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Group condemns secrecy on Akwa Ibom 2017 Supplementary Budget

Civil society groups in Akwa Ibom State have urged has condemned the secrecy surrounding the 2017 Supplementary Budget recently passed into law by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
However, the groups, urged that the government  reallocate its 2017 budgetary funds to programmes and projects that would create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the state.

The groups, made their displeasure known in a statement signed by Mr. Harry Udoh, Chairman of the state’s civil society umbrella group, Akwa Ibom State Guild of Community Development Advocates (AKGCODA), said observes with dismay the unfolding events surrounding the 2017 supplementary budget.

The statement reads, “We  disappointed at the way and manner the supplementary budget was surreptitiously presented by the state executive and hurriedly passed by the State House of Assembly.
“The forum wonders why the state government seems surprised at the spate of speculations and hearsay reports that the request and passage of the supplementary budget has generated within the state, when they themselves created room for such speculation by refusing make the supplementary budget publicly available and not giving citizens the opportunity to participate in the process.
“This posturing by government runs contrary to the avowed commitment of the government to uphold the tenets of transparency and accountability as expressed by
Gov Udom Emmanuel, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, in his 2016 and 2017 budget speeches and on February 7, 2017 during an Anti-Corruption summit held at the Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort. At paragraph 10 of his speech on that occasion, he had said “I am confident that this summit will rekindle in all the participants, the zeal to imbibe openness and accountability in our dealings as we strive to provide sustainable development for our people.
“We should ensure strict compliance to due process in the business of government and drastically reduce, if not completely eliminate, waste in public spending. Fraudulent activities, indolence, bribery, nepotism, lack of transparency and all such manifestations of corruption will not be tolerated in the public service of Akwa Ibom State and this, I am happy to report has been internalized by our people”.
“From snippets of the supplementary budget we have been privileged to scout, the humongous amounts allocated to certain projects gives serious cause for concern. For instance, the revised budget of N1.2b for the construction of government lodge/office in Lagos is just for 2 items – construction of foundation and basement, and Mobilisation – whatever that means.
“The forum also notes, sadly, that a whopping N10b has been approved for “Site investigation, site preparation, Design/Drawing and Piling/Foundation for the construction of high rise office building at the site of the former Uyo main market”. High Rise office building? How many Storeys high? Another worrisome allocation in the supplementary budget is the N10b for the Coconut Plantation and oil refinery, a project that has already gulped over N7b already. For a state battling with over 38% youth unemployment rate with the incidence of poverty bordering around 47%, it would be advisable to make more prudent use of the state’s resources.
“We are also surprised at the unceremonious removal of the 2017 budget earlier published on-line for public benefit from the internet. The budget is the most important content in the state government’s website. We therefore deem it highly suspect that at a time like this when public interest in this document is at an all-time high, the government would choose to restrict citizens assess.
In the light of the above, we call on the Akwa Ibom State government to employ the process of virement and other budget management tools to reallocate funds from some of the controversial items to more pressing needs of the Akwa Ibom People including programmes and projects that would create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the state.
“Publish the 2017 approved budget and the recently passed 2017 supplementary budget on the state government website in a format that is easily accessible to citizens.
“Organize outreach events to bridge the gap in citizens’ engagement on fiscal governance. These fora could also be used to garner citizens’ input into the 2018 budget to avoid a repeat of the current scenario and domesticate the Public Procurement Act
“We therefore implore government to take citizens engagements in good fate as this goes to further deepen our democracy.”

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