30th December, 2016
A new Speaker was on Friday elected by members of the Rivers State House of Assembly. He is Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani representing Andoni Constituency.
Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani was the pioneer Speaker of the present 8th House of Assembly but substituted with Adams Dabutorudima, representing Okrika constituency when the former had his mandate nullified by the Appeal Court.
Ibani who was elected Speaker was among the 12 lawmakers sworn in today. Both APC and PDP have six members each.
The 2017 budget estimate of N470 billon presented by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike on Wednesday was also passed by the 17 lawmakers present at today’s sitting.
Curiously, the budget was passed before the swearing in of 12 new lawmakers with APC and PDP having six each. The hurriedly passed budget denied the newly sworn lawmakers the opportunity of having an input.
Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, representing Rivers South East condemned the deliberate denial of APC legislators of the right to deliberate on the 2017 budget.
He said that the ruling party ensured that the 2017 budget was passed before deciding to swear in the APC legislators, pointing out that it was wrong and unacceptable in a democracy.
He said the 12 lawmakers should have been sworn in before the budget was passed, stressing that the budget was hurriedly passed without proper deliberations.
“Rivers State budget is a secret document and only a privileged few are allowed to see the document. I hope he would allow Rivers people to know what is in the budget.
The breakdown of the 2017 budget indicates that the total projected capital expenditure is N329 billion, representing 70 percent, while N141, 000,000,000 is proposed for recurrent expenditure.
Governor Wike said: “Rivers State will be 50 years old next year, and to herald this historic landmark, we have christened the 2017 budget “the Golden Jubilee budget for accelerated development.
“This budget is premised on the need to consolidate on our achievements for 2016 and restore the State’s economy back to a sustained growth path and expand economic opportunities for all.”
The governor said: “This budget is underpinned by the following basic principles:
“First, enhancing the business environment, including tackling the security challenges for the private sector to grow, expand our tax revenue base, and drive our economy through the value chain into becoming one of the largest economies in West Africa;
“Second, committing a greater proportion of available resources towards infrastructure development and public works to stimulate economic growth, create employment and reduce poverty.”
He said priority attention would be given to the following areas in 2017
•Security of lives and property;
•Infrastructure development and maintenance;
•Healthcare delivery, and
In the 2017 budget, the sum of N77, 409,275,000.00, representing nearly 40 per cent of total capital expenditure was allocated to the Ministry of Works to accelerate the development and expansion of infrastructure throughout the state in 2017.
The governor noted N30 billion was allocated to the Ministry of Education for 2017 to invest in providing educational infrastructure and improving the quality of education in the State.
The health sector got N27 billion, while Women and Youth Development was allocated N1b for empowerment programmes. Another N12 billion is spread across the budget for women empowerment.
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt