ONE key observation that has caught our attention which no one is talking about is the failure of Governor Douye Diri not to have given Bayelsans the benefit to know the financial state of affairs of the state.
The amount of money that he met in the coffers of the State ought to have been made public in order for us to hold the out going Dickson administration accountable because in the first instance there was a law enacted by the state House of Assembly for compulsory savings and he equally instituted what was then called Transparency briefings that was held monthly.
This was to make public the monthly income and expenditures of the finances of the state. This was laudable and we commended this though only if it was altruistic.
Now on every transparency briefings Bayelsans were made to understand that certain amount of money are kept in an account for any eventuality as the case may be, and based on that we believed that for eight years that the Dickson administration served Bayelsans the state would by now have funds kept somewhere for the raining day, the raining day which we believe has come already with the Coronavirus Pandemic raviaging the world economy coupled with the oil war between Russia and the Saudis which has pummeled oil prices far below budget estimates that will drastically affect the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee monthly disbursement to states and local governments it becomes imperative for the government to be jubilating.
It would have been apt for the sake of transparency and accountability for GOV Douye Diri to have addressed Bayelsans and tell them the amount of money saved by the administration of Gov Dickson and how he Gov Diri would intend to use the funds to serve the people of Bayelsa.
To our surprise nothing of such has been done and we also believe nothing of such is been contemplated in the near future. The Gov for failing to highlight the revenue profile of the state is counter productive and anathema to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
One thing that has given away the tardiness of the management of the so called savings if at all there was any in the first place is the Governors rush to obtain the infamous car loan of about Three Billion Naira within fourteen days of his inauguration as the Governor.
Even the loan now looks more of a not well thought out priority, when it was glaring that disbursable income from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) is been impacted by the steep slide of oil price as a fallout of disagreements between Russia and other OPEC members and the coronavirus pandemic.
If there was any savings the government would have used from such funds to do their purchase so simply there is no money anywhere as savings and the government must explain whenever they receive our request for the information for the people of the State to know.
So far the state received for October 2019, November 2019, December 2019, January 2020 and February 2020, N 12, 391, 704, 880,249.09, 12,237, 553,749,.68, 10,729,801,485.85, 12,665,730,974.73 and 10, 734Billion Naira respectively. If we may ask what happened to the allocations for the month of November 2019 and December 2019 before he was sworn in February 14th, 2020.
Yet a loan of about Three Billion was hurriedly collected without letting Bayelsans know the financial state of affairs in the state which negates the principle of Transparency and accountability.
The revenue stream to the state are basically transfers from FAAC and IGR and with oil price crashing FAAC will shrink considerably going forward until oil prices rebound. IGR could be significantly impacted as well going by the global business slowdown.
Therefore you cannot take a loan to fund comfort and pleasure and this is what the Governor has done which can best be described as kitchen sink economy. The Governor must know that loans must be taken to fund projects that will generate revenue or to fund infrastructural projects that will open up the state for business to thrive. The Governors comfort and that of his cabinet must wait and the people’s welfare must come first.
Now the impending conflagration on the national economy will certainly affect Bayelsa state like every other. Bayelsa cannot be immune . The impact on the state would be severe basically due to the over reliance from the Federal allocation alone and partly the Internally generated revenue. The state lacks Industrial base and a weak IGR that is corruptly managed has set in motion for the state to be in for a rough ride.
This is no time for complacency the Governor must be proactive and hit the ground running, he cannot throw his hands up in the air and say what can we do.
This is the time for fresh thinking, new approach to governance, think out of the box for measures to be fashioned out to mitigate the cash crunch that has already started. Agreed a possible bailout may come once again from the Federal Government but this will not be forever.
Agreed this will be a difficult time going forward for the Governor, but he needs to be very prudent with the little that will come and also seek ways to prioritize capital projects if at all we must embark on any new projects for now unless to follow through with on ongoing critical capital projects.
Two of such projects that can get attention from the government should be the Igbogene bypass to AIT road and the Onopa bypass bridge and road.
The proposed flyover project could better be cancelled for now and if funds have been committed such funds must be withdrawn immediately and channeled to other critical areas of need. Workers salaries and pensioners and payment of gratuities would not be a bad idea for the Government to look at. If a loan is been contemplated as the source of funding for the flyover project such idea should be discountenanced immediately.
Our suggestions would be the need for the budget to be reworked to reflect the reality of the times, and a Economic response Committee be set up to fashion out ways and means to restructure areas of recurrent cost, and anticipated steep decline in revenue as stated earlier.
Other areas that need attention are, stop funding for capital projects, cut personnel cost and reduce overhead, enhanced payroll integrity, Local Government should be encouraged to adopt similar cost cutting measures, expand revenue base such as Ground rent, Development levy to be paid by every adult, robust revenue collection.
Also prioritize critical capital projects such as health, and uphold social safeguards, food production. If all of these are well articulated the government will be able to meet it’s monthly obligations to the workers.
Joseph Ambakederimo, CONVENER, SOUTH SOUTH REAWAKENING GROUP.