6th June, 2011
The Cross River State Government is to recover the sum of N100 million paid to Rivers State in 2009 for the acquisition of an airplane.
This is sequel to the poor financial position of the state and the low air traffic between Calabar, the state capital and the Obudu Ranch Resort which the aircraft was meant to service.
The Accountant General of the state, Mr Henry Ojogwu made this known on Monday while addressing press men during the weekly press briefing by ministries and parastatals at the Ernest Etim Bassey Press Centre in Calabar.
The Accountant General said the money was paid to Rivers State as an advance payment for the acquisition of the aircraft but the low traffic at the Obudu Ranch made the government to have a change of mind.
â€œWe have written to the Rivers State Government asking for the refund of the sum of N100 because we no longer need the airplane as the traffic between Calabar and the Ranch is low for now, which is against our initial projection,â€ Ojogwu said.
Mr Efenji Odey, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance who stood in for the Commissioner in charge of the Ministry, said the Cross River State Government would not be able to pay the N18,000 minimum wage until there is a review of the revenue sharing formula between the states and the Federal Government .
â€œIt is not only Cross River that for now cannot pay the new minimum wage, but several other states. I said it during the State Council of Finance in March that unless there is a reversal of the revenue sharing formula in favour of the states, we may not be able to pay the new minimum wage,â€ Efenji said.
According to him, the Cross River State financial position is still very gloomy with the slashing of the monthly revenue accruing to the state owing to the taking away of the 96 oil wells in 2009.
â€œIn 2009, we were borrowing to pay salaries but with the intervention of the President to whom you heard Governor Imoke express appreciation during his campaign visit, we can now pay salaries, run government but with barely nothing left for capital projects,â€ Efenji said.
The state, he said, is barely able to keep its head above financial waters that is why the government is sourcing for funds through grants, counterpart funds and other sources of revenue to execute capital projects.
â€œThe government is now able to pay salaries without borrowing, but this is democratic government and governance is not only about paying salaries as other governments too pay salaries. Tthe government has to execute projects that is why we are seeking for other sources of funds,â€ he said
Mr Kelly Eyamba, the Special Adviser to Imoke on Debt Management, said the state owes over N26 billion on contracts executed for the state and loans accumulated by previous administrations.
â€œProvisionally, we have tracked about N26 billion as the debt the state owes from contracts executed for the state and loans acquired by previous government and we have paid a significant amount but as at December 2010, we had over N26 billion debt outstandingâ€œ
Mr Eyamba said Governor Imoke now insists on contracts being awarded based on ability to pay unlike in the past where contracts were awarded without recourse to the financial status of the state.
By Emma Una/ Calabar