GOV. AYADE’S N1.3T 2018 BUDGET – HOW REALISTIC IS IT? by Zik Gbemre

In what can best be described as an overambitious, unrealistic and a complete joke of Budget presentation, the people of Cross-River and Nigerians were left confused and surprised when Governor Ben Ayade proposed a budget estimate of N1.306 trillion before the Cross-River State House of Assembly for the 2018 fiscal year. A lot of questions raced through our minds when we read the breakdown of the said budget and we could not help but wonder if he was simply dreaming and needed to be woken-up to face the realities before him? Where was he going to get the money to fund the said artificial budget? Or is Governor Ayade trying to make history by being the first governor in the country to present a trillion Naira budget proposal? Whatever the case may be, we believe the Cross-River State Governor, including all the other Governors across the country, should be ‘real’ and honest in their budget presentation and try to outwit each other with unrealistic budget benchmarks that would only end up creating more debt problems for their States. We aware that before now, Lagos State held the record with its 2017 N812 billion budget and is expected to hit the one trillion mark this year. However, Lagos State is yet to present its 2018 budget. And based from its antecedents, we believe Lagos State has matured enough and had proven itself to implement such ‘ambitious’ budgets. But that of Cross River State is simply unrealistic when we consider the fact that its 2018 budget of N1.3trillion is far higher than its 2017 budget of N301billion. How can a responsible and supposed vision-driven State Governor jump from N301billion to N1.3trillion within a year? That is a trillion Naira leap. We are aware that the Ayade move is reminiscent of a similar move made by elder statesman, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, when as Governor of Lagos State in the Second Republic, he presented a budget of N1 billion for Lagos State, the first time a State government was hitting N1 billion budget, but even at that, Lagos had every economic, social, commercial and population trait to pull this off. Unlike the situation in Cross River State.

Perhaps, we need to take a glance of the said proposed budget to understand what we are saying here. Christened “Budget of Kinetic Crystallization,” Governor Ayade, in his defense of the said unrealistic budget, said the budget is to crystalize all the efforts and vision that have been put into developing the State since he assumed office in 2015 and to move it from a civil service economy to an entrepreneurial economy. The Governor said 70 per cent of the budget will be for Capital Expenditure while 30 per cent will be for Recurrent Expenditure. He said the dredging of the sea for the construction of the State’s Deep Sea Port would gulp N82 billion while the super highway, which will serve as an evacuation corridor for the Deep Sea Port will be split into 50 kilometres stretches to make it convenient for investors to construct selected units on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT), basis. He announced that a N6 billion Social welfare scheme has been introduced to meet the needs of the people, particularly the aged who cannot work or earn any income. He said security will cost the state N15 billion in 2018, power supply N250 billion, cottage industry N12 billion, uniforms for primary school children N3 billion and N2.8 billion to support the Federal Government’s school feeding programme in the state. Then comes the explanation of where the money is expected to come from. Governor Ayade reportedly said, though the money is not readily available, it is expected that with the approval and commencement of signature projects, “foreign investors” are expected to bring in funds that will be used to fund the budget. When a Governor starts ‘depending and hoping’ on foreign investors to fund his State’s budget, then it clearly shows that something is wrong somewhere. We mean, who does that? How can one depend and rely on foreign investors to fund one’s budget? What happens when the foreign investors decide to change their mind tomorrow? A budget proposal is an estimate based on realistic income and expenditure of an entity, organization or an individual. It is simply a projection or a goal. In other words, it should be smart. But Ayade’s “Kinetic Crystallization” budget is neither specific nor ‘measurable’. It falls short in those. What exactly is the source of revenue that can fund 1.3trillion Naira projects? None, we can imagine. And we are not the only ones thinking in this light. A public affairs analyst, Emeka Udeagu, noted that “the Federal allocation, which is the highest revenue source for the State, is nowhere near 70 billion naira. It is not achievable since there is no known revenue source neither is it realistic. Ayade naively posited that the budget would crystalize every efforts and vision that have been put into developing the state since he assumed office in 2015, without specific mention of what those efforts represent. Forgetting that budget is a short term annual plan, Ayade seeks to move Cross River state from a civil service economy to an entrepreneurial economy in just one year. “Trying to play to the gallery, the Governor changed the narrative of larger Recurrent Expenditure by announcing 70 % Capital Expenditure and 30 % Recurrent Expenditure without recourse to the implication of the value of the percentages. 30% of 1.306 trillion is about 390 billion, which is more than 3 years budget of Cross River State in the past. The question is: where is he going to generate the Recurrent Expenses for such humongous figure? That 5% of 1.3 trillion will take care of Cross River State Recurrent bill is simple mathematics. He blew the whole thing when he announced that the money is not readily available. No one expected that it is available but his naivety became legendary when he started talking about foreign direct investment as a revenue component in his budget proposal. This is a complete mess such that demeans his professorial status. Going to his pseudo specifics, one can only but have a good laugh. Dredging of the sea for the construction of the State’s Deep Sea Port to cost N82 billion. Is sea port not on the exclusive list? Have we restructured Nigeria? I guess I need to be tutored here. ‘The super highway, which will serve as an evacuation corridor for the Deep Sea Port will be split into 50 kilometres stretches to make it convenient for investors to construct selected units on a Build, Operate and Transfer, (BOT), basis’. No figure.” “He announced that a N6 billion Social welfare scheme has been introduced to meet the needs of the people, particularly the aged who cannot work or earn any income. This is very pedestrian. No analysis of those that would benefit from this. Six billion out of 390 billion is very small for social welfare. Security will cost the state N15 billion in 2018. What security? Power supply N250 billion, cottage industry N12 billion is another nonsensical projection. He will be investing 250 billion on power and creating cottage industries with only 12 billion. The last time I checked power was still in the exclusive list and that humongous investment is bigger than federal government allocation to power in 2018. Uniforms for primary school children at N3 billion and N2.8 billion to support the Federal Government’s school feeding programme in the state. This proposal is laughable to say the least. It is a shell without substance. There is absolutely nothing to cheer other than that it should feature in AY live as a comedy stunt. Ayade should withdraw that document immediately. He should tell a short story about how he presented a ten years development plan instead of an annual budget proposal.” The bottom line is, how would a responsible State Governor present such an unrealistic budget proposal for his State for 2018? What are his real intentions? What is he hoping to achieve at the end of the day? If, as at the moment of writing this, Governor Ayade is reported to be unable to pay N600m as allowances to the State legislator, which was the reason why, for the second time within three weeks, presentation of the Cross River State’s 2018 budget by the Governor had failed. And it has been alleged that he paid N10million each to the said State legislators, for the onward approval of the said unrealistic budget. Whether foreign investment or not, the question is, how would the supposed foreign investors be paid back or recover their investments? As far as we, and many Nigerians can tell, Governor Ayade is simply putting his State on the path of more serious debts. If the said 2018n budget of Cross River State is obviously ‘unreal’, it simply means the Governor is joking with the lives and wellbeing of his people. How would our Nigerian youths not troop to Europe and America through Libya and end up as slaves, when we have such political leaders in government? We are writing this piece to bring to the attention of the Nigerian public and also, for other State Governors to be weary of the kind of budgets they sit down to conjure for its people for 2018. It is high time our political leaders should become more committed, accountable and transparent in the management of State wealth for the development of all and sundry.

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