Focus on fiscal federalism as Akwa Ibom State complains of paltry capital votes
As the federating units in the country continue to grapple with the paucity of funds to take care of their recurrent and capital expenditures, the need to tackle the controversial issue of fiscal federalism is once again being brought to the fore.Stakeholders in Akwa Ibom State are questioning the rationale behind the allocation of a “paltry” N1.92 billion capital votes to the state from the 2016 Federal Government budget despite being one of the biggest contributors to the federal purse.
Described as the least from the federal capital votes for all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the total budget outlay of N6.06 trillion, the budget for federal projects in Akwa-Ibom has raised a lot of dust in the state.
Reacting to what they described as “Abuja’s gross insensitivity to Akwa-Ibom”, elders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the aegis of the Akwa Ibom Vanguard wondered why a state that is laying the golden eggs should be so treated with levity in the allocation for capital projects.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Senator Anietie Okon argued that the state as the highest producer of crude oil in the country should have been treated with dignity. He questioned the yardstick that was used in arriving at such a paltry sum from the federal budget.
Giving further breakdown of the six geo-political zones in the country and the federal capital territory as seen in the 2016 approved budget, Senator Okon described it as a staggering contrast to the sum of N1.92 allocated to the state.
He said, “Compared to the N209 billion allotted to the FCT for the execution of 662 capital projects, it is painful that only a meager sum of N1.92 was allocated to Akwa Ibom. Adamawa is allocated N5.98 billion; Borno and Gombe got N5.46 billion and N9.70 billion respectively while Nasarawa and Niger were allocated N12.59 billion and N14.75 billion.
“In fact, what is more surprising and confusing to most people of the state is the fact that out of the 36 states allocation, it is only Akwa Ibom that has the least of N1.92 billion, a fact that is calling for a lot of explanations on the rationale that was used in arriving at this sum.”
To further drive home their call for re-examination of the allocation, Senator Okon presented zone-by-zone analysis of the allocation saying such would help Nigerians to give a fair judgment on the issue.
According to him, “In the North Central zone, FCT got N209 billion, Kwara State; N14.10 billion, Nasarawa State; N12.99 billion, Benue State; N7.26 billion, Plateau State; N6.63 billion and Niger State; N14.75 billion.
“In the North West zone, Katsina State got N9.52 billion, Kano State; N32.14 billion, Jigawa State; N3.56 billion, Kebbi State; N3.15 billion, Sokoto State N2.97 billion, Zamfara State; N2.93 billion and Kaduna State; N19.32 billion.
“In the North East zone, Adamawa State got N5.98 billion, Borno State; N5.46 billion, Gombe State; N9.70 billion, Taraba State; N9.32 billion, Bauchi State; N9.23 billion and Yobe State; N6.99 billion.
“From the South West zone Lagos State got N16.14 billion, Oyo State; N12.28 billion, Osun State; N6.52billion, Ogun state N7.95billion, Ondo state N3.77 billion and Ekiti State; N2.32 billion.
“In the South East zone Abia State got N6.93 billion, Anambra State; N3.02 billion, Enugu State; N10.15 billion, Ebonyi State; N4.63 billion and Imo State; N3.49 billion.
While in the South-South zone, Akwa Ibom State got N1.92 billion, Cross River; N10.75 billion, Delta State; N7.55 billion, Edo State N4.58 billion, Bayelsa State; N3.27 billion, Rivers State; N7.29 billion.”
The group stated further, “Indeed, it is difficult to understand why states with no contribution to the federation account would be allocated greater sums of money for capital projects than Akwa Ibom state and other oil-producing states that contribute heavily to the revenue account.”
And because of dwindling revenue that had become the lots of the states since the inception of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government at the centre, the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, has in the interim, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to refund the N142 billion debt it owed the state for the construction and rehabilitation of some federal roads in the state in the past eight years.
The governor said some of the road projects the money was used to accomplish include the dualisation of Ekim Itam-Itam Junction, Idoro-Ikot Oku Ikono road, Uyo-Ikot Ekpene-Aba road and Uyo-Oron road, stating, “if such huge amount is refunded to our state, it would help in making us achieve most of our obligations to the people.”
The governor’s outcry also came on the heels of speculations that the Federal Government may abolish derivation funds to oil-producing states as he disclosed that the funds have not been paid to the state in the past two months.
However the governor’s call has sent a signal to an average Akwa-Ibom person that all is not well with the state finances causing many political observers, analysts, opinion leaders and stakeholders across political lines, to comment on the issue with some drawing conclusion that the state was only suffering from political marginalization.
Most of those who spoke with The Guardian on this development called on the Federal Government to take a second look at the allocation saying the development was a clear indication of marginalization.
Going down memory lane, many of the contributors reasoned that Lagos State never experienced this kind of marginalization in the sixteen years of its being in the opposition to the Federal Government.
They said there is no justification whatsoever for such an allocation to Akwa Ibom when states that don’t have anything to contribute to the realization of the projections in the 2016 budget are allocated huge sums for capital projects.
One of them who wanted to remain anonymous said, “That is why our politics is still regarded as nascent. We still have a long way to go, because in some developed democracies, matters like this are considered beyond political lines for the sake of justice, equity and peace.”
However, the opposition APC in the state has called on the ruling party not to complain arguing that, “for the sixteen years of PDP in the country, the state as at today cannot point out of one significant projects constructed by the PDP Federal Government during the period.”
They however sympathized with the governor, stressing that what is happening is clear indication of poor representation at the National Assembly by the state’s representatives both at the Senate and the House of Representatives; and even political appointees from the state.
Others viewed the development as confirmation of what Mr. President promised that he would share the country’s wealth according to the votes he got from states across the country.
Majority of respondents who called on the governor to look inward for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to boost resources however warned that the alleged planned abolition of the derivation funds to oil-producing states should be not be implemented, as it would create more problems than solutions for the concerned states.