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Rivers Tops States’ Fiscal Performance Ranking

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Rivers State has emerged the best sub-national in the overall 2021 Fiscal Performance Ranking.
The ranking was contained in the report of the BudgIT annual report on the State of States, released, yesterday.
BudgIT is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which focuses on fiscal performances of both federal and state governments in the country.
In its “State of States Report 2021, BudgIT noted that Rivers State topped the overall 2021 Fiscal Performance Ranking, while adding that only three states in the country can meet their operating expenses obligations from their revenues.
“Rivers State once again topped the overall 2021 Fiscal Performance Ranking despite Covid-19 induced fiscal shocks to its IGR, indicating that the fiscal fundamentals of this state, compared to others in the country, are more prudently managed.
“Two states made it, as new entrants to the Top 5 category in the overall 2021 ranking – Ebonyi state emerged in 2nd position; up from 6th position in 2020 ranking, and Kebbi state emerged in 5th position, up from 11th position in 2020”.
It stated that economic shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on states’ Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and their share of federally collected revenue in 2020, pushing their cumulative IGR down by 3.43percent, except for Lagos State that recorded 5.08percent IGR growth in the period.
According to the report, “The fiscal fundamentals of this state (Rivers), compared to others in the country, are more prudently managed.”
In the overall ranking, two states – Ebonyi and Kebbi – made it as new entrants to the top 5 category.
This was driven largely by growth in both states’ IGR as recorded by the NBS.
Ebonyi State grew its IGR by 82.3% from N7.5billion in 2019 to N13.6billion in 2020, while Kebbi state grew its revenue by 87.02% from N7.4billion in 2019 to N13.8billion in 2020.
However, Ogun State (now 19th) and Kano State (now 22nd), dropped out of the top 5 category due to a sharp decline in their IGR in 2020.
Only three states in the country could meet their operating expenses obligations with a combination of their IGR and Value Added Tax (VAT) as measured in BudgIT’s ‘Index A’ ranking.
They are Lagos, Rivers, and Anambra.
According to the NGO, “For this year’s report, we examined states’ fiscal health using four key metrics namely; the ability of states to meet their operating expenses with IGR and VAT, states’ ability to cover their operating expenses and loan repayment with their total revenue, how much fiscal room states have to borrow more, and the degree to which each state prioritises capital expenditure with respect to their operating expenses.
“Cumulatively, the 36 states total debt burden increased by N472.63billion (or 8.78%) from N5.39trillion in 2019 to N5.86trillion in 2020. This was driven largely by exchange rate volatility which saw the value of the naira jump from N305.9/$1 in 2019 to N380/$1 as of December, 31st 2020.
“States with the highest foreign debt were significantly hit due to negative exposure to exchange rate volatility”.
The report identified the states as: Lagos, Kaduna, Edo, Cross River and Bauchi.
“Furthermore, five states accounted for more than half (that is 63.63% or N300.7billion) of the net year-on-year sub-national debt increase of N472.63billion for all the states between 2019 and 2020: the states are Lagos, Kaduna, Anambra, Benue and Zamfara.
“Based on each state’s 2020 revenue, five states prioritized investment in infrastructure by spending more on capital expenditure than operating expenses.
“The states are Ebonyi, Rivers, Anambra and Cross River states in the south and Kaduna State in the North.
“These states appeared at the top of the ‘Index D’ ranking”.
According to the NGO, 19 states, including eight oil-producing states, saw a year-on-year decline in their capital expenditure, while seventeen states were still able to improve their investment in capital expenditure, from 2019 levels despite fiscal constraints induced by Covid-19.
“Without a doubt, economic shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on states’ Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and their share of federally collected revenue in 2020; thus the need to explore options for building back the subnational economies cannot be overstressed,” BudgIT said.
The BudgIT report stated, “Economic shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on states’ IGR and their share of federally collected revenue in 2020. Cumulatively, all 36 states saw a 3.43% decline in their IGR from N1.26trillion in 2019 to N1.21trillion in the year 2020 under review.
“In total, 18 states saw a decline in their year-on-year IGR while 18 other states could weather the fiscal storm induced by the pandemic, growing their revenue — in some cases by as high as 87.02%.
“Worthy of note is Lagos State, which despite being the epicentre of the pandemic; saw a 5.08% growth in its IGR, a testament to the resilience of its fiscal strategy.
“In the 2021 Performance Ranking, two states dropped out of the Top 5 in overall ranking; Ogun State (now 19th) and Kano State (now 22nd), due to a sharp decline in their IGR in 2020”.
On states comparative viability, BudgIT stated, “Only three states in the country can meet their operating expenses obligations with a combination of their IGR and Value Added Tax (VAT), these states are Lagos, Rivers, and Anambra.
“In contrast, states at the bottom of the ranking need to do more to rapidly consolidate on any ongoing strategies to improve their IGR and by extension, their viability as federating entities. This is necessary considering the comparative size of their operating expenses and the global push to transition away from fossil fuels like crude oil, a key source of federally distributed revenue.
“These states at the bottom ranking include Jigawa, Delta, Benue, Taraba and Bayelsa.”

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Nigeria Needs Effective Leadership To Be Great -Wike

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that Nigeria needs effective leadership for the country to achieve the dreams and aspirations of its founding fathers.
He stated this during the Juma’at service in commemoration of the 62nd Independence Anniversary of Nigeria, held at the JIBWIS Directorate Headquarters, Central Mosque, Bonny Street, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor, who was represented by the Special Adviser on School Sports, Dr Okiri Mohammed, said despite the numerous challenges bedevilling the country, Nigerians must collectively resolve to make the nation great.
“Remember we have one country Nigeria, and we must make it great. For us to make it great, we must see it as our duty.”
The Rivers State governor said the task of nation building was the responsibility of every citizen of the country, and the 62nd Independence anniversary celebration should be seen as a time for stocktaking.
He emphasised that Nigerians must collectively continue to demand for probity and accountability from the leadership in order to move the country forward.
“Let us continue to ensure that there is probity and accountability in this country. We need effective leadership in this country before it will go forward.”
The governor charged Muslims to continue to preach the message of peace and join hands with other Nigerians to reduce crime and poverty in Nigeria.
”As Muslim you are charged to preach peace in your various homes. We have to make sure we collectively reduce poverty and crime. We have to make sure that this country is better.”
The governor pointed out that the country is at a critical juncture, and charged Nigerians to participate effectively in the 2023 general election.
“We don’t have another country apart from Nigeria and so, all of us collectively and individually have a duty to make this country better.”
Delivering his sermon, the Imam of Bonny Island, Yusuf Lamis, charged Nigerians to be patriotic and contribute to the development of the nation.
He said the earnest prayer of every Muslims in the country is for God’s intervention in the emergence of credible political leaders in the 2023 general election.

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Wike Intervenes In Ula-Ehuda, Julius Berger Dispute

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Hope for the speedy completion of the dualisation of Ahoada-Omoku highway has been rekindled, following the intervention of Rivers State Governor, Chief NyesomWike, in the face-off between Ula-Ehuda community and the Julius Berger, the construction company handling the project.
Wike, who visited Ula-Ehuda, yesterday, to assess the progress of the ongoing construction work and to settle the disagreement between the community and Julius Berger, advised youths in the community to learn how to channel their problem appropriately to the government.
The governor, who was accompanied by the Rivers State Commissioner of Works, Dr. Dakorinama George-Kelly; former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Chibudum Nwuche; Deputy Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ehie Ogerenye Edison; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard bearer in Rivers State, Sir Siminialayi Fubara; and others, said his administration takes exception to disruption of construction work in any part of state.
He admonished community leaders in the state, irrespective of their political leanings, never to politicise the issue of development, as this could be detrimental to the progress of their people.
“I tell people: don’t be a curse to yourself. And I’ve always told people too: don’t bring politics in the development of a place. If you bring politics, you’ll suffer it. None of you put pressure on us to say we must dualise this road.”
The governor explained that his administration took the decision to dualise the road in recognition of the fact that it would promote access to economic and social services, generate increased agricultural incomes and productive employment opportunities and reduce poverty in the state.
Wike, who urged the community to support the state government’s effort to improve infrastructure in the area, cautioned that government would, henceforth, not tolerate any disruption of the ongoing dualisation work.
“If you have problem, channel your problem appropriately. But don’t come and begin to use your young boys and young girls to stop the road construction.”
The governor assured the community that the concerns raised would be adequately addressed, adding that the government would not allow anyone or group of individuals to derail the progress of the area.
“We have come to open up your community to be like a city, and you want to send your community backwards, it will not work. Support us to do what we are doing.”
Earlier, the Chairman,Ula-Ehuda Community Development Committee, Monday Princewill Evergreen, thanked Wike for the project, and appealed for the inclusion of drainage in the Ula-Ehuda section of the Ahoada-Omoku highway.
“We are grateful that you brought this project to our community, not just our community, Ahoada East. For long, we had envisaged that this road will be dualised and constructed. It was until you came that that dream was realised, and the community and the entire people of Ekpeye are eternally grateful to you.”
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Dr. George-Kelly D. Alabo, had advised some protesting youths at the Ula-Ehuda axis of Ahoada-Omoku Dual Carriageway to shun obstructive means of demonstration at the project site, because if the project,was not completed as a result of their actions, the people of the area would be the ones to lose and not Julius Berger.
George-Kelly advised them to allow the construction giant to continue with their work while he makes an arrangement for a round-table talk between all parties involved to find an amicable solution to the contentious issue on drainage before the end of the week.
Residents of Ula-Ehuda in Ahoada East Local Government Area were addressed by the commissioner, who was accompanied by the Chairman of Ahoada East Local Government Council, Hon. Ben Eke, to inspect the Ahoada-Omoku Dual Carriageway project, last Tuesday.
“I am not here to blame anybody but to solve a problem. I am here to provide a solution that will be good for the community, the government, and the contractor. If we must tell ourselves the truth, stopping them from working will not solve the problem, it would even put you at the disadvantaged end because if this project is not completed, it is the people of this area that will lose, not Julius Berger.
“Please, do not make the mistake some youths of a particular local government area made. They stopped two projects of the state government in their area over frivolous demands, the state government made several attempts to persuade them to allow the construction of the projects to continue, like I am doing now, but they refused. Contractors left sites, and the projects were abandoned. Two years after, the contactors are yet to resume work for excuses of community disturbances. When the contractors eventually go back to sites, the projects may become more expensive for government, given the current fluctuations.
“The best thing to do now is to allow the contractor to finish the initial scope of the project first.Maybe, before the commissioning, you can make this other demand, and we will forward same to the governor. Please, realise that even in your demands, due process has to be followed.
“I am appealing to you to allow them complete this work on schedule so that it can be commissioned by or before December. By Friday this week (yesterday), I’ll be having a meeting between the ministry, the council chairman, representatives of Julius Berger, the project CLOs, and Ula-Ehuda community leaders. I will like the community to include, at least, two indigenous civil engineers in their delegation so that they can understand and interprete to you some technical details that would be discussed in the meeting,” the commissioner added.
Also, the commissioner inspected the 8.020km Akpabu-Itu-Omudioga Road project, phase 1 in Emohua Local Government Area.
Checks show that asphaltic binder course had been completed for the entire road length and 700m asphalt wearing course had been done so far.
The project is 75percent completed and in progress.

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Catholic Bishops Vow To Work For Credible Polls In 2023

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Bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja have pledged to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure free, credible and transparent general elections in 2023.
The commitment is contained in a communiqué jointly signed by Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Abuja and Very Rev. Fr. Sam Tumba, after the 3rd General assembly of the Archdiocese.
In the communique issued on Saturday in Abuja, the bishops enjoined Parishes, families, Church societies and groups to dedicate special moments to pray for a hitch-free election.
“We call on Catholics and indeed all Nigerian citizens to be consciously and actively involved in the electoral processes at all levels.
“Voter registration, collection of Permanent Voters Card, casting votes on election days with a firm and clear conscience to elect credible leaders who will bring about the true dividends of democracy”, they said.
The bishops commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act into law to enhance the sanctity of the electoral process.
“We task the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure political fairness and transparency, to consolidate the trust reposed in them by Nigerians.
“Parishes and Catholic institutions within our Archdiocese are encouraged to arrange and organize voter awareness programmes, seminars and workshops guided by the Justice, Development and Peace Commission, to better equip our people for greater political responsibility.
“We remain open and willing to collaborate with relevant government agencies, electoral bodies and security operatives to ensure peaceful and credible election processes in the coming year,” the communique added.
The bishops cautioned politicians not to regard the election as a ‘do or die’ affair, adding that they must also refrain from money politics, manipulative and divisive practices along ethnic, social and religious lines to win elections.
“Even though we decry the hard economic situations in the nation, we strongly discourage all Catholics and especially our youths from lending themselves as easy recruits for political thuggery and other criminal activities to enthrone selfish and incompetent aspirants into electoral offices.
“We discourage and condemn any form of vote buying or selling and other electoral malpractices during the elections,” the bishops said.
The bishops advised catholic politicians from all political parties within the Archdiocese to participate in Church activities, so as to be better known by the faithful.
They called on all people of goodwill to cooperate with security agencies to root out criminal elements within communities.
The bishops, however, urged security agents to remain professional in discharging their duties and resist any attempt to be used to intimidate the people by corrupt politicians.
The communique called on Catholics across the country to match work with prayer, for peaceful electioneering process.
They called for sustained prayers for the country, adding: “Nigerians should take courage and be of ardent hope, for the storms will soon be over.”

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