PRESENTATION BY THE CIVIL LIBERTIES ORGANISATION (CLO), AKWA IBOM STATE BRANCH AT THE PUBLIC HEARING ON THE APPROPRIATION BILL 2020 HELD AT THE AKWA IBOM STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ON MONDAY, 21ST OCTOBER, 2019.

1. INTRODUCTION
By a letter dated 14th October, 2019 with reference number AKHA/S/65/T.1/111 signed by the Committee Clerk, Anietie Eka Esq, the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Rt. Hon. Uduak A. Odudoh, invited the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa Ibom State to attend a Public Hearing on the Appropriation Bill 2020 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 Akwa Ibom State Government and for other matters connected therewith (“Budget”). The Appropriation Bill is contained in two (2) Schedules. Schedule 1 is the Recurrent Expenditure while Schedule 2 is the Capital Expenditure. On receipt of the letter referred to above, CLO immediately called a general meeting which reviewed the Appropriation Bill. This presentation represents CLO’s position on the 2020 Appropriation Bill.

2. RECURRENT EXPENDITURE
(a) CLO notes that Item No. 3 on Schedule 1, “Agricultural Loans Board,” which is allocated N49,320,000,00 under Recurrent Expenditure is obscure. CLO is not aware of the existence of the “Agricultural Loans Board” and its office location in Akwa Ibom State. CLO wonders how many workers constitute its staff strength. CLO, however, notes that if the “Agricultural Loans Board” indeed exists, it should be strengthened and its allocation enhanced considering the importance of the agricultural sector to the economy.

(b) CLO notes that Item Nos. 46 – 63 on Schedule 1 have identical allocations under Recurrent Expenditure. Each item, a “Comprehensive Health Centre,” is allocated N6,000,000.00. These identical allocations create the impression that the nagging issue of ghost workers still exists in this sector.

(c) CLO notes that Item Nos. 69 – 83 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.

(d) CLO notes that Item No. 41 Schedule 1, “Bureau of Intergovernmental and National Assembly Relation,” which is allocated N245m under Recurrent Expenditure is obscure. CLO wonders where this body has its office and how many persons it has on its staff strength. The allocation of N245m to this body under Recurrent Expenditure is, in CLO’s view, not justifiable.

(e) CLO notes that Item No.10 in Schedule 1, “Akwa Ibom State College of Science and Technology,” is allocated N853.8m under Recurrent Expenditure. CLO wonders how many persons the College has on its staff to justify such huge allocation.

(f) CLO notes that Item No. 127 in Schedule 1, “Office of the Chief of Staff,” is allocated N138m under Recurrent Expenditure. CLO notes that there has not been a Chief of Staff for some time now and wonders what the huge allocation for Recurrent Expenditure is meant for. CLO seeks explanation.

(g) CLO notes that while the Recurrent Expenditure for the “House of Assembly” is N5.1b, the Recurrent Expenditure for the “Judiciary” is N3.9b, according to Item Nos. 21 and 25, respectively, of Schedule 1. Considering that the “Judiciary” has far reaching presence in the 31 local government areas of the State, CLO wonders at the lopsidedness of the allocations.

(h) CLO notes that Item No. 67 on Schedule 1, “Finance and General Purpose Committee,” is allocated N26m under Recurrent Expenditure. This allocation appears not justifiable considering that members of staff of the Committee are civil servants drawn from their respective Ministries.

(i) CLO notes that there are two allocations for the “Budget Office” under Recurrent Expenditure on Schedule 1 (Item Nos. 13 and 14, Schedule 1). The first allocation is N383.3m while the second allocation is N20.4b. CLO seeks explanation for these allocations.

3. CAPITAL EXPENDITURE
(a) CLO notes that “Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution” (which falls under the Ministry of Justice and has no statutory backing) is allocated N10m as Capital Expenditure (Item No.5 Schedule 2). CLO notes that the Centre has no allocation for Recurrent Expenditure but CLO wonders why a body without statutory backing and under the Ministry of Justice, which itself in Item No. 42 Schedule 2 has Capital Expenditure of N535m, is allocated N10m for Capital Expenditure. CLO seeks explanation.

(b) CLO notes that “Akwa Ibom Water Company Limited,” is allocated N200m as Capital Expenditure (Item No.16 Schedule 2). In the view of CLO 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 Fire Service” is allocated N300m as Capital Expenditure (Item No.8 Schedule 2). In the view of CLO, this allocation is meagre and should be increased.

(d) CLO notes that “Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC)” is allocated N2b as Capital Expenditure (Item No.10 Schedule 2). CLO considers this allocation very high and unjustifiable, except the allocation is for the conduct of local government elections in 2020. CLO seeks explanation.

(e) CLO notes that “Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service” is allocated N819m as Capital Expenditure (Item No. 11, Schedule 2). CLO considers this allocation very high, unjustifiable and CLO seeks explanation.

(f) CLO notes that the “Office of the Accountant General” is allocated N25.6b as Capital Expenditure (Item No.52 Schedule 2). CLO considers this allocation unjustifiable and CLO seeks explanation. For instance, the allocation for Capital Expenditure to the “Office of the Accountant General” is more than 20% of the total budget of the State and is more than the collective allocation for Capital Expenditure to Health, Education, Agriculture and Water.

(g) CLO notes that the “Office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG)” is allocated N10.3b for Capital Expenditure (Item No.57 Schedule 2). CLO views this huge allocation as unjustifiable and CLO seeks explanation.

(h) CLO notes that “Government House” is allocated N33b for Capital Expenditure (Item No. 23 Schedule 2). CLO considers this allocation as unjustifiable, unless another government house is being proposed to be built in 2020. CLO seeks explanation.

(i) CLO notes that while N3b is allocated to the “House of Assembly,” for Capital Expenditure, the “Judiciary” is allocated N2b for Capital Expenditure (Item Nos. 9 and 12, respectively, Schedule 2). CLO considers these allocations lopsided and unreasonable. CLO would rather prefer that the allocation to the “Judiciary” be higher than that of the “House of Assembly” considering the size and spread of the “Judiciary” in the State.

4. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS ON SECTORAL ALLOCATIONS FOR CAPITAL EXPENDITURE
CLO is of the view that allocations for Capital Expenditure are in favour of non-critical sectors. CLO notes that the “Office of the Accountant General” and 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 N4b to “Ministry of Health”, N160m to “State Agency for the Control of AIDS” and N590m to the “Hospital Management Board,” the Health Sector is allocated less than N5b in capital votes which is less than 10% of the total Budget. Again, with N4b to “Ministry of Education,” N200m for the “Secondary Education Board,” and N500m to “State Universal Education Board,” Education sector is allocated less than N5b of the capital votes, which is less than 10% of the total Budget and far less than the 26% UNESCO minimum benchmark. For a State that is yearning for accelerated development, this lopsidedness in the allocation of capital votes is unhealthy.

5. WAY FORWARD
The Appropriation Bill should be positively rejigged before passage. Allocations to nebulous and non-critical bodies, such as “Bureau for Intergovernmental and National Assembly Relation” and the “Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution,” 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 the Ministry of Finance, Government House, Office of the Accountant General, Office of the Chief of Staff, and Office of the Secretary to the State Government, among others, should be revisited and slashed. The Capital Expenditure for the Judiciary and the State Fire Service should be enhanced. Following the massive embrace of the free education policy of the State Government, more capital votes should be channeled to Education for the building and equipping of primary, secondary and technical schools.

6. CONCLUSION:
CLO thanks the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey; the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation and Finance, Rt. Hon. Uduak Odudoh, and Honourable members of the seventh 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 Appropriation and Finance, and indeed, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to be painstaking in all the stages leading to the passage of the Appropriation Bill 2020.

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 2020. CLO applauds the seventh Assembly for being alive to their oversight functions and expects more when the Appropriation Bill 2020 becomes Law.

CLO being a pro-democracy cum international human rights organisation committed to the wellbeing of civil society, looks forward to a 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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