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2011 budget unimplementable, say Aganga, group

By on March 24, 2011

A FACE-OFF is imminent between President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly, over the implementation of the recently passed N4.9 trillion, as the Federal Ministry of Finance has declared it as “expansionary and unimplementable.”

Also, a civil society group, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group has asked the Budget Office of the Federation and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to withhold releases and warrants, particularly to the National Assembly, as contained in the their (National Assembly’s) votes for doubling the estimates as proposed by the executive arm of government, as it could fuel poverty in the country, if implemented as passed.

These declarations about the budget implementation come on a day the Akwa Ibom State government declared recourse to the Supreme Court, to seek a review of the appellate court’s recent decision, ceding its oil wells to Rivers State.

The Finance Minister, Olusegun Aganga, in his first reaction to the 2011 federal budget in Abuja, yesterday, said though the details of the budget as passed had not been availed his ministry, however, declared that if snippets as  read in the media were correct, then the budget would be unimplementable, because there are several grey areas.

Aganga said: “It is difficult to comment on the budget at this stage because we are yet to receive the details from the National Assembly. However, based on the information available, there are areas of concern. For example, we are concerned about the level of deficit, the level of borrowing, among others.

“The 2011 budget is supposed to signal the beginning of fiscal consolidation, but we now have another expansionary budget which is unimplementable. If we are to build our economy on a solid foundation and avoid the boom and burst of the past, it is critical that we embrace discipline in the way we manage public finances. We cannot continue like this.

“I will be advising that we engage with the National Assembly to resolve these areas of concern. We have always had a very good relationship with the relevant National Assembly committees. So, I am optimistic that we can resolve these areas of concern very quickly”.

In passing the 2011 fiscal spending plan of the Federal Government, the National Assembly padded the estimate as proposed by the Executive Arm by over N700 billion, with the National Assembly’s votes doubled from N111.2 billion to N232.7 billion, a development which has irked the civil society group, which reacted sharply in a statement in Abuja, by its Executive Director, George-Hill Anthony.

The group said: “In 2010, our Regional Accountability Centre raised some concerns about the 2010 Budget as was passed by the National Assembly and alerted Nigerians that there were landmines in that Budget as at the year 2010. It wasn’t long after, matters became clear about concerns we raised earlier about that Budget.

“No serious country seeking aggressive development can continue to toy with annual budget as it is happening in Nigeria. The 2011 Budget as passed by the National Assembly two days ago indeed is a poverty generator against the poor but a bloating spur to purse of politicians.

“A budget with over N2.4 trillion going to recurrent expenditure alone is depressing to the psyche of ordinary Nigerian.  That recurrent figure almost doubled the amount allocated to capital expenditure in a country with wild poverty as majority of Nigerians are, with no good roads, no adequate affordable health care services, no social security, among others.

“A massive country like Nigeria having N1.5 trillion as capital expenditure at a time politicians are promising heaven and earth in their campaigns, exposes isolated fiscal thinking within all the existing political parties’ manifesto.

“Strongly, we implore the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) not to approve a Warrant for the release of the National Assembly’s 2011 Capital Vote, which has been paddedly increased to N232. 7 billion against what was originally projected being N111.2 billion from Mr. President.

“Mr. President should approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation of who controls the ceiling and envelope-allocation within the National Budget? The Commander in-Chief can actually do this without being tied to legislative political ransom by that arm of government.”

“The 2011 Budget also exposes the failure of Nigeria to continue tarrying to the tenet of international agreement, especially, on the Paris Club Debt Relief. Inconsistencies in budgeting critically to the poor-line spending observed to be in a gallopy scenario in the 2011 Budget, goes against the spirit of salvaging the poor. Worrisomely, Defence Budget continue to gulped huge amount irrespective Nigeria is not at war with its neighbours.

“Isolating of Defence procurement within the embodiment of the Public Procurement Act, and now on the newly passed Access to Information Bill should not be an avenue where people continue to shadow Defence spending within the criticality of effective Civil Society scrutiny, monitoring, tracking and evaluation.

Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, yesterday, affirmed his administration’s decision to seek Supreme Court’s review of the 86 oil wells that were recently ceded to Rivers State.

In a broadcast to the people yesterday, he said: “At the advent of this administration, we wrote to President Umaru Yar’Adua to protest the injustice of the so-called political solution, which had no basis in law and purportedly transferred some of our oil wells to Rivers State.

“The President referred the petition to a committee of government agencies consisting of the National Boundary Commission, Office of the Surveyor General of the federation, the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission for necessary action.”



“On the bases of law and technical consideration, these agencies determined that those oil wells should be returned to the original owners, being Akwa Ibom State. Of course, Rivers State went to court to challenge the return of the oil wells to Akwa Ibom State.

“There have been media reports, which have been deeply troubling to Akwa Ibom people and speculate that under the terms of the recent judgment which ceded 86 of our oil wells to Rivers State, we are supposed to pay Rivers State a whopping N350 billion (revenue and interests inclusive).

“This, to me, is outrageous, regrettable and totally false. It should be stressed that during the period under consideration (April 2009 to date), we did not earn up to N350 billion from the over 980 oil wells currently attributed to Akwa Ibom State. The media report is misleading. The media report is unfortunate. That Akwa Ibom should refund N350 billion on account of only 86 oil wells is extremely misleading and laughable.

“According to the judgment, we are owing Rivers State revenue we collected between April 2009 and February 2011, a period of 22 months- of course the revenue is said to be only from the 86 oil wells; whereas Rivers State Government is owing us revenue they collected arbitrarily from January, 2005 to March, 2009 a period of 40 months.

“For the avoidance of doubt, even if this judgment were to subsist, it is Rivers State Government which would be obligated to make refunds to Akwa Ibom State after the reconciliation of accounts. This is because when the political solution referred to by the eminent judges of the Supreme Court was brokered in 2006 by the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, revenue from the 172 oil wells earlier arbitrarily taken from Akwa Ibom State by Rivers State were to be shared on a fifty-fifty basis between both states as from 2005.

However, Rivers State kept the 172 oil wells and collected all the revenue therefrom and all the revenue that accrued from the 172 oil wells from January, 2005 to March, 2009.

“We have carefully studied the judgment and we are convinced that the judgment was given in error, and we have accordingly filed for a review of that judgment. I, therefore, urge all citizens of Akwa Ibom State to remain calm and not be taken in by sensational media reports, which have tended to confuse issues.

“I must emphasize that Akwa Ibom people continually pray for God’s grace upon the government and the good people of Rivers State and the issue of oil wells shall never be allowed to affect our brotherliness.”

Source : Guardian