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Akwa Ibom Cries Out Over Drop In Federal Allocation

oron
Posted: Jun 20, 2016 at 6:12 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Idongesit Ashameri

UYO – The Akwa Ibom State government has alerted the citizenry that its monthly allocation has dropped from N50 billion to N30 billion received during the immediate past administration to as low as N5 billion to N3 billion as at May 2016, with threats of further decline.

From the N5 billion to N3 billion received from the federation account, the state says its wage bill stands at N4.8 billion, leaving very little to run the state.

In a press briefing organised by the Publicity Unit of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the weekend at the Ministry of Finance, Uyo, Mr. Akan Okon, the Commissioner for Finance, in company of Mr. Victor Atai, his Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs counterpart, and Comrade Ini Ememobong, the Publicity Secretary of PDP, said that it was necessary for stakeholders in the finance sector to clear the air on controversies surrounding the state finances and how funds were being spent in the state.

Okon said that in addition to the dwindling poor finance occasioned by the short fall from federal allocation, the state could only realise N15 billion from internally generated revenue between June 2015 and May 2016.

He regretted that the recent militancy and attack on pipelines by the Niger Delta Avengers affected the state’s chances of meeting up with projected production volume as indicated in the 2016 budget, and of taking early advantage of increase in oil prices.

He, however, assured that the state would take full advantage of the increase to meet its budgeted obligations.

Okon attributed the state’s decision not to take part in the past bailout programme of the Federal Government to the financial exposure and experience of Governor Udom Emmanuel.

“The financial exposure and experience of the governor is that you do not take loan when you don’t need it. Therefore, we are going to take part in the ongoing bail out by the Federal Government.

“We are also putting measures in place to increase our internally generated revenue, that is why we are currently embarking on registration and taxation of companies and individuals operating within the state,” Okon said.

The commissioner also said that consultants had been engaged to ensure an effective and efficient revenue collection system, adding that the ministry of finance recently introduced electronic receipt to block leakages from manual receipts.

“These are some of the reasons we need experienced consultants to help us out in IGR,” he said.

On  the N64 billion debt inherited from the immediate past administration, Okon explained that having rolled such into the ?Federal Government bond, it was easier for the state to continue running despite the cash crunch, having to service a debt obligation of slightly above N800 million monthly.

On the backlog of gratuity of retired civil servants in the local government areas, he said that the “the governor, as soon as he came into office cleared backlog of ?salaries and gratuity of local government staff from 2002 to 2012. “Payment of gratuity is made from revenue from federal allocation that for now is not enough to pay gratuity; we are keeping records of what is due and we will settle that as soon as the situation improves.”

Reacting to controversies surrounding the local government funds in the state, Hon. Victor An?tai, the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, debunked the allegation that the state government was tempering with local government funds.

He argued that the actual economic situation of local government areas, especially those not viable in internally generated revenues, were pitiable.

Antai assured that Governor Emmanuel was running a transparent government and had never interfered with funds accruing to local government councils as speculated by a section of the public.

?”All the local governments in the state are running at a  minus in IGR for the past four, five months, nothing goes to the council, they can’t even pay labourers, they can’t even cut grass, and the governor stepped in. Last Friday, he directed that something be done and I have just released fund to them.

“I am not going to speak for the chairmen, but what I’m saying is that most local government councils in Akwa Ibom State are not viable, that I can tell you.

“On the issue of IGR, the governor has directed that we work out a master plan for each of the local government to implement and that process is ongoing.

“In the next two or three weeks when we must have finished the tour of all the LGAs, then we will give him a comprehensive report on the viability of each of the councils,” he stated.

The commissioner said that the easiest way for a governor to go to jail is by tampering with local government funds, adding, “Our governor is aware of this, so he is telling the truth. Funds for local government are paid directly to cater for the needs of local government areas.”

“The public should understand that the local government wage bill covers salaries of primary school teachers, pensioners, local government staff and nurses at primary health care centres, palace upkeep to paramount rulers and others. Because of this huge wage bill some local government councils run into deficits for up to two years,” he explained.