Governor Okowa presenting the 2018 Appropriation Bill to the State House of Assembly

The presentation and passage of Delta State’s 2018 Budget was done with an unprecedented speed, passed 42 days after it was presented to state legislature on October 19, 2017. Omon-Julius Onabu, in this piece, examines the motive behind a development that may have put the Ifeanyi Okowa administration in a positive spot

Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, presented the 2018 budget estimates of N298 billion to the State House of Assembly on Thursday, October 19, 2017, the second State after Kaduna to submit its 2018 Budget proposals to the State House of Assembly. And in exactly six weeks, the House passed the Appropriation Bill albeit increasing the initial estimate by about N10 billion.

The original proposed budget figure for the 2018 fiscal year represents an increase of N3.62 billion or 1.21 per cent of the 2017 approved budget of N294 billion. However, after going through the legislative works, the state legislature gave it a jack-up, approving a total figure of N308 billion.

Understandably, this has caught the attention of political and economic analysts, who seem to believe that this portends a positive development that could rub off on other states, most of which are yet to send next year’s budget proposal to their respective legislatures.
To the Delta State Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr. Kingsley Emu, the early passage of the Delta State Budget for the 2018 fiscal year was achieved by diligent hard work on the part of the Executive in purposeful collaboration with the legislative arm of government. He said the success story behind the early passage of the 2018 budget in the state was clearly a function of the robust synergy between the Okowa-led executive team and the state lawmakers. Such a feat would be practically impossible in an atmosphere of acrimony between the Executive and the Legislature.
“The early passage of the budget, I can tell you, is a product of hard work, commitment and robust synergy between the executive and the legislative arms of the state.”

According to Dr. Emu, “From Day-one of this administration, we had our programmes carefully laid out through a meticulous process. Our medium term development plan was on time for three years (2016 – 2019). We had the various policy committees in place just as we had our FSP out early enough, immediately after the federal government gave hint on the exchange rate volume. So, it became very easy for us to collate.”

He explained that his ministry as economic planning unit does a lot of quarterly report from all segments. “By June this year, we had embarked on meetings with the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the state, particularly with the respective permanent secretaries, preparatory to the 2018 budget.

“Also, the template for the collation was given out and they were given one month for return. By the end of August, this year, all the documents that we needed were ready. With all this, we were able to determine what we planned to do next year and being adequately guided by the Medium Term Development Plan, it became much easier for us to address the budget issues that we had. More so, after our various meeting with the different permanent secretaries and the DPRs, we afterwards met with the various commissioners at Exco (executive council meeting) where the budget was debated extensively.”

In a nutshell, Emu said the speedy passage of the Delta 2018 Budget was achieved as a result of cooperation between the commissioners and members of the State House of Assembly. “It therefore, goes to show that with cooperation, we can do a lot more in the state.”

The 2018 proposed budget is 298,078,478,899. But after legislative processes, the sum of 308.88 billion naira was passed, representing an increase of about 10 billion naira. The increase, according to the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, was necessitated by the need to capture some critical areas that were left out in the original bill. Key sectors of the 2018 budget include 147.5 billion naira for recurrent expenditure and 150.5 billion naira for capital expenditure. Others are general administration 1.5 billion naira, Desopadec 28 billion naira.

Passage of the bill followed a report presented at plenary by the Vice-Chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Hon. Emeka Nwaobi, who noted that “the committee received and collated inputs, observations and recommendations from the various sub-committees and considered them one after the other.” He said proposed estimates were reduced for some sectors while adjustment and increases were made in certain other areas based on critical needs.

The budget estimates passed second reading on October 24, 2017 and the House’s sub-committees and the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation made relevant scrutiny, Nwaobi noted, disclosing that the committee carried out a comprehensive and analytic consideration of the bill and observed that it was presented in tandem with contemporary global economic framework, adding that the appropriation bill was tied to well refined and specific projects

The Majority Leader, Hon. Tim Owhefere, subsequently moved for acceptance of the report for further necessary consideration and was seconded by Hon. Emeka Elekeokwuri. And consequent upon the motion by the Majority Leader, seconded by Emeka Elekeokwuri, the 2018 Appropriation Bill was read the third time and duly passed.

Speaker Oborevwori commended the members for their efforts and support in expediting action on the rigorous process culminating in the speedy passage of the all-important bill, and sued for their continuous cooperation in the interest of the entire state.

Presenting the estimates christened “Budget of Hope and Consolidation” to the legislature, Governor Okowa said the amount comprised the sum of N147.5 billion or 49.48% for recurrent expenditure and N150.5 billion or 50.52% for capital expenditure. The estimates also showed the sum expected as income from various sources including statutory allocation from the federation account, internal and miscellaneous sources. The governor said the sum of N71.3 billion would be generated internally (IGR), the sum of N37.8 billion from statutory allocation including mineral derivation fund and the N10.7 billion.

The foregoing added to total estimated capital receipt from other sources is put at N37.8 billion, bringing the grand total revenue estimates to N298.0878 billion for financing the capital and recurrent expenditure during the 2018 fiscal year. Of this amount, road infrastructure is expected to take the lion share of the revenue with education and health also receiving significant attention in the budget, which the governor noted was meant to ensure the sustenance of the current development tempo of the state government especially in those critical sectors.

“In line with our growth aspirations, the sum of N49.3 billion is earmarked in the proposed 2018 budget to sustain the current momentum in road infrastructure, including drains,” Okowa said.
However, the sum of N28 billion would go the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) under the estimated revenue for the year.

Education is allocated over N18 billion while health would take N6.6 billion of the budget, the governor said, even as another N2.2 billion was set aside for the state’s health insurance programme. The governor noted that “Delta State has 1,021 primary and 469 secondary schools with 443,813 pupils and 332,760 students respectively”, and that many of these schools have been renovated, furnished and new ones built.

“Between SUBEB (State Universal Basic Education Board) and Ministry of Basic Education, government has so far spent in excess of N16 billion in this respect,” Okowa further said, saying, “In the 2018 fiscal year, the sum of N18.7 billion is allocated to the education sub-sector for capital projects.”

Nonetheless, the Delta State Commissioner for Finance, Olorogun David Edevbie, speaking at a post-budget briefing, noted that prospects for sustained economic stability in the state and Nigeria at large, which advised the state’s budget of Hope and Consolidation, drew from the restoration of peace in the Niger-Delta region.

Specifically, Delta’s quantum of monthly crude oil production has shot up remarkably following the repair and restoration of the Escravos Trunk earlier destroyed by militants and causing oil production in the state to nosedive and its position on the table of oil producing states as well. Edevbie urged the federal government to continue on the path of dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger-Delta, owing to the obvious gains to the nation from peace restoration in the oil-rich region.

Also speaking on the budget breakdown, the economic planning commissioner, Dr. Emu, noted that the Okowa administration had been able to cope through very challenging financial times since inception through prudent planning and expenditure.

He noted that although the state was bugged down by a huge debt burden at the time the price of oil was as low as $30 per barrel, a situation aggravated by months of national economic recession, the proposed budget was an expression of optimism by the government, which he said found “creative ways of prudent spending” in order to ensure appreciable performance of the 2017 approved budget.
“We are optimistic that we will be able to meet this target. We are blocking all leakages and we have been able to do that with significant levels of success.”

He noted that certain initiatives recently introduced to shore up internally generated revenue (IGR) would complement the expected rise in the allocation from the federation account to achieve the total estimates.

Emu, who pointed that economic planning in government was a rigorous and complex exercise, assured the people that the administration hoped to stimulate the local economy in the coming fiscal year through increased spending in the social sector as well as religious pursuit of the various aspect of the ‘SMART Agenda’ of the Okowa government, including the various agricultural, job creation and entrepreneurial programmes, targeting young graduates and other categories of youths.