petition is not considered in its merits and the Honourable Minister is not disqualified as requested, we shall have no other option than to approach the Court for redress.
“The All Progressives Congress in Bayelsa State must get it right this time around”.
By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells,
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