Okowa: Nigeria in Dicey Financial Situation

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Ifeanyi Okowa

*Says non-constitution of NDDC board hurting South-South, N’Delta

Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has expressed worry over the current economic and financial situation in Nigeria noting that the stark reality about the dire situation in the country came to the fore recently when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2022 Budget to the National Assembly.

He said that the ripples of the economic downturn was hitting every level of government hard, noting that Delta State was at the moment struggling to pay monthly salary to its workers because of dwindling financial resources vis-a-vis declining monthly allocation from the Federation Account.

The governor said that situation where the Federal Government was borrowing with reckless abandon and even using loans to fund recurrent budget, as is the case with the 2022 Budget of about N16 trillion presented to the National Assembly by Mr President, was injurious to the nation’s economy.

Okowa made the remarks on Tuesday during a parley with media practitioners at the Government House Asaba, stressing that the implications of the federal government’s recurrent budget for the next fiscal year was very worrisome.

According to the governor, the implication of the deficit budget of the federal government for the next fiscal year was that the Nigerian Government will not be able to execute a single capital project without resorting to foreign and local loans.

Whereas only about N5 trillion was allocated for capital projects in the federal government’s 2022 budget estimates, the government will be borrowing to the tune of over N6.26 trillion to fund the budget, meaning the federal government would partly finance its recurrent expenditure with more than one trillion naira in the fiscal year.

He lamented that what could have amounted to gains to the country due to higher prices of crude oil in the international market was being eroded by the importation of refined petroleum products into the country.

On the non-constitution of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as promised by President Buhari when he received the forensic audit report on the the Commission nearly three months ago, Governor Okowa said that it was unknown to law in Nigeria that the NDDC should operate without a duly constituted management board for over two years and still counting.

He, however, urged Mr President to rise to the occasion by doing the needful because the states of the South-South geo-political zone and others in the Niger Delta region were currently on the receiving end due to the non-constitution of the NDDC board by President Buhari, who has jurisdictional competence to so do.

He noted that the governors as leaders of the region had never hidden their feelings concerning the disturbing situation, stressing that the governors have consistently made their stand known unequivocally.

Okowa said, “It is very unfortunate where we are at the moment; it ought not be so because we have not had a proper board for over two years now, which is not right.

“Whatever situation we are operating is unknown to the laws of this country. But more importantly is that states are being deprived of the opportunity of having representatives at the board because with the board, you have the MD (Managing Director) and EDs (Executive Directors) and state representatives who are able to understand that the budget of the NDDC is being run the way it is supposed to run, with the funds for each state getting to them.

“That has not been so for quite some time; and, that is why we have always complained and our fears have been made known. We were told by the presidency that as soon as the forensic report was submitted that the board would be constituted.

“Unfortunately the report has been submitted for some months now, we are still awaiting the constitution of the board. I think that no matter what is going on, there is a law and there is need for us to obey the law, there is the need for the FG to do what is right because beyond the law, the provisions in the law ensure that there is equity such that no state is shortchanged.

“At the moment we don’t have information as to when the board would be constituted, we will continue to make our voices heard. We hope that Mr. President would soon constitute the board because he is the only one that can do that.”

Nevertheless, Okowa disclosed that approximately N20 billion committed by his administration to the building, equipping and furninshing of the central secretariat, the Professor Chike Edozien Secretariat inaugurated by Vice-President Yemi Osinbanjo on Monday, was fully financed by the Delta State Government.

He assured that the plan for repayment of loans for the completion of the secretariat project was carefully worked out such that no debt would be left behind for his successor in respect of the project as the loans repayment would be completed in 2022.