Cross River State to use N4.5b council funds for airport project
In spite of restrictions by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Cross River State Government has ordered the release of N4.5b from council funds to purchase aircraft and build the Obudu International Passenger and Cargo Airport.
The Federal Government had last year stopped governors from tempering with council funds through the NFIU, insisting that such funds should be approved and managed by council chairmen and councilors.
But the state government has not conducted council elections to elect chairmen and councilors and had recently prevailed on the State House of Assembly to approve deduction of N900m from the 18 councils to fight COVID-19, but sources said NFIU stopped the disbursement.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Betta Edu, had at a media briefing on Wednesday confirmed that the state has not received the N900m as approved by the Assembly and Governor Benedict Ayade, but declined to give reasons why the COVID-19 Committee which she chairs has not received such funds.
In a new development the Ministry of Local Government Affairs had written to Manager First Bank directing the bank to transfer the funds for payment of capital projects”.
The letter with reference No: MLGA/e-P090/2020 and signed by Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Stella Odey, Permanent Secretary, James Odok, directors of accounts, Ironbar Bassey and Mrs. Paulina Odey, asked the bank to “transfer N4.5b from the Cross River State Local Government Salary Account to the local governments’ capital project accounts indicated in the schedule.”
The schedule means that each of the councils account should be credited with N250m amounting to N4.5b for the Cally Airline and Airport project in Obudu.
Earlier all the HOLGAS had in a letter to Governor Ayade dated April 10, 2020 and signed by Head of Akamkpa Council, Augustine E. Ngaji and Calabar Municipality, Christian Elemi on behalf of 16 other councils, applied for funds for the purchase of commercial aircraft and construction of Obudu International Passenger and Cargo Airport.
“The state government’s bid to float Cally Air cannot be overemphasized. If established, the airline will boast tourism and liberate Cross River people and other Nigerians in Calabar and its environs from the exploitation of other airlines at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar.
“More so, the state and councils internally generated revenue (IGR) profile will improve,” the council bosses said. However, critics argued that government’s demand to use council funds for the airport project was fraudulent, as the state already has two airports in Calabar and Obudu.