By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”A non- governmental organisation, Niger Delta Citizens and Budget Platform, Monday, after a monitoring and analysis of the 2009 budgets of four Niger Delta states and local government councils, scored the administrations low.
Though the group commended Bayelsa State Government for posting its budget online, it, however, noted with sadness that 80 percent of the projects did not exist.
Presenting its report on the 2009 budgets, tagged â€˜Beyond Amnestyâ€™ in Yenagoa, with special focus on Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, the coordinator of the group, Ken Henshaw, said most of the projects implemented were not even listed in the budgets.
He lamented that most of the budgets were not made available to the people and, therefore, â€œlacked credibility due to what could be referred to as budget secrecy,â€ while attempts to engage state governments last year were completely ignored.
According to him, â€œin the states of the core Niger Delta, as in other states of Nigeria , matters of budget and other fiscal issues are treated with utmost secrecy, and are the exclusive preserve of political office holders and a few civil servants.â€
While according Bayelsa and Rivers states some commendation for at least posting their budgets on their official websites, he noted that without making the documents available to the communities, it was difficult for them to know what government intended to do for them.
The group scored Akwa Ibom and Delta states least in budget transparency in spite of the commitment of the administration to development of infrastructure on the basis that many of the projects executed were not listed in the budget.
He noted that since a state budget is a public document that shows the commitment of a government to the development of infrastructure to impact on the lives of the people it is the right of the people to know what the government is planning for them.
According to the group, although â€œreceipts from the Federation Account on the basis of 13 per cent derivation placed Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States among the highest earning states in Nigeria, such receipts have not translated into tangible improvement in the life of residents of these states.
â€œA culture of corruption, fiat, non-implementation of the budget, citizens alienation from the budget process, and spending on projects that do not satisfy the needs of the people has culminated into excruciating poverty and increasing community resistance, turning the states into theatres of conflict.â€
The group also noted with regret that there were several versions of Bayelsaâ€™s 2009 budget as a result of reviews adding that it was difficult to ascertain which of the numerous versions was being implemented.
The analyses of the budgets of Niger Delta states and local government councils according to the group shows â€œthey are plagued by profligate spending on unaccountable ventures such as security vote, general administration and the maintenance of the offices of state governors and local government chairpersons.â€
It added, â€œIn some states, the security vote can get as high as N12 billion per year and has acquired notoriety, as it is often propelled above other social and capital provisions. Apart from security vote, the rise in militant activities and general insecurity have provided cover for amorphous budget line items like special projects, welfare and miscellaneous.â€
The group therefore called on the states to spend more on social programmes and investments that boost production of goods and services in non-petroleum sectors of the economy, and commitment to electoral reforms to provide fresh opportunities for democracy.