Umo Eno raises stake in governance with an ambitious budget, writes Obum Bassey
It is was a defining moment for the Executive Governor of Akwa-Ibom Umo Eno when he appeared before the State House of Assembly to present the 2024 financial appropriation estimate, comprising the recurrent expenditures of N352.92 billion and capital expenditures of N492.72 billion.
Codenamed “ARISE Budget for Growth and Expansion”, budget, the governor demonstrated he was ready for the serious business of governance. The cognate wealth of experience he had garnered in the private and corporate sector was brought to bear in the plans and agenda he envisioned for each of the sectors of the state. As the former Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Eno knows the state as he knows the holy scriptures. He understands the most pressing needs of the people, and also how to meet those needs.
The first budget proposal and presentation was the litmus test of his leadership capacity. He performed excellently in the delivery and content. Eno said that the total projected recurrent revenue for 2024 is estimated at N561bn as against the approved revised provision of N540.850bn, representing a 3.7 per cent increase in revenue projection for the year 2024.
He understands the need to expand domestic revenue capacity without overburdening the people. This has become compelling in the light of fiscal challenges confronting the national government. It is therefore expected that sub-national entities within the country to fashion out ways of shoring up their internally generated revenues.
The governor of Akwa-Ibom State has identified leakages within the system that should be plugged, and also ready to harness and maximise various revenue generation opportunities that are lying fallow with the state for Akwa Ibom to have a healthy financial outlook.
The ambitious plans and programmes that will improve the socio-economic conditions of the people require funding. Total reliance on the Federal purse is no longer sustainable, and the 13% oil revenue derivation that accrue to oil producing states like Akwa-Ibom cannot be the sole basis for the state financial and economic plannings and projections. According to the budget proposal, there is a need for creative finance in the public sector.
All things being equal, the “ARISE Budget for Growth and Expansion,” budget is predicated on an oil benchmark of $73.96 per barrel at a production rate of 1.78 million barrels per day with an estimated exchange rate of N700 per US$, baring the volatility of the forex, particularly the United States Dollar, which crude oil is transacted globally.
The total capital receipts and expenditures for the year 2024, he said, are estimated at N492.715bn, as against the approved revised provision of N455.685bn for 2023. Also, a total projected capital receipt shows that N208.083bn will be transferred from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
In addition to the above projected revenue streams, the governor also said that, “To realise the 2024 budget objectives, the following strategies shall be adopted by the state government: partner with foreign investors to invest in the relevant and key sectors of the state economy and undertake robust human capital development; widen the industrial base of the state through rapid industrialisation and investment activities by providing an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. This is to enhance the availability of goods and services for domestic use as well as for export; achieving at least a 10 per cent increase in IGR by eliminating evasion in payment, wastage, and leakages in collection and expenditure and developing tourism potential.”
Eno added that the 2024 budget would stimulate the agricultural and agro-allied industries to boost the production of local farmers and ensure food sufficiency for local consumption and export, as well as the provision of raw materials for the industries.
The expansion and maintenance of infrastructure and services in healthcare delivery at primary and secondary levels and safeguarding the state against any further public health emergencies after the COVID-19 pandemic, were also adequately taken care of in the 2024 appropriation bill.
As an astute politician and public administrator, the governor understands the principles of stakeholders’ management and the need to properly onboard everyone critical to the success equation on the journey of governance. He used the opportunity to give a stewardship account of the mandate that was entrusted to him in the last six months or thereabout.
He announced that his administration philosophy hinged five critical pillars of development that are expressly captured in our ARISE acronyms: Agricultural Revolution, Rural Development, Infrastructural Maintenance, Security Management and Educational Advancement.
The governor disclosed, “So far, we have hit the ground running and in a little over five months, we have translated the vision in practical and measurable terms. We are ready to ignite an agricultural revolution, and a practical demonstration of this is the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Songhai Farms, the internationally renowned farm operators and the subsequent trip we undertook to their facilities in Porto-Novo, Benin Republic.
“The first of such model farms is set to start operations in Nsit Ubuim, (being the first local government area that has provided us over 50,000 hectares of land.) I urge other local government council chairmen to expedite the process of donation of lands for our laudable program in agriculture.
“I thank those that have already concluded on this issue. We want to ignite agricultural revolution and ensure food security for our people through the provision of our staple food at affordable prices and for export. We also are determined to invest heavily in our blue economy and improve the living standards and financial success of our fishermen. We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy for the establishment of Ibom Fish City, an ambitious project aimed at maximizing our comparative advantage in the blue economy.
“We are constructing model primary schools which will rank amongst the best in the nation. The first of such is currently ongoing at the Christ the King School, on Wellington Bassey Way. We will replicate this model in all the 10 federal constituencies and eventually to all the 31 local government areas. We believe the foundation for enduring education starts at the primary level and the environment we expose our kids to, will make the difference in their later educational pursuits.
“Education still remains free and compulsory at the primary to secondary levels. We are confident, with the inviting and conducive environment we are providing through the model schools, complete with the free uniforms, books and shoes there will be a huge increase in our enrollment rates. We are continuing with the payment of WAEC fees and subventions to the tertiary institutions. We are offering bursary to students of tertiary instructions after proper certifications may have been done. We have also released N100 Million to support physically- challenged students in tertiary institutions.
“Our determination to open up our rural areas remains deep and abiding. We want to bring governance closer to the people and we hope to achieve this, by further improving the living conditions of our rural dwellers. We will continue to construct access roads, which we have already started, in Nsit Ibom/Ibesikpo Asutan, Ikot Ekpene and Oron Local Government areas respectively. We will extend this to other parts of the state.
“The campaign promise I made to construct Ndiya Street, in Udua Akpan Andem, has been fulfilled, within the first 100 days of this administration. Dakkada Oil Palm is being restructured as I speak, we have gotten seedlings for this great project. We have started the One Project -per One Local Government. We have also secured funds to construct lodges for Local Government Chairmen, the first of this will be flagged-off in December in Eket, Social Register is to be launched very soon.
“We have also set up a monitoring and evaluation team that is domiciled in the Governor’s Office to ensure that projects are executed according to specifications. You may have already read that I have authorised the payment of an additional one month’s salary in December, bringing it to 13 months. This is to bring Christmas cheers to our civil servants and very soon we will launch AKWAGIS.
“To maintain our status as one of the safest states in the nation, we have created a full-fledged Ministry of Internal Security and Waterways and the Neighborhood Watch program we have initiated, will provide jobs to over 5000 youths and also help protect our assets in communities across the state. Ibom Air continues to grow phenomenally. We are receiving the first of the 10 brand new Air buses in the first week of December. We have met all the obligations in this regard.
Above and more are what the governor has done within a short period of time. Many are optimistic that the tenure of Pastor Eno will be very impactful.