A Civil Society Organisation- Policy Alert working on fiscal and ecological justice in the Niger Delta region has said that it stands on her reports that the administration of governor Umo Eno obtained a loan of N1.2bn, budgeted for 90 Jeeps and 90 pickup trucks in its 2023 supplementary budget, and also budgeted for some already inaugurated projects.
Last week Governor Umo Eno in reaction to a previous report by Policy Alert indicting the state of government over the loan had dismissed the reports as frivolous, insisting that his administration had neither obtained a loan of N1.2bn nor budgeted for 90 Jeeps and 90 pickup trucks as reported by the civil society group.
But in a statement signed by the organisation’s Programme Officer, Fiscal Reforms and Anti-Corruption, Faith Paulinus, said the information it provided to the public was true and simply based on government documents.
The statement reads in part: “We wish to draw the attention of the public to the fact that they can find the information on the loan received by the State Government during third quarter of 2023 in Page 11 of the 2023 Third Quarter Budget Performance Report published by the Akwa Ibom State Budget Office on the website at https://www.aksbudgetoffice.ak.gov.ng/budget.html.
“The 90 Jeeps and 90 pickup trucks budgeted for the office of the SSG can also be found on page 197 of the Akwa Ibom State 2023 Supplementary Budget which is downloadable from the same website. We also have incontrovertible proof that the projects we flagged in the 2023 supplementary budget had either been completed, inaugurated, or fully funded by previous administrations. We await the state government’s proof to the contrary”
“It is very disturbing and potentially undermines government credibility that state functionaries are denying information published in the state government’s official documents,” the organisation said. “The least we expected from the state government was an explanation as to why these projects required supplementation after they had been completed, inaugurated, or the public had been led to believe so. Such an explanation remains a supply-side duty that the government owes to citizens in a democratic setting, as opposed to the churlish defensiveness that we have witnessed in the last few days.”
Paulinus explained that by bringing to the public the details of the controversial provisions including already inaugurated projects, the organisation was offering the government the opportunity to engage citizens and explain why those provisions were necessary, adding that the government should not miss such an opportunity for constructive engagement.
“Just a decade or so ago, discussing the budget was almost a taboo in Akwa Ibom and some other states in the Niger Delta. We are proud of our contributions over the years towards changing that narrative. We are also proud of how much our advocacy has contributed towards making Akwa Ibom State a more open, trusted and attractive destination to donors and investors.
“Today, fiscal documents are routinely available online and we are happy that the current administration has continued to publish these documents. But it would be counter-productive to publish fiscal data on the one hand while on the other hand being intolerant of citizens’ efforts to utilize such data in asking questions and demanding accountability,” he said.
Follow The Trumpet on all our social media platforms for more updates: