BEING A PRESENTATION BY THE CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS & ACCOUNTABILITY NETWORK (CHRAN), AT THE PUBLIC HEARING ON THE 2024 APPROPRIATION BILL, HELD AT THE AKWA IBOM STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ON FRIDAY, 1ST DECEMBER, 2023 AT THE OLD CHAPEL, HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, UYO.

1. Introduction
By a letter dated: 27 November, 2023 with reference number: AKHA/S/61/Vol.IX/98 signed by Christopher M. Inwang Ph.D. for Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation and Finance, the CHRAN was invited to attend a Public Hearing on the 2024 Appropriation Bill 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 2024 in two (2) Schedules. Schedule 1 is the Recurrent Expenditure while Schedule 2 is the Capital Expenditure.

Even though the Center received the invitation at about 2:00pm yesterday (Thursday, November 30, 2023), considering the importance of the Bill, on receipt of the invitation letter, the Center held an emergency Congress to study the 2024 Appropriation Bill and to review the implementation of the 2023 Appropriation Law.

This presentation, therefore, represents the position of the Center on the 2024 Appropriation Bill.

In summary, the 2024 Appropriation Bill has 151 Items in Schedule 1  – representing the Recurrent Expenditure, and 151 Items in Schedule 2 – representing the Capital Expenditure.

RECURRENT EXPENDITURE
1. The Center observes that Items 46 to 60; Items 63 and 64, which has to do with Comprehensive Health Centres, Cottage Hospitals, and Dental Health Centres have identical allocations of N6,000,000.00. While Items 70 to 81; and 83 to 85, which has to do with General Hospitals also have identical allocations of N7,200,000.00. These figures have been observed in previous
years’ Appropriation Laws of the State. The Center seeks to know if there is no promotion of staff, transfer of staff or retirement of staff of these Health facilities over the year. These identical allocations create the impression of either Budget padding or that the nagging issue of ghost workers still exists in this sector.

2. The Center observes that Item No. 40 – Akwa United Football Club and No. 61 – Dakkada Football Club, respectively, has a Recurrent Expenditure that is more than all the Comprehensive Health Centres, Cottage Hospitals and General Hospitals put together. We have the impression that in 2024, the Akwa Ibom State Government has more interest in football, which should be self sustaining, than the Health of the citizenry.

3. The Center notes that Item No. 30 – Akwa Ibom State Rice Development Project – has a Recurrent Expenditure of N6,300,000.00. The Agency has no Capital Expenditure provision. We observe that the Agency had the same quantum of allocation in previous years’ Appropriation Laws creating the impression of budget padding. The Center suggests that the Agency be collapsed into the Ministry of Agriculture as a Unit.

4. The Center notes that Item No. 39 – Akwa Ibom Urban Taxi Network Limited – is allocated N32,169,630.00 under Recurrent Expenditure. The Center notes that there is no Capital Expenditure provision for the Agency. The Center is confounded that though there is no Taxi service provided by the Government of Akwa Ibom State, the Akwa Ibom Urban Taxi Network Limited has over the years been enjoying steady Recurrent Expenditure provisions in the various Appropriation Laws of the Government of Akwa Ibom State. The Center fears that this Agency may be a major fiscal leakage which may be exploited by venal officials of government to drain scarce state resources. The Center urges the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to probe the activities of the Akwa Ibom Urban Taxi Network Limited.

5. The Center notes that the Recurrent Expenditure provisions for the following offices are too high:

i. Akwa Ibom State Budget office N24,277,169,760.00 (as against N5,438,892,830.00 in the 2022 Appropriation Law).

ii. Bureau of Political and Social Re-orientation N577,386,650.00 (as against
N895,387,750.00 in the 2022 Appropriation Law).

iii. General Services Office N6,832,157,420.00 (as against N4,593,850,430.00 in the 2022 Appropriation Law).

iv. Government House N22,664,377,370.00 (as against N27,283,003,640.00 in the 2022 Appropriation Law).

v. House of Assembly Service Commission N392,791,370.00 (as against N357,578,340.00 in the 2022 Appropriation Law).

vi. Office of the Accountant General N126,038,940,830.00 (as against
N75,375.803.060.00 in the 2022 Appropriation Law).

vii. Office of the Secretary to State Government N6,291,030,250.00 (as against N3,332,527,750.00 in the 2022 Appropriation Law).

The above allocations are a scandalous indication of the priority of Government for the year 2024, which should be queried.

6. The Center notes that Item No. 68 on Schedule 1, “Finance and General Purpose Committee,” is allocated N134,116,330.00 under Recurrent Expenditure. This allocation is high and appears not justifiable considering that members of staff of the Committee are civil servants drawn from their respective Ministries.

7. The Center notes that the allocation of N24,277,169,760.00 for the “Akwa Ibom State Budget Office” under Recurrent Expenditure on Schedule 1 (Item No. 12) is too high.

CAPITAL EXPENDITURE
1. The Center objects to the inclusion of “Akwa Ibom State Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution” (Item No. 13) which though falls under the Ministry of Justice and has no statutory backing, is allocated N8,200,000.00 in the 2024 Appropriation Bill.

2. The Center notes that “Akwa Ibom Water Company Limited,” is allocated
N250,000,000.00 as Capital Expenditure (Item No. 38, Schedule 2). It is the view
of the Center that this allocation is meagre and should be increased considering that the provision of public water supply is of utmost necessity.

3. The Center notes that “Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC)” is allocated N300,000,000.00 as Capital Expenditure (Item No. 20 Schedule 2). The Center considers this allocation unjustifiable, wondering why the Commission is yet to issue Timetable for the conduct of Local Government Elections in the State and bearing in mind that the tenure of the current elected council officials in the State ends on the 6th of December, 2023.

4. The Center notes that “Bureau of Public Procurement” is allocated
N883,150,000.00 as Capital Expenditure (Item No. 43, Schedule 2). The Center
considers this allocation very high, unjustifiable, and seeks explanation.
5. The Center notes that the “Office of the Secretary to the State Government
(SSG)” is allocated N35, 430,500,000.00 for Capital Expenditure (Item No. 134
Schedule 2). The Center views this huge allocation as unjustifiable and seeks
explanation.

6. The Center notes that “Government House” is allocated N18,508,000,000.00 for Capital Expenditure (Item No. 87 Schedule 2). The Center considers this allocation outrageous and unjustifiable, unless another government house is being proposed to be built in 2024. The Center seeks explanation.

7. The Center notes that while the Akwa Ibom State Judiciary (Item No. 24) has
N2,840,000,000.00 as Capital Expenditure, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has a whopping Capital Expenditure of N10,585,320,000.00. The Center wonders why the Judiciary which has several levels of Courts spread across the 31 Local Government Areas of the State enjoys far less allocation for Capital Expenditure than the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly located within Uyo, the Capital of Akwa Ibom State.

Finally, the Center wishes to appreciate the Honourable Speaker, Rt. Hon. Udeme Otong and Members of the 8th Assembly particularly, the Chairman and Members of the House Committee on Appropriation and Finance, for this invitation to be part of this Public Hearing. We believe that our inputs will form part of the final
copy of the 2024 Appropriation Bill.

Thank you.

Signed
Otuekong Franklyn Isong
(Director)

Comrade (Barr.) Christopher Ekpo
(Secretary)

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