By KODILINYE Obiagwu
THE South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF) and civil society organizations in the South East region have expressed sadness with the implementation of the 2017 Federal Government budget in the region.
At a one day conference, Tuesday in Enugu, organised by SEGF, in partnership with the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC), the Director General of SEGF, Professor Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, described the implementation as unpardonably low.
Details of a community-based report on the performance of the 2017 Federal Government capital budget as it affects the South East, was tabled at the conference. The report summed that less than 50 per cent of the N126 billion budget for capital projects in the South East was implemented.
Ortuanya said, “this is not heartwarming. The Federal Government should look towards the region in the implementation of the capital projects in the region. The roads, for example, have become impassable while most capital projects have been left behind.
Budgets as rituals
The Director General of the IDS, Professor Osita Ogbu, said “budgets have become mere rituals, yet the budget remains a major instrument of governance and development.”
He praised the Forum for organising the conference and hailed the four donor agencies that financed the monitoring, while cautioning against total dependence on donors, “because states have resources.”
Dr. Uzochukwu Amakom, also of IDS, who compiled and presented the report on behalf of Hope Givers Initiative (HOG-I) Women Aid Collective (WACOL) said that “every budget should centre around people, who should also say what they want and monitor how it is implemented.”
He noted that “the implementation of the budget, whether state or federal, is a collaborative responsibility and an equitable implementation of the budget will lead to governance and development.”
The report indicated that of the 150 projects reportedly monitored, “works have either started and stopped or entirely abandoned or not started at all in 30.52 per cent of the projects. Also, 16.49 per cent were completed and put in use while 15.24 per cent are completed but not in use.”
Meanwhile, the report noted that “23.13 per cent are ongoing and have achieved 50 per cent completion, 11.73 per cent are ongoing but below the 50 per cent completion. The report noted that “in all this, 0.91 per cent is poorly executed and failed.”
An evaluation of the project execution in the states shows that Anambra, at 46.81 per cent had the highest number of abandoned projects, followed by Ebonyi with 44 per cent, Enugu 30.77 per cent, Abia 21.95 and Imo 9.09 per cent.
At 24 per cent, Ebonyi has the highest number of completed and functional projects and Enugu, at 7.69 has the lowest. Imo has 22.73 per cent completed projects, Abia 19.51 per cent and Anambra 8.51 per cent.
The Chairman of the South East Caucus in the National Assembly, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said the report offers an opportunity for lawmakers to explain to their constituents their non-involvement in execution of projects.
Educating peoples’ ignorance
He noted, “as we go into the election, the people should know that the issue is not about inserting an item in the budget, but actual implementation. The people need to know what the lawmakers do regarding the budget.”
Abaribe noted that the report will ease the fight between the Executive and Legislature especially on the issue of the budget and zonal intervention on projects.
He explained that, “there is usually a mismatch between what the people need and what the government wants to provide or provides in the budget.”
Abaribe promised to take the report to the South East Caucus in the National Assembly and initiate meetings between the groups and the lawmakers in order to enhance effective budget implementation in the region.
The senatoI advised that rather than criticise the implementation of the federal government’s budget, states should also learn to provide good governance.
The Ebonyi State Accountant General Queen Agwu, who represented the Chairman of the SEGF and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, said that the Forum was engaged in encouraging peer review and fast-tracking regional integration and development.
For the first time, the SEGF and the South East National Assembly Caucus came together and agreed to discuss a vital aspect of governance. It was agreed that all parties should join hands to move things forward. The conference, held in the Enugu Hall of the Best Western Plus Hotel, was described as fruitful for the further development of the states. Meanwhile, the Director General of VEC (Visit Enugu Community) Dr. Eric Oluedo led the State delegation. The organisation ensures the participation of the budget process in the state in view of the state Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s commitment to people oriented projects.