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Rivers State falls back on savings as quarrel with Aso Rock takes heavy toll

By News Express on 14/02/2014

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Rivers State Government in Nigeria’s South-South has fallen back on savings following its worsening economic situation blamed on dwindling federal receipts. The State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, has for months been locked in a devastating quarrel with the Goodluck Jonathan administration and has lately been unable to meet its obligations due to cash crunch.

To supply his administration some financial oxygen, Governor Amaechi this morning in the state capital, Port Harcourt, signed into law the Rivers State Reserve Fund Amendment Bill No. 1, 2014 passed yesterday by the state House of Assembly. Passing the bill into law during their sitting at the Old Auditorium of the Government House, 17 pro-Amaechi lawmakers had accused the federal government of seeking to economically strangulate the state by ceding oil wells belonging to Rivers to neighbouring states, thus subjecting Rivers to monthly revenue loss of over N7 billion, thus making it impossible for the Amaechi Administration to meet its obligations to workers and contractors and to fund ongoing projects.

Speaking while signing the new law at the Government House, Amaechi explained that the amendment of the law is to enable his administration access N30 billion out of the N53 billion saved so far to enable it complete ongoing projects.

According to him, “The basic reason for the amendment is that the federal government is claiming that oil theft has affected our revenue and the allocation is dwindling seriously. I want to add that corruption is also responsible. And because have numerous projects to fund, I have been consulting with other members of cabinet that there was the need to have access to that fund.  We will continue to save when the revenue improves, but for now, I think, it is necessary that we take about N30 billion to fund our projects and also run government.

“I had a debate with the State Assembly on the amendment.  I didn’t know that the need to utilise the money will crop up in our regime and at this point, it is an emergency and we need to have access to that fund.”

Earlier, leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Chidi Lloyd, said the need to access the funds became necessary due to the daunting challenges affecting the Amaechi administration.

Hear him: “We are aware that you (Amaechi) wanted to put a stop to empty state treasury whenever there is transition of government, and critics of this administration has argued that we have not saved any money. Now, in the law, we are told that bottlenecks will make it impossible to access these funds.  But, the law has specifically provided that the funds will only be accessed in situations of emergency.  And here, members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, in one of the meetings with you did advise that we unlock this money, so that in the face of the daunting challenges that we have, we can access these funds, nobody saves money when he is hungry. We have bills to pay, we have daunting challenges. We cannot afford to save a whopping sum of N53 billion where there are bills to pay. The House of Assembly went into serious business to review the law to make it possible for your administration to access the funds, and that is exactly what we have done.”

Continuing Chidi Lloyd said: “And in addition to that Your Excellency, we have also in pursuant to the provisions of this law approved for the executive to have access to N30 billion out of the N53 billion saved so far.  It is on this note we invite you to assent your signature to this bill.”

The Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has, however, faulted the claims of the state government, accusing the lawmakers of deceiving the people.

State PDP Chairman, Mr. Felix Obuah, said in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Jerry Needam, that the sitting was another act of illegality and that the lawmakers had only mortgaged the future of the state.

According to Obuah, “This is an open admission and confirmation of our earlier position that the State was broke largely due to the unbridled spending of the N1billion monthly savings by Amaechi through the back door and which should be more than the N53 billion naira he has admitted.

“It’s most unfortunate that Gov Rotimi Amaechi is in a hurry and hell-bent to kill Rivers State, and mortgage the future of the people he swore on oath to govern with the fear of God.”

•Photo shows Governor Amaechi with Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Chidi Lloyd, during the signing of the Rivers State Reserve Fund (Amendment) Law No.1, 2014 . . . today in the Government House, Port Harcourt.

Source News Express

Posted 14/02/2014 2:06:44 PM

 

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