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Okowa And N71Bn 2023 Supplementary Budget



Okowa: If You Had Done Well

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

It is now a secondary information that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State on Tuesday presented a N71 billion 2023 supplementary budget to the State House of Assembly for approval via a letter read during plenary presided over by the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Christopher Ochor in Asaba.

For a better understanding of the piece, the budget is made up of N5.6 billion recurrent expenditure and N65.5 billion capital expenditure. While noting that the supplementary budget has become necessary for appropriation to pay for some critical projects and activities of the government as well as fund ongoing projects across the state in the year 2023, the Governor stated that there has been actual and projected increase in some fiscal receipts “In the light of the foregoing, it would be greatly appreciated if the draft 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Bill is placed before the House at its earliest convenience for consideration and passing into law,” he said.

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Without doubt, the controversy and worries so far raised by the development has made it a moral duty for all to collectively and objectively take a disciplined look at it in order to –adjust, adapt, incorporate or otherwise.
To some, it is not only noble but ‘a man-made code that squares with moral laws, noting that the presented supplementary budget is laced with capacity to uplift human personalities in the state. To others, it is a direct opposite. According to this group, it is an unjust attempt that is out of harmony with moral laws, and if allowed to fly, it will fail the present developmental needs of deltans, as well as compromise the ability of future generations in the state to meet their own needs.” The rest insisted that Governor Okowa, by this thoughtless decision on supplementary budget presentation, is in the process of quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a disastrously mistaken decision on the issue that affects the state.
For me, whereas I have through previous opinion articles, commentaries and interventions favored or supported policies and decisions of the Delta State government, it will, however, for reasons considered very logical, rational and practical to say that the same state government will definitely feel hesitant as to why they should read this present piece. Or accept the content of solution it proffers as beneficial and helpful to the real issue at hand, as the piece stoutly opposes the state government’s inconsiderate decision of asking for supplementary budget at a time when other governors are preparing their handover notes.
Before proceeding to the inherent defects domiciled in the present ‘budget’’, there is of course one distinction to make; infrastructure- wise, the oil rich Delta state under Governor Okowa’s 8years administration recorded appreciable improvements. Equally commendable in the interim, is the Governor’s claim in the referenced letter to the house that the budget is needed to ensure payment for some critical projects.
The above feat notwithstanding, the truth must be told to the effect that there exists a set of inherent reasons why the fears expressed above by well meaning deltans must not be described as groundless, but reinforces consideration as to why the Governor should contemplate dropping the present move and in its place, allow the incoming administration to present, implement and monitor the budget performance.

First and very fundamental is that Delta, going by reports is already among the states, about seventeen of them, that their incoming governors will have a difficult time boosting the economies of their individual states because they will take over at least N2.1 trillion in domestic debt and $1.9 billion in foreign debt from their predecessors. These first-term governors-elects, the report added, will face many months of unpaid workers’ salaries and mounting pension liabilities, as well as agitation for the implementation of the nationally agreed minimum wage, rising inflation, escalating prices of goods and services, and dwindling purchasing power.
Now, considering the above fact coupled with the crushing weight of debt burden that the state under Governor Okowa is grasping, if the supplementary is approved and as envisaged disbursed by the present government in the state.
Secondly, aside from the timing of the supplementary budget (less than two weeks to vacate the office), which this author considers as too short, another very cogent reason to drop the proposed budget is that covertly, majority of the Delta State House of Assembly members, like the generality of well meaning deltans are not in support of the ‘’eleventh hour move but can hardly disagree in an overt manner. They are silent because they feel that what they say on the floor of the House no longer matters that much-not to talk of other members of the House who are almost never present when issues of such magnitude are being discussed because they know the outcome is already determined.
Without doubt, while there is already among deltans, apprehension that in the state, once a direction is chosen by an average Nigerian leader, instead of examining the process meticulously and setting the right course, many obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance. This piece on its part holds the opinion that Governor Okowa must not fail to remember that there are many people in both political parties in the state (Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Party (APC) who worry that there is something deeply troubling about the present government in the state disdain for fact, and lack of curiosity for new information that might produce deeper understanding of the problems and policies that it is supposed to wrestle with on behalf of deltans.

Viewed broadly, I recall very vividly when Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state a while ago made an open declaration that the money he used to construct flyovers across Port Harcourt were part of the funds from the 13 percent derivation arrears due to Niger Delta states and paid by the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government, deltans raised the question as to how their money was spent by Governor Okowa?
In response to that poser, Governor Okowa through the state Commissioner for Finance admitted that the Federal Government owes the state and has agreed at installment payment over a period of 5 years.

According to the Commissioner “with the agreed amounts settled, some states like Rivers approached commercial banks and discounted theirs in full and collected, but Senator Ifeanyi Okowa said he would not want to leave the next administration with a huge debt burden. He resorted to discounting only N150 billion out of the N240 billion expected receivables but later pruned it down to N100 billion.

Even as this piece does not have vetting the validity of the above claim by the governor as part of its mandate, the statement however, elicits the question as to; what has suddenly changed? Why is it that the same Okowa who declared some months ago that he would not want to leave the next administration with a huge debt burden, is now in a hurry to ‘’empty the treasury’’ and leave the state financially naked?
Finally, even if answer(s) is provided to the above questions, it will not in my view erase what has been on the minds of deltans.

This is a point that Governor Okowa must not fail to remember.

Utomi is the Program Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected] or 08032725374


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