Akwa Ibom 2022 Budget: CLO’s Presentation at the House of Assembly Public Hearing:

BEING A PRESENTATION BY THE CIVIL LIBERTIES ORGANISATION (CLO), AKWA IBOM STATE BRANCH AT THE PUBLIC HEARING ON THE APPROPRIATION BILL 2022 HELD AT THE AKWA IBOM STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ON WEDNESDAY 3RD NOVEMBER, 2021 AT THE OLD CHAPEL, HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, UYO.

Protocol

  1. Introduction
    By a letter dated 26th October, 2021 with Reference number: AKHA/S/65/T.1/2054 signed by Anietie Eka, Esq. for Chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriations, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa Ibom State Branch was invited to attend a Public Hearing on the Appropriation Bill 2022 at the Old Chapel, House of Assembly, Uyo.

Annexed to the letter is a Bill for a Law to appropriate monies out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and Capital Development Fund to the service of Government of Akwa Ibom State and for other matters connected therewith.

Annexed to the Appropriation Bill is the proposed Budget 2022 in two (2) Schedules. Schedule 1 is the Recurrent Expenditure while Schedule 2 is the Capital Expenditure. On receipt of the invitation letter, the CLO held an emergency State Congress and set up a Committee to study the Appropriation Bill 2022 and to review the implementation of the Appropriation Law, 2021. This presentation represents the position of the CLO, Akwa Ibom State Branch on the Appropriation Bill 2022.

In summary, the Appropriation Bill 2022 has 149 Items in Schedule 1 (Recurrent Expenditure) and 149 Items in Schedule 2 (Capital Expenditure).

  1. RECURRENT EXPENDITURE
    (a) CLO objects strongly to the inclusion of Item No. 10 “Akwa Ibom College of Science and Technology”, which is allocated N1,001,725,780.00. CLO observes that the College is an illegal Institution which is not backed by Law. CLO notes that the Bill seeking to establish and/or upgrade the College was passed by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in 2020 but, was not assented to by the State Governor. CLO notes that the lifespan of the Bill had long elapsed having overshot the 30 days constitutional period laid down in Section 100 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

CLO urges, on the strength of the foregoing, that Item No. 10 “Akwa Ibom College of Science and Technology”, should be deleted from the Appropriation Bill 2022. CLO also urges the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to demand a refund to the State Treasury the amount of money disbursed from the State Treasury out of the N985,589,500.00 appropriated for the College as Recurrent Expenditure in the 2021 Appropriation Bill.

(b) CLO notes that Item No.114 – Ministry of Justice – is allocated N2,237,546,050.00 as Recurrent Expenditure. CLO notes that Ministry of Justice was allocated N1,782,618,890.00 as Recurrent Expenditure in the 2021 Appropriation Bill. Comparing the Recurrent Expenditure for the Ministry of Justice in the 2021 and 2022 Appropriation Bills, CLO finds a humongous difference of N454,927,160.00. CLO is unable to fathom the reason for such prohibitive difference in just one year in the Recurrent Expenditure in the Ministry of Justice. CLO invites the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to investigate and unravel the reason for the huge increase in the votes for the Ministry’s Recurrent Expenditure.

(c) CLO notes that Item No. 61 – Dakkada Football Club – has a Recurrent Expenditure of N198,000,000.00, which is more than the Recurrent Expenditure for all the Health Centres in Akwa Ibom State put together. This means that in 2022, the Government of Akwa Ibom State has more interest in football matches than the health of the citizenry.

(d) CLO notes that Item Nos. 46 – 60 – Comprehensive Health Centre/Cottage Hospital – on Schedule 1 have identical allocations under Recurrent Expenditure. Each Item is allocated N6,000,000.00. These identical allocations create the impression that the nagging issue of ghost workers still exists in this sector.

(e) CLO notes that Item Nos. 70 – 84 on Schedule 1 have identical allocations under Recurrent Expenditure. Each Item, a “General Hospital,” is allocated N7,200,000.00. These identical allocations create the impression that the nagging issue of ghost workers still exists in this sector.

(f) CLO notes that Item No. 32 “Akwa Ibom State Rice Development Project” has a Recurrent Expenditure of N6,300.000.00. This Item has no Capital Expenditure provision. CLO, therefore, suggests that the Item be folded up or made a Unit under the Ministry of Agriculture.

(g) CLO notes that Item No. 39 in Schedule 1, “Akwa Ibom Urban Taxi Network Limited” is allocated N37,465,740.00, under Recurrent Expenditure. CLO notes that there is no Capital Expenditure provision for this Item. CLO, therefore, suggests that the Item be folded up or made a Unit under the Ministry of Transport.

(h) CLO notes that the Recurrent Expenditure for the following Items is too high:

i. Akwa Ibom State Budget Office (Item No.15) –N15,438,892,830.00;

ii. Bureau of Political and Social Re-orientation (Item No.41) -N895,387,750.00;

iii. General Services Office (Item No.85) -N4,593,850,430.00;

iv. Government House (Item No.86) -N27,283,003,640.00;

v. House of Assembly Service Commission (Item No.88) –N357,578,340.00;

vi. Office of the Accountant General (Item No.127) – N75,375,803,060.00; and

vii. Office of the Secretary to State Government (Item No.133) -N3,332,527,750.00.

The above allocations are not good indication of Government’s priority for
the 2022 Fiscal Year.

(i) CLO notes that Item No. 67 on Schedule 1, “Finance and General Purpose Committee,” is allocated N106,279,520.00 under Recurrent Expenditure. This allocation is high and appears unjustifiable considering that members of staff of the Committee are civil servants drawn from their respective Ministries.

  1. CAPITAL EXPENDITURE
    (a) CLO notes that the “Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution”, which is under the Ministry of Justice is allocated N10,000,000.00 as Capital Expenditure in Item No.16 in Schedule 2. CLO notes that the Centre has no allocation for Recurrent Expenditure. CLO notes that the Ministry of Justice, which itself in Item No.114 in Schedule 2 has Capital Expenditure of N244,000,000.00, which should cover the Centre. CLO seeks explanation.

(b) CLO notes that “Akwa Ibom Water Company Limited,” is allocated N100,000,000.00 as Capital Expenditure in Item No.38 Schedule 2. CLO observes that this allocation is meagre and should be increased considering that the provision of public water supply is of utmost necessity.

(c) CLO notes that “Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC)” is allocated N339,799,480.00, as Capital Expenditure in Item No. 23 Schedule 2. CLO considers this allocation as unjustifiable, considering that the Commission is not going to conduct Local Government elections in 2022. CLO seeks explanation.

(d) CLO notes that “Bureau of Public Procurement” is allocated N1,294,700,000.00, as Capital Expenditure in Item No.43, Schedule 2. CLO considers this allocation unjustifiable. CLO seeks explanation.

(e) CLO notes that the “Office of the Secretary to the State Government” is allocated N17,571,700,000.00 as Capital Expenditure in Item No.133 Schedule 2. CLO views this huge allocation as unjustifiable. CLO seeks explanation.

(f) CLO notes that “Government House” is allocated N10,410,000,000.00, as Capital Expenditure in Item No.86 Schedule 2. CLO considers this allocation as outrageous and unjustifiable, unless another Government House is being proposed to be built in 2022. CLO seeks explanation.

(g) CLO notes that while N4,956,000,900.00 is allocated to “Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly,” as Capital Expenditure, “Akwa Ibom State Judiciary” is allocated N1,598,900,000.00 as Capital Expenditure in Items No. 22 and 26, respectively, Schedule 2. CLO would rather prefer that the allocation to the “Akwa Ibom State Judiciary” be higher than that of the “Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly”, considering the size and spread of the “Akwa Ibom State Judiciary” in the State.

  1. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS ON SECTORAL ALLOCATION FOR CAPITAL EXPENDITURE

(a) CLO is of the view that allocations for Capital Expenditure are in favour of non-critical sectors. CLO notes that the various offices within the Government House are allocated huge capital votes far in excess of the allocations for capital votes to the critical sectors, such as; “Health,” “Education,” “Agriculture,” and “Water”. For instance, with N9,524,000,000.00 to “Ministry of Health” (Item No.111); N50,000,000.00 to “State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA)”, (Item No.142) and N441,000,000.00 to the “Hospitals Management Board,” (Item No.87), the Health Sector is allocated N10,015,000,000.00 in capital votes which is not sufficient to address the many challenges in the Health sector.

Again, with N7,193,705,370.00 to “Ministry of Education”, (Item No.108); N41,500,000.00 to the “State Secondary Education Board,” (Item No.145); N203,000,000.00 to “State Technical Schools Board”, (Item No.146) and N213,700,000.00 to “State Universal Basic Education Board,” (Item No.147), Education sector is allocated N7,651,905,370.00 which is less than 10% of the capital votes, and less than 10% of the total Budget and far less than the 26% UNESCO minimum benchmark for Education. For a State that is yearning for accelerated development, this
lopsidedness in the allocation of capital votes is unhealthy.

(b) CLO observes that the “State Scholarship Board”, (Item No.144, Schedule 2) has no capital vote. CLO urges that the Board should be provided with capital votes, in order to offer scholarship programmes to deserving students of the State origin, as a way of rewarding excellence and hard work among the youths.

(c) CLO further observes that there is no budgetary provision for Ibom Air in the Appropriation Bill 2022. This raises question on the issue of ownership of Ibom Air.

(d) CLO is appalled that there is no capital provision for our tertiary Education and Health Institution. This has been the norm in previous budgets of Akwa Ibom State Government. Capital projects in our critical institutions should go beyond perimeter fencing, re-painting and provision of wooden desks to building and equipping of our laboratories.

(e) The Capital provision of N41,500,000.00 for the “State Secondary Education Board”, (Item No.145, Schedule 2) is too meagre considering the number of schools under its supervision. We do not believe, for instance, that the “State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA)”, (Item No.142) with N50,000,000.00, has more capital projects to execute than all the Secondary Schools in the State put together.

  1. WAY FORWARD
    The Appropriation Bill 2022 should be positively rejigged before passage. Allocations to nebulous and non-critical Items should be revisited and slashed. The allocations for Capital Expenditure to the critical sectors, such as Health, Education, Agriculture, and Water should be enhanced. The huge allocations of capital votes to Government House, Office of the Accountant General, and Office of the Secretary to the State Government among others, should be revisited and slashed. The Capital Expenditure for the Akwa Ibom State Judiciary should be enhanced.

Following the massive embrace of the free education policy of the State Government, more capital votes should be channeled to Education sector for the building and equipping of primary, secondary and technical schools.

  1. CONCLUSION
    CLO thanks the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey; the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Rt. Hon. Uduak Odudoh, and Honourable members of the seventh Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for organising this Public Hearing and for the invitation extended to CLO to be part of this very crucial Public Hearing.

CLO urges the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, and indeed, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, to be painstaking in all the stages leading to the passage of the Appropriation Bill 2022.

CLO urges the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to reflect the inputs gathered from participants of this Public Hearing in the consideration of the Appropriation Bill 2022.

CLO urges the Seventh Assembly to be alive to its oversight functions, particularly with respect to the implementation of the Appropriation Bill 2022 when it becomes a Law.

CLO, being a pro-democracy cum international human rights organisation committed to the wellbeing of civil society, looks forward to a continuous robust relationship with the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.

Signed
Otuekong Franklyn Isong
(State Chairman)

Comrade (Barr.) Christopher Ekpo
(Secretary)

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