NLC, POLICY ALERT, CLO IDENTIFY RED FLAGS IN 2022 BUDGET

2022 BUDGET:NLC DISCLOSES INCREASE PENSION/GRATUITY DEBT, SCRAP MIN LABOUR/MANPOWER
…Policy Alert Demands N171.2b Backlog of 13% Derivation save for future.
…CLO says allocated sum for AKS College of Sc/Tech returned to state coffers.

Enwono-Abasi Elisha

The Nigeria Labour Congress, Akwa Ibom Chapter has alleged that the death toll amongst retirees may be unassociated to the accumulated debt of gratuities and pensions owed these class of persons who served the state for many years.

This was part of the submission of NLC in the state led by the Chairman, Cmd Sunny James during the Public Hearing held on the ‘A Bill for a Law to Appropriate monies out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and Capital Development Fund of the service of AKSG and for other matters connected therewith, for the year 2022, yesterday.

According to the NLC Chairman,
“Under funding for the payment of gratuities and pensions of retired civil servants who have served the state for years is worrisome as it has accumulated to the sum of
N22billion for Gratuity debt; while N28.6billion has accumulated for Primary School teachers.

“The release of the allocation of monies not achievable for the senior citizens who die on daily basis.”

NLC also said that the Ministry of Labour and Man Power Planning between 2020-2021 received zero funding in terms of capital allocation. The body adjudged as unacceptable. They added that if the zero funding continues the Ministry should be scrapped.

POLICY ALERT’S POSITION

On the other hand, Policy Alert in its position however commended the state government for enforcing certain fiscal policies as demanded by the body, CLO and other fiscal agencies to make budget, as a crucial financial tool, to be more transparent and have human face.

Policy Alert led by its Executive Director, Mr. Tijah-Bolton said it is with utmost important that a Public Hearing should be held on the state’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework of 2021 in furtherance of transparent fiscal policy.

The Organisation observed that, as important as the revenue from the backlog of 13% derivation payment accrued to the state, up to the tune of N171.2billion, was not captured in the budget speech of the Governor, HE Udom Emmanuel. He said for the sake of posterity as the value of oil is fast diminishing, the monies which will be paid in tranches over a period of time in years should be saved as ‘future generation funds.’ He warned that the money should not be expended all together as it comes in.

He said saving of such funds is eminent due to the crumbling debt profile of the state caused by borrowing short term loans for long-term projects. The Organisation went ahead to advise the government to desist from such borrowings as the state is currently sitting on a time-bomb of a forecast financial crash due to these borrowings.

Policy Alert noted that a subhead in the budget with ‘Special Development Project’ is vague without specification on what money is allocated for. They noted that in 2021 a sum of N3.5b was allocated for the subhead and in 2022, as captured in the budget, a sum of N10b has been allocated for the item.

Policy Alert urged the House to step up their budgetary oversights as there are alot of loopholes in the budget.

They however made case for the increment of budgetary provision for effective insurance scheme and improved healthcare delivery system.

CLO’S POSITION

Civil Liberties Organisation – AKS branch submitted its position by its Chairman, Cmd Franklyn Isong.

In summary, CLO said that the allocated sum of N1billion for Akwa Ibom State College of Science and Technology be expunged and refunded back to state coffers as the bill was passed by the House but not assented by the Governor. Meaning the College is not in existence.

CLO also urged that State Assembly should investigate as there might be an ongoing secret employment in AKS Civil Service. They queried the reason for increment on the subhead in a pace of one year.

The allocation of N10.4billion for Government House did not settle down well with CLO as they described the amount as “‘outrageous’ because there is no capital project ongoing in Government House except they want to build a new one,” CLO quipped.

A plea for allocated sum was made for Scholarship Board which has no capital vote in the current budget.

They concluded that allocations of nebulous and non-critical sectors be rejigged and slashed for Health, Agriculture and Education sectors which should be upgraded.

OTHERS’ POSITIONS

Several memoranda were also submitted by other relevant publics to contribute to the making of the 2022 Appropriation Bill of Akwa Ibom State Government.

In their position, AKS Civil Societies Organisation Forum opined that there should be more funding for Primary Health Care Board. Also that Ministry of Women Affairs have discrepancies in its disability codes. They said they have not seen provision for safety intervention and that allocation for Water and Sanitation is inadequate.

Earlier, the Speaker of the State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey in his opening remarks said as the policy thrust of the 7th Assembly, the Public Hearing was necessary for a robust deliberation on the 2022 Appropriation Bill to advance democracy.

Being represented by the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Felicia Bassey, the Speaker further explained that “it is expected that their peculiar observations, submissions and analyses shall add up to streamlining and strengthening the bill towards becoming a Law.”

The Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Ekaette Fabian Obot urged that allocation for the Judiciary arm should be improved due to the precarious economic reality of the time.

Being represented by Hon. Justice Ntong Ntong, the Chief Judge said the welfare of members of Judiciary is not well taken care of due to paucity of funds and should be given priority.

In his opening remarks, the Chairman, Committee on Appropriation and Finance, Rt. Hon. Uduak Odudoh said there is always a need to create a participatory forum to ensure a balance and equitable financial document is achieved for the good of the state.

He employed all MDAs to work harder for more effective revenue source in year 2022.

Commissioners for Finance, Mr. Linus Nkan and his counterpart in the Ministry of Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Hon. Akan Okon dwelt on the policy thrust and analysing the objectives, implementation strategies, respectively, in the 2022 Bill.

Mr. Okon Okon of the Internal Revenue Service promised a more robust means of revenue generation to the state treasury so it could fund the machinery of the state government.

 

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