2 June 2014

Nigeria: Federal Allocation - Okonjo-Iweala, Govs Draw Battle Line

Finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala yesterday challenged state governors to tell Nigerians what they have done with the huge allocations that have accrued to their states from the federation account.

The minister pegged the total allocation that has accrued to the "top 10 states" at N1.6 trillion for 2013 alone. The states, according to Okonjo-Iweala, are: Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Oyo, Kaduna and Borno.

Some governors of the "top 10 states" have taken on the finance minister. While Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi said the finance minister was blind to the development strides in the state, his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Godswill Akpabio, described her claims as "spurious and incorrect".

The minister who spoke at the 12th convocation ceremony of Babcock University in Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, said state governors have no reason not to develop their states, given the huge amounts they have collected from the federation account.

Okonjo-Iweala, who was conferred with a Doctor of Science in Global Economic Development, Honoris Causa, by the university authority, said it was high time Nigerians held their governors accountable over moneys collected on their behalf to accelerate development of the country.

She said: "Clearly, the federal government cannot do it alone; we need the private sector to work with us and we have reached out very much to the private sector in transforming Nigeria.

"But in addition to that, we should also ask ourselves: what is the role of the state and local governments in supporting our transformation?"

She said the nation's constitution domiciles the provision of some basic public services on the concurrent list, making it a joint responsibility of the three arms of government, lamenting that people seldom ask what the state governments are doing to develop the country.

"A lot of attention is turned on the federal government. So we also need to ask, what do our states and local governments do with the resources they get?" She stated. "In terms of these resources I can confidently say, based on available data, that gone are those days when the states were not getting money; that is not the case.

"We need to ask more questions: poverty eradication, building of infrastructure is not for federal government alone.

"In 2013 the top 10 allocations were going to the following states -- Akwa Ibom N260 billion, $ 1.7 equivalent. Rivers State was the next, N220 billion or $1.5 billion; Delta State, N209 billion or $1.3 billion; Bayelsa, N173 billion; Lagos, N168 billion; Kano, N14O billion; Katsina, N103 billion; Oyo, N100bn; Kaduna, N97 billion; Borno was number 10 -- N94 billion. These were the allocations all these states got last year. The question is: what did they do with the money?"

The minister said it would be so unfair for some state governors to be performing with these funds while others keep giving excuses for under-development in their states.

In his reaction, the chief of staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Chief Tony Okocha, said apart from the fact that the federal government is owing the Rivers State government over N2 billion spent to execute federal government projects in the state, the Amaechi-led administration was using the allocation it was receiving to fix federal roads in the state.

On her part, the commissioner for information and communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, said Okonjo-Iweala had been to the state and even commended Amaechi for his good works. Semenitari said: "She has been in Rivers State several times. She has also commended Governor Amaechi's work. Maybe she should tell Nigerians what she saw that made her say he had done well."

But the chief press secretary (CPS) to the Rivers State governor, Mr David Oyofor, said if the minister could not see what was on ground, then she was blind: "It's most unfortunate if she said that. Anyone that can't see what Governor Amaechi has done, is doing in Rivers State and how he has transformed the state for good is certainly blinder than a bat. But, I would rather wait to see her full comments before releasing any statement."

The reaction of Governor Akpabio was no less a knock for the minister.

Akpabio, who spoke through his commissioner for information, Aniete Ekong, described the minister's blanket claim of non-performance as spurious.

"Ordinarily, we should not make any comment on this. But the truth is that such claims are better made with specifics and data stratification. You don't just present data in that manner; it is a spurious and false claim on the part of anybody to say that," he said.

Travelling To Gwoza Takes More Than Courage - Governor Shettima

Borno State governor Kashim Shettima has described his recent trip to Gwoza for the burial of the late Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Shehu Idrisa Timta, who was killed by Boko Haram gunmen on Friday, as most petrifying. He said travelling through such a perilous route where insurgents attack at will on a daily basis demands more that courage.

"If I say I was not petrified travelling through that 135km of road to Gwoza, I would be lying because that road had been designated a no-go area for about two months now due to the incessant attacks and killings that occur there," said Shettima. "But leadership requires courage and sacrifice. Courage, I believe, is not only about the absence of fear but the belief that there is something greater than that fear."

For Governor Shettima, it was a duty to attend the burial of the first-class monarch who was murdered in the most gruesome manner on Friday. He was accompanied on the trip by about 150 soldiers and police special squads and they travelled through the most dangerous route in the state to get to Gwoza.

Even family members of the deceased monarch who had either relocated to Maiduguri or were living there could not travel on their own to pay their last respects to their murdered monarch. They had to wait at the outskirts of Maiduguri until the governor's convoy came to lead the way before they too trailed behind.

LEADERSHIP reporter who was among the few journalists allowed to be on the trip to Gwoza counted more than 16 towns, villages and hamlets that were completely deserted along the 135km trip to Gwoza. Most of the communities had suffered continuous attacks until the villagers had to flee to other towns and villages.

Shettima said: "The sight of those deserted villages was very pathetic; it was devastating. But we believe no matter how long the night tarries, it must give way to the light of the dawn. Yes, stormy the weather might be, but it won't rain for ever; in the no distant future, we will have an enduring peace in Borno. My consolation lies in the fact that we have over 1,000 years of recorded history. We strongly believe that from the ashes of this destruction, Borno shall rise again."

LEADERSHIP can authoritatively report that despite the choking presence of the military and the police, the trip to Gwoza could not have been possible had the Civilian-JTF not taken the lead by moving ahead of the convoy in a bid to "clear the road" as they said.

The journey even became more terrifying when at some point after Bama town one of the armoured personnel carriers of the military escort team had to break down, and then it had to be towed by the second APC on the trip.

The journey that was supposed to take about one hour ended up taking three hours as the soldiers had to periodically stop even in a flashpoint area to do what they described as procedural checkings during such VIP trip.

APC condemns Emir's killing, says it confirms Boko Haram as enemy of Nigeria

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has condemned the killing of the Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Timta, by suspected Boko Haram gunmen, saying it confirms the terror group as the enemy of the whole of Nigeria rather than a group set up by some imaginary opposition political party or elites to bring down the Jonathan administration.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its interim national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the atrocious killing of the Emir is the clearest indication yet that the Jonathan administration has misdiagnosed the Boko Haram menace from the onset. It recalled that when the indiscriminate activities of Boko Haram are placed side by side with other facts -- that the group started in 2002 when Obasanjo was president and flared in 2009 when Yar'Adua was president -- one would realize how deceitful and diversionary it is for anyone to portray it as an attempt to make Nigeria ungovernable under Jonathan.

"Boko Haram is not a northern response to a southern presidency, as some would have us believe. Boko Haram is an enemy of Nigeria, whether Christians or Muslims, southerners or northerners, the lowly or the elite, the young or the old, the poor and the rich. They must be seen for what they are: fringe elements who happen to have linked up with other terror groups around the world to acquire training and weapons which they are now using to terrorize a whole nation.

"That emirs, who are Muslims and symbols of power in the north, can be so dastardly attacked, with deadly consequences, should convince those who would rather engage in blame game than fight the bandits that what the country faces is neither a strictly religious nor elite war, and make them change their jaundiced mindset.

"If indeed Boko Haram was sponsored by the so-called northern elites against Jonathan, how come they are not even sparing the same elites? If indeed Boko Haram is sponsored by the north against Jonathan, why are their deadly attacks concentrated in the north, where they have killed thousands and destroyed facilities and infrastructure worth billions?

"Let us all see Boko Haram for what it is, and come together as a people to fight the insurgents, rather than engage in denial, blame game and finger pointing that can only weaken our resolve as a nation to tackle this fringe group squarely," APC said.

The party said the insurgency has festered because the government started off by not seeing it for what it is, thus losing valuable time to combat it, adding that when it started dawning on the government that the nation faces a serious problem, it responded by seeking to make political gains out of it.

"Those who saw Boko Haram, erroneously, as a political trump card have now suffered a boomerang, and today the Jonathan administration is seen globally as incompetent, clueless and rudderless largely because of its inept handling of the Boko Haram insurgency, especially the unfortunate abduction of innocent schoolgirls which has lingered. This is what you get when you play politics with a serious national problem," it said.

APC restated its demand for a national security conference, as different from a gathering of all political parties, to help forge a common front against Boko Haram.

"We also reiterate our offer to join hands with the government in a non-partisan effort to battle the menace of Boko Haram, even though the government has yet to reach out to us since we made that offer," the party said.

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