- Category: Odimegwu ONWUMERE
- Published on Thursday, 09 August 2012 16:37
- Written by Odimegwu Onwumere
At the Federated Correspondent Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Forum, Saturday August 4, 2012, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers reportedly said that the monthly income of the state government has plummeted from N18 billion to N13 billion. He bemoaned that this was happening not minding a swell in disbursement of
money in the state for official duties. He was afraid that the state would employ 13,000 teachers which would further increase the state's monthly take-home pay bill.
To lift the state from the financial dungeon Amaechi was insinuating that he does not want the government to be engulfed in, he said that the government would almost-immediately board a train that would go from house to house to collect taxes from residents. He characterised this move as intensive revenue drive. The fear that the government is collapsing if it does not maintain the N18 billion monthly or above, Amaechi who has often said that he was people-oriented, has recommended the residents to pay for services rendered them.
The call to pay for “services rendered the people” therefore behoves every resident of Rivers State to embark on fanatical prayers on behalf of the government because something smells that “witches” are dousing the state coffers. As an apostle for the exposition of fraudulent activities and who has always shown that he is much an economist than some of the economists, Amaechi once said in Port Harcourt, during the commissioning of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) secretariat in Port Harcourt, that the country’s oil and gas industry is characterised by high profile fraud, the same way he is indirectly saying that the residents are characterised by ‘low profile fraud’ because according to him, they do not pay for the services rendered them?
Amaechi is not just a governor or one who studied English and Literature, he is also a man who loves his people. On assumption of office in 2007, he took the pride and the shame to announce that he was saving N1B monthly for the state, and later went to the Bond market to borrow over N250B. Perhaps, as people-oriented governor, he did not want the people to suffer when he embarked on a long queue of projects and those of elephant; and when he saw that the jam-packed projects were heavy on his hand and were pulling down his hand, he announced that the government would not award further contract till the existing ones were completed.
During the commissioning of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) secretariat in Port Harcourt, Amaechi who was represented by his deputy, Mr Tele Ikuru, said he called for prayers on account of the far-above-the-ground silhouette corruption brazening out the country. Just as he said that some un-jingoistic persons in NNPC had sat down in Abuja and bloated the quantity of fuel imported into the country, how are the residents of Rivers State sure that this is not their fate on the issue of revenue-dismissal harangue? Again, as Amaechi was shocked and made a case that there was no how the country could have consumed the quantity of fuel the recorders claimed to have received on behalf of the federal government, how are the residents of Rivers State sure that somebody in the Rivers State government is telling Amaechi the truth that the state is in earnest utilizing the revenues that were harvested in the state?
Stating the obvious, it is very essential that people pay services rendered them, but only when they can see the services. In most places of the state, the roads have been reconstructed and in majority areas of Rivers State, the roads are pit-of-hell, culminating to economic sabotage of the individual or group. The future of Rivers masses should not be hinged on “intensive revenue drive” but on intensive revenue utilisation. Is this not true? At least, Amaechi had affirmed this at the commissioning of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) secretariat in Port Harcourt, when he said that things “must be done rightly by putting the round pegs in the round holes in the country’’.
As a politician of statute Amaechi is, he should restate the destination of the N1B he swaggered that he was saving for the Rivers State, because he told the people that he was saving the money but has not told the same people the way of the money. Reminding him of his comment, which if followed, Nigeria would be a better place free from fraud and hassles. Amaechi had in the Daily Independent Tuesday, July 24th, 2012, said that there is need for political leaders to prune their disloyalty to the resources in their hand and hold in their arms new measures to ensure appropriate use of existing resources for the general good of the citizenry.
The issue here is that there is no public confidence among the ruling politicians, especially due to “wasteful spending and failure of government to effectively discharge their primary responsibility”. His admonishment that the country’s mono-cultural economy, which is tied to crude oil export, extends to saying that, are there low-key kind of wastages in the government of Rivers State? What is the representation of the statement, at the 2012 Home Coming/Awards organised by Department of Public Administration and Local Government (PALG), University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), when member, House of Representatives, Dakuku Peterside, who represented Amaechi, speaking on the theme, ‘Resource optimisation in government: A Participant’s Perspective’, compelled states to emulate Rivers State model of leadership?
Amaechi said that his government is benchmarked on accountability, comprehensive education and efficient resource allocation, but here it is today asking the residents to expect soon a radical revenue attacks on them? Highlight of the decline in the revenue generation of Rivers State can be second-looked at the decline in most infrastructures in the state. During this season of the rains many businesses were clamped down as a result of un-pliable roads that dot the state. Although, Amaechi is doing his best in working with money he is borrowing here and there which he now wants the people to indirectly help his government refund?
There is no gainsaying that the pivotal roles which government at all levels in Nigeria were supposed to play were abandoned for frivolities. They are bent on nurturing their political dynasty with less commitment to upholding excellence in public service. In keeping the tradition of good governance, it is absurd for anybody to threaten the already impoverished masses with additional revenue or taxes when workers and other, who pay taxes through their salaries cannot be proud of efficient service ever rendered.
With what he is talking about today regarding the decline in proceeds flow into the state, of what moral justice would Amaechi have had, had he bought the plane, which led to some of his ‘goons’ calling yours truly names at the time. This writer commented against the controversial decision by Amaechi to acquire a new plane at the defamatory cost of $48 million. Was the money meant for the procurement of that aircraft not tax payers’ money? This is why it is the duty of every “important” Rivers resident to analyse if this by any standard was not about squandermania.
Against that backdrop, is it the same Amaechi who said that his life depended on the aircraft, but was unable to pay the N18, 000 pullet feed called minimum wage, that is crying that the residents should/must pay for service rendered them? Wonders, they say, shall never end. Let this out-smarting the residents psych by the sugarmouth Amaechi stop. His government has always embarked on promise and apologetic theorems. He would always promise things he would do – like bringing the moon down on earth – but when he sees that he was incompetent to fulfil the promise, he goes down on his knees, laced or ornamented, with a lot of godly voice.
The story of dwindling revenue generation in Rivers State was not supposed to occur, because Amaechi himself had sung his own praises that there was money in the state, hence he was not ready to “share” the money with those he said were on his apron that the money must be shared. Is this captivating in itself? It is better that Amaechi enjoys the privilege he has had as a governor and stop plunging the people into stress they never bargained. He wanted to move on air above the people, but here he is singing ‘I don die o!’ of revenue declination. So, what is happening to Rivers State with about N500 billion annual budgets? Is Rivers State developing at its own pace and cutting its coat according to its size a crime? Whatever that is happening to this government is not the people’s fault.
The regret now is that the people did not take it seriously when an opposition political party in Rivers State once advocated: “Rivers people to rise against the recklessness of the Amaechi administration and ask the governor and his cohorts to stop all processes in place for the N250 billion bonds targeted for October this year. Rivers State must not be enslaved by Governor Amaechi to various financial institutions in the country and buried in the repayment of loans and their interests long after his tenure.... The high level of financial recklessness and expenditure madness of the Amaechi administration have not only increased hardship and poverty in the state but also sent the state into debts of several billions of naira. It is on record that the Amaechi administration has received over one trillion naira as statutory allocation from the federation account and several tens of billions of naira as internally generated revenue. But the outcomes of the huge amount received so far are uncompleted road projects and over-invoiced contracts particularly in the primary and secondary school projects as well as health sector projects, with some schools costing as much as N130 million”.
If this is true, how come Amaechi is accusing the residents of not paying for the services rendered them when profligacy has become “the change we can see” in Rivers State? Just as observers said that Rivers State does not need the loans and bonds from the capital market to develop, does the state needs the taxes of the masses to develop? Observers would say – Amaechi stop leading Rivers State into debts and cut your coat according to your size – but he would not listen that the revenue accruing to the state from the center and other sources can take care of the state’s developmental needs if properly conduitted.
With the advent of “intensive revenue drive” against the resident, the question is not again whether can’t the state develop without collecting loan from the bond market, but can’t Rivers State finance its projects without hanging this “intensive” rope on the people’s neck for the equivocal economic pursuit? Is the state broke that it must tax its projects through individual revenues? Why has the government not told the people that trillions of naira debt is on the neck of the state, but here it is telling the world in insinuation that the people are revenuephopic? Amaechi should help and stop the tradition of remaining in constant touch with where money should be generated from and not which infrastructures need the money for utilisation. Amaechi can see that he has tried his best in making sure that the state is developed overnight but has shrugged in developing the state overday. It is applicable that Amaechi should take an intensive drive of investigation in the state to know the heap of anger and frustration the residents are dumping for him. The people may like him as a person, but have lost their trust on his much advertised “Change we can see in Rivers State”.
We wish Amaechi the best!
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