Budget Defence: An Appropriation Of Strong Developmental Link With Incoming Government

BY LUCKY OYIBO
Barely three months ago, the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, presented the 2015 Appropriation Bill before the members of the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA) at the hallowed chamber of the state legislature. The budget is the total financial estimates of the recurrent and capital expenditures for the services of Delta State for the 2015 fiscal year. The appearance of the Governor before members of the House is aimed at fulfilling the principles of checks and balances and Fiscal Responsibility Law that was passed by the state legislature.
The budget estimates as presented showed the budget size of N327, 682,982,917 (three hundred and twenty seven billion, six hundred and eighty million, nine hundred and eighty-two thousand, nine hundred and seventeen naira) showing a decrease of N123, 055,244,165 (one hundred and twenty three billion, fifty five million, two hundred and forty-four thousand, one hundred and sixty-five naira) or 27.30 percent when compared to the year 2014 approved budget of N450, 738,227,082 (four hundred and fifty billion, seven hundred and thirty-eight million, two hundred and twenty-seven thousand , eighty-two hundred naira).
The amount comprises N161, 606,428,928 billion (one hundred and sixty one billion, six hundred and six million, four hundred and twenty-eight thousand, nine hundred and twenty-nine naira) or 49.32 percent for Recurrent Expenditure and N166, 076,553,989 (one hundred and sixty-six billion, seventy six million, five hundred and fifty-three thousand, nine hundred and eighty-nine naira) or 50.69 percent for Capital Expenditure.
The 2015 Appropriation Bill being the Uduaghan’s last lap of budget presentation was simply considered through first and second readings by the House, presided by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Peter Onwusanya, where he committed it to the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation headed by Hon (Barr) Daniel Mayuku, for further consideration and legislative action. In the light of the above, the state ministry, department and agency(s) of government two weeks ago appeared before the committee to defend the 2015 budget estimates as it relates to their MDAs at the Press Centre of the Assembly Complex.
The Ministry of Information was among the first MDAs to appear for the budget defense. The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah (Esq.) led the General Managers of the state-owned media houses including Mr. Bosah Iwobi (The Pointer Newspapers); Mr. Godwin Eruobaga (DBS, Asaba) and Mr. Tunde Omonode (DBS, Warri) before the committee to defend the budget estimates of the ministry. The commissioner, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. James Enai, said the ministry recorded 67 percent capital projects performance in relation to supply of equipments to the three state owed media houses in the state.
He told the committee that the radio stations in Asaba and Warri are on test completion and effort is on top gear to complete the television stations in Asaba and Warri. The commissioner, who spoke alongside the General Managers, said the complete installations of the radio and television stations are on course, saying the DBS Radio station in Asaba is effectively reaching out to neighbouring states. The Chairman of the Committee, Hon Daniel Mayuku, who spoke alongside members of the committee including Tim Owhefere, Daniel Yingi, Taleb Tebite, Pat Ajudua and Irene Imilar queried the slow pace of work by the contracting firm handling the DBS, Asaba and Warri transmission projects.
The Commissioner, Ministry of Works, Hon Funkekeme Solomon, also appeared before the committee with officials of his ministry, where he said Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration is finishing strong to providing a strong link with the incoming government aimed at leaving behind a legacy of sustainable road infrastructure in all the nooks and crannies of the state. He said the ministry recorded 75 percent performance in the previous year, saying effort is on top gear to ensure that all ongoing projects in the state are completed and commissioned by the Governor in addition to the enduring road projects commissioned across the state by His Excellency three weeks ago.
Similarly, the Commissioner for Energy, Comrade Gloria Okologbo who appeared before the Hon Mayuku led committee with the officials of the ministry, said the ministry has achieved 70 percent civil work completion at the Independent Power Project located at Ogharaki in Ethiope West Local Government Area. She said the Independent Power Project (IPP) equipments had been procured and delivered to the location and waiting for installation at the site.
More so, the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Dr. Tony Nwaka equally appeared before the committee, where he told the lawmakers that Delta State Government has approved the establishment of eighteen new secondary and five primary schools in rural and riverine communities that had no public schools in the state. He said N2.5 billion is required for the building of the new schools, saying the construction of the new eighteen secondary and five primary schools will include classrooms and administrative blocks. He stated that the approval was in furtherance of state government determination to fully implement the compulsory free basic education policy of the present administration, noting that the establishment of the schools was intended to address the issue of access to education for children in Riverine and rural communities and to reduce the out of school malaise.
The Basic and Secondary Education Commissioner told the committee that some of the emphasis of the ministry’s capital budget for 2015 include adequate provisions for ongoing projects, upgrading and expansion of three new technical colleges in the state as well as provision of furniture, ICT facilities, vehicles for school inspection and project monitoring and sustenance of the computer based test introduced in August 2014. He proposed increased funding in the 2015 budget in order for the ministry to adequately address projects in its subheads, stressing that the ministry stands for one of the cardinal agenda of government in the area of human capital development.
He said the state presently has 1,200 primary schools and 800 secondary, saying that more will be built to accommodate the increasing number of students and pupils enrollment due to the implementation of compulsory free education policy of government. The Chairman, Delta State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mr. Elijah Ologe represented by the First Member of the Board, Prince Emmanuel Angbaduba and the Chairman, Delta State Post-Primary Education Board (PPEB) represented by the First Member, Mr. Thomas Ogobri highlighted the challenges faced to include lack of teachers in rural and riverine areas, boats to monitor school in riverine areas among others. They appealed for the Boards to employ teachers from communities where the schools are located to ensure that teachers are on ground to teach as those posted to rural areas most times abscond.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon Daniel Mayuku and some members frowned at the none commissioning of completed constituency projects of the state lawmakers in the ministry. Hon Mayuku urged the commissioner to ensure close monitoring of schools in rural areas as well as provide incentives to teachers in riverine areas. The lawmaker promised to look into issues raised by the ministry in order to provide funds within limited resources. Furthermore, the Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Charles Emetulu, led officials of the ministry and its parastatals before the Hon Mayuku led committee, saying the ministry needs N.5 billion for the accreditation of courses alone in the three campuses of the Delta State University, Abraka. He told the committee that inadequate funding, infrastructure and poor staffing problem as major challenge faced by all the tertiary institutions in state.
The Vice Chancellor of the Delta State University, Prof Victor Peretomode, noted that accreditation of courses was a major challenge in the institution, stressing that the Engineering Faculty at Oleh was seriously affected as it lacked the requisite staffing standard set by the Nigeria University Commission NUC for accreditation. Professor Peretomode said the institution was looking at the possibility of getting foreigners from India, Pakistan among others as lecturers to enable the faculty get accreditation and in turn train their staff as Nigeria lacked engineering personnel’s in some fields.
He stated that the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at Anwai campus has not been able to take off due to lack of structures, adding that student admission for part time studies were dwindling due to NUC guidelines while the Consultancy Unit of the School was not being properly utilized and solicited for more funding and private sector participation for the development of education. The heads of the various polytechnics and colleges of education had similar challenges as they highlighted inadequate staffing, funding, and infrastructure as areas of urgent attention.
The Provost of Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, appealed to government to help complete a fifteen year auditorium project in the school, capital grant, water problem as well as parameter fencing to forestall security challenges and encroachment. Her counterpart at Ozoro Polytechnic noted that over 75 academic and non academic staff has left for greener pastures in the last few months without replacement, hence creating huge vacuum in the institution. The Provost College of Physical Education, Mosogar noted that there was poor student enrollment because of the name of the institution, soliciting that the name be change to a college of education, Mosogar.
The Chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Hon Daniel Mayuku on behalf of the House assured the commissioner and heads of the various institutions that the House would appropriate needed funds to enhance the growth of education in the state owed tertiary institutions. He said the committee will look into the issue of accreditation and poor internal road network among others in the various institutions, maintaining that all of them have similar challenges. He called on the commissioner to have a policy of replacement of staff that resign or retired in the institution, but warned against abuse of such arrangement.
Meanwhile, The Delta State Bursary/Scholarship Board has proposed the sum of N2.4 billion for the state government Student’s Special Assistance Scheme, SSAS, for 2015 fiscal year. The Executive Secretary of the Board, Mr. Peter Amromanoh who announced this when he appeared before the committee, said the amount include part of the 2014 commitments of the board in the SSA Scheme. He said the board in 2014 had a total commitment of 40,624 beneficiaries of the scheme, hence the board request for the sum of N986 million to successfully pay the would-be beneficiaries.
Mr. Amromanoh led to the budget defense by the Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Charles Emetulu, said in 2015 the board is proposing the dumb of N1.2 billion to psych fifty five thousand would-be beneficiaries, bringing the total amount to N2.2 billion. He said it is the will of the board to obtain releases to carter for the bursary of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Law School Students, saying that the board has over 864 outstanding beneficiaries for the past three years.
For the internal scholarship scheme, the Executive Secretary disclosed that the board was able to pay 50 percent of the beneficiaries with 400 undergraduate, 100 Masters and 40 PHD as beneficiaries for 2010 and 2011. He stated that the board has proposed the sum of N274 million to carter for the 2015 awardees and also for the existing commitment of N74 million for the 2011 beneficiaries. Amromanoh said N388 million has been proposed for 2015 fiscal year for the external scholarship scheme to adequately provide for the existing 43 beneficiaries of the scheme abroad and possibly award new beneficiaries in 2015.
The Executive Secretary presented the proposed budget estimates of the board in the areas of scholarship scheme of children of deceased civil servants, physical challenged, first Class honors to PHD, Aviation Scholarship scheme, Maritime Scholarship scheme among others. The Chairman of the Committee, Hon Daniel Mayuku and a member of the committee, Hon Tim Owhefere charged the board to be above board and ensure good spread of all the schemes.
On the state government Education Marshal Progamme, the House Committee tasked the state Coordinator of the programme and Executive Assistant to the Governor on Education Matters, Stella Braise to concentrate more attention on the riverine and rural communities where some of the children pay more attention on fishing than get back to school. The Chairman of the Committee, Hon Mayuku gave the charge when the state Coordinator of the programme appeared before the committee. Hon Mayuku said the scheme was established to get the kids off the street back to school, saying urgent attention was needed to achieve the objectives which the programme was designed for.
The lawmaker who spoke alongside other members of the committee including Dennis Omovie, Tim Owhefere, John Nani, Pat Ajudua, Daniel Yingi and Taleb Tebite, lauded the effort of the scheme for the progress made so far. “We want the EduMarshal Taskforce to go down the grassroots where they find it difficult to go to school because of the level of poverty”, Hon Mayuku tasked the Taskforce. He also lamented the paucity of teachers in the riverine communities, urging the state government to look into the issue by posting more teachers to the areas.
Accordingly, the committee also tasked the management of the Delta State Waste Management Board led by Chief Olori Magege who appeared before the committee to ensure that dirt is off the street of Delta. The committee urged the board to create the enabling environment through the proposition of enabling laws to the State House of Assembly on how individual can collect waste and dispose it to approved dump site. Chief Olori Magege drew the attention of the committee to the only dump site in Asaba located along Asaba – Benin Express Way that is causing eyesore, saying the board needs more additional funds to create more additional dump sites in the state capital.
Accordingly, the Commissioner, Delta State Directorate of Special Infrastructure, Pharm. Patrick Ferife, led officials of the Directorate before the committee to defend its proposed budget, proposing the sum of N9.4 billion for the development of more school infrastructure across the state. He said N2.1 billion was spent in 2014 for the renovation and rehabilitation of schools in the state. He said the N2.1 billion actual expenditure for the school infrastructure represents 35 percent performance as the directorate had budgeted N6 billion for renovation and rehabilitation of schools in 2014. Ferife said although the remodeling, rehabilitation and equipping of the Baptist Hospital, Eku was awarded for the sum of N2.6 billion, N1billion was provided for it in the 2014 budget, stating that of the amount, N512,000,000 million representing 51 percent was released.
He announced that N1.9 billion has been proposed in 2015 for the completion of additional works in the hospital and procurement and installation of more equipment. Ferife stated that the construction and equipping of the 100 Bed Integrated Mother and Child Care Centre, Warri has been completed and commissioned, while the MCC centre in Ekpan is still ongoing. He however told the committee that N1.6 billion was needed in the 2015 budget estimate for outstanding payments and additional works on the projects. He also highlighted strategies in 2014 towards Urban Renewal, saying that it was in that direction that state government approved the contract for the construction of thirty Bus Shelters and four City-Bus terminals at the sum of N1.2 billion.
He said the projects have been completed and N63 million was required to settle outstanding balance to the contractors. The commissioner disclosed that the Sapele/ Abigborodo/ Arowon road project is 75 percent complete, while that of Trans Warri Ode Itsekiri bridges and access road has achieved 62 percent overall completion among others.
He said poor funding of communal farms is one of the challenges that are affecting poor performance of the ministry. He solicited for increased funding to enable the ministry acquire additional tractors that would be given to farmers at subsidize rate. He also told the committee that the state government has reopened the communal farms in Isoko South Local Government Area aimed at developing Delta Beyond Oil. The Commissioners, Lands, Survey and Urban Development, Hon Misan Ukubeyinje; Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, Water Resources counterpart, Dr. Chris Oghenechovwen Directorate for Multi-Lateral Relations and Abuja Office, Mr. Joel Bisina; the Permanent Secretary, Directorate, Office of the Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG), Sir Eddy Ogidi Gbegbaje, also appeared before the budget defense.