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Friday, December 8, 2023

Federal Allocation: Okonjo-Iweala, Govs Draw Battle Line



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Finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala yesterday challenged state governors to tell Nigerians what they have done with the huge allocations that have accrued to their states from the federation account.

The minister pegged the total allocation that has accrued to the “top 10 states” at N1.6 trillion for 2013 alone. The states, according to Okonjo-Iweala, are: Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Oyo, Kaduna and Borno.

Some governors of the “top 10 states” have taken on the finance minister. While Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi said the finance minister was blind to the development strides in the state, his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Godswill Akpabio, described her claims as “spurious and incorrect”.

The minister who spoke at the 12th convocation ceremony of Babcock University in Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, said state governors have no reason not to develop their states, given the huge amounts they have collected from the federation account.

Okonjo-Iweala, who was conferred with a Doctor of Science in Global Economic Development, Honoris Causa, by the university authority, said it was high time Nigerians held their governors accountable over moneys collected on their behalf to accelerate development of the country.

She said: “Clearly, the federal government cannot do it alone; we need the private sector to work with us and we have reached out very much to the private sector in transforming Nigeria.

“But in addition to that, we should also ask ourselves: what is the role of the state and local governments in supporting our transformation?”

She said the nation’s constitution domiciles the provision of some basic public services on the concurrent list, making it a joint responsibility of the three arms of government, lamenting that people seldom ask what the state governments are doing to develop the country.

“A lot of attention is turned on the federal government. So we also need to ask, what do our states and local governments do with the resources they get?” She stated. “In terms of these resources I can confidently say, based on available data, that gone are those days when the states were not getting money; that is not the case.

“We need to ask more questions: poverty eradication, building of infrastructure is not for federal government alone.

“In 2013 the top 10 allocations were going to the following states — Akwa Ibom N260 billion, $ 1.7 equivalent. Rivers State was the next, N220 billion or $1.5 billion; Delta State, N209 billion or $1.3 billion; Bayelsa, N173 billion; Lagos, N168 billion; Kano, N14O billion; Katsina, N103 billion; Oyo, N100bn; Kaduna, N97 billion; Borno was number 10 — N94 billion. These were the allocations all these states got last year. The question is: what did they do with the money?”

The minister said it would be so unfair for some state governors to be performing with these funds while others keep giving excuses for under-development in their states.

In his reaction, the chief of staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Chief Tony Okocha, said apart from the fact that the federal government is owing the Rivers State government over N2 billion spent to execute federal government projects in the state, the Amaechi-led administration was using the allocation it was receiving to fix federal roads in the state.

On her part, the commissioner for information and communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, said Okonjo-Iweala had been to the state and even commended Amaechi for his good works. Semenitari said: “She has been in Rivers State several times. She has also commended Governor Amaechi’s work. Maybe she should tell Nigerians what she saw that made her say he had done well.”

But the chief press secretary (CPS) to the Rivers State governor, Mr David Oyofor, said if the minister could not see what was on ground, then she was blind: “It’s most unfortunate if she said that. Anyone that can’t see what Governor Amaechi has done, is doing in Rivers State and how he has transformed the state for good is certainly blinder than a bat. But, I would rather wait to see her full comments before releasing any statement.”

The reaction of Governor Akpabio was no less a knock for the minister.

Akpabio, who spoke through his commissioner for information, Aniete Ekong, described the minister’s blanket claim of non-performance as spurious.

“Ordinarily, we should not make any comment on this. But the truth is that such claims are better made with specifics and data stratification. You don’t just present data in that manner; it is a spurious and false claim on the part of anybody to say that,” he said.

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