*Laments depleted revenue due to militancy
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State yesterday presented budget estimates totaling N270.9 billion for the 2017 fiscal year with a plea to all government functionaries to make fiscal discipline their watchword in the administration strive to minimise the effects of the current economic recession on its development blueprint.
The figure represents an increase over the 2016 total figure of N268 billion approved budget for January to September 2016 period.
The 2017 estimates are made up of N151.909 billion or 56.0 percent of total recurrent expenditure estimates and N119.001 or 43.94 percent of the capital expenditure proposed for next year.
According to the governor, “The 2017 budget proposal shows a slight increase of N2.731billion or 1.02 percent, compared to the 2016 approved budget of N268.179.
Presenting the budget proposal christened ‘Budget of Fiscal Consolidation and Steady Progress’ to the state House of Assembly led by the Speaker, Hon Monday Igbuya, Okowa noted that the 2017 budget estimates were prepared with unalloyed impetus in spite of the present economic downturn in the country.
The governor said he was making the presentation of the proposal, which is slightly above the January to September 2016 budget “with unwavering confidence in our ability to navigate our way out of the current economic challenges and move the economy of the state towards growth, inclusion, social cohesion and prosperity for all.”
A further breakdown of the 2017 budget puts expected receipts as N137.948 billion from statutory allocation including mineral revenue derivation or the so-called 13 percent derivation fund.
The internally generated revenue (IGR) figure for 2017 is N70, 165, 959,503 as against the proposed figure of N75, 398,226,742 for the 2016 fiscal period due to the aforementioned negative effects of militancy.
A little over NN10.218 billion is the expected revenue from Value Added Tax (VAT) while estimated revenue from other capital receipts is N44.613 billion representing about 15.24 percent of the total expected revenue figure.
Okowa lamented the fact that the state has been worst hit by the resurgence of militancy in the Niger-Delta, saying the resultant dip in the state’s oil production quota has forced the state down to fourth place among the oil producing states, from the second place it hitherto occupied, in addition to triggering a drop in the IGR.
Harping on the need for the militant groups, particularly in the state, to sheathe their swords and embrace the option of peace in the interest of the people and communities they claim to be fighting for, Okowa said: “ As at today, the nation has realised only a fraction of its projected earnings, no thanks to the continuing low price of oil and the unfortunate incidents of pipeline bombings in the Niger Delta region.
“Even though the price of oil in the international market was, for most of the period, marginally higher than the budget benchmark of $38 per barrel, the country could not benefit from it because we fell far short of the production quota of 2.2 million barrels per day as result of the deleterious effects of militancy in the region
“For us in Delta State, it was a particularly painful and harrowing experience as much of the bombings and disruption of oil production occurred in our state. Consequently, we found ourselves in double jeopardy. With receipts from the Federation Account already plummeting, our plight was aggravated as our share from the derivation formula reached an all-time low.
“What our brothers and sisters need to know is that pipeline vandalism hurts us more than it hurts other parts of the country; accrual to the state from the derivation formula is a function of how much oil we supply to the national oil company for export. Regrettably, the activities of the militants saw us slump from being number two among oil producing states to number four resulting in severe damage to our finances.”
Okowa stressed that the agriculture sector remains the most dependable fulcrum in the efforts to diversify the economy in Nigeria, saying his government has consequently given agriculture priority attention.
“Agriculture is key to diversifying the economy of the state and inducing sustainable economic growth. The agricultural and agribusiness development agenda is being implemented through a variety of value chain support measures under the Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP).
“The measures include the provision of extension services, improved technologies and efficient farm inputs to boost farmers’ productivity, outputs and incomes. Also, I have set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee to develop a Land Bank to enhance access to agricultural land by private investors. In the same vein, I have set up an Agricultural Marketing Coordination Committee to support farmers in tackling the perennial marketing challenges faced by farmers in the state,” he added.