BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
PORT HARCOURT: Seventeen pro governor Chibuike Amaechi lawmakers Thursday passed the Rivers state Reserve Fund law amendment bill 2014 to enable the state government withdraw 30 billion naira from the 53 billion naira in the fund.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Honourable Leyii Kwane who presided over the session at the old auditorium in Government House, Port Harcourt said passage of the amendment was to enable the state government fund ongoing projects and effectively run the state.
” Section 40 and 10 if you are in support of amendment on all these areas, then indicate.”, he said. And the lawmakers gave their support by raising their hands.
Hon Kwane continued, :”As we have given a third reading to the Rivers state Reserve Fund law amendment bill 2014 it has been passed. 30 billion naira only be taken out of the said reserved fund to enable the government undertake the projects listed before me. Do I have the leave of the House to allow the resolution, say yes”. The Deputy Speaker asked.The whole 16 members immediately chorused :”yes”. And the Deputy Speaker directed the Clark of the House to communicate the resolution to the executive arm of the government.
In a chat later with newsmen, the Deputy Speaker , Hon Kwane who presided over the House session explained that the resolution of the House would only become law when the governor assents to it.
He said the amendment to the Rivers state Reserve Fund law amendment bill, 2014 was informed by the paucity of fund that had hit the state, a situation he said had made some contractors to withdraw from site and workers being owed salaries.
” Contractors have pulled out of site. Teachers employed have not being paid. The governor wants to inject this funds into the state. “.
Fielding questions from news men on what informed the drop in the state’s finance the Deputy Speaker blamed it on oil wells allegedly belonging to the state that were ceded to neighbouring states. ” The federal government has ceded our oil wells to other states. Seven billion naira or more are being lost. You can see where the problem is coming from. Are you happy that 13,000 teachers are not being paid” he said.
Earlier, Leader of the House, Hon Chidi Lloyd during the session had defined the lean purse of the state as an emergency, calling on the lawmakers to expunge the word disaster as precondition to assessing the fund. According to him, the essence of paucity of fund allegedly induced was enough disaster in the state.
Lloyd who was Chairman of the adhoc committee on the Rivers state Reserve fund law amendment bill, 2014 urged the House to immediately pass it.
On his part, Hon Sam Eligwe who represents Ahoada West said it was exclusively the responsibility of the House to define what was emergency, adding that his colleagues should pass the bill.
” Who best defines emergency is the Rivers state House of Assembly. I urge my colleagues to pass the bill into law”, he said.
Also the member representing Tai constituency, Hon Felicia Tane lauded the ad hoc Committee headed by Leader of the House, Hon Lloyd for a job well done. She said she was not aware of the reserved fund until recently, stressing that the House should amend the bill for the government to access the fund for the good of the state.
” The Committee did well. I did not know that the Reserve fund was there. I was very happy when I heard of the Reserve fund. Rainy day can happen when the sun is still shining. When I remember all the state is passing through if we amend this law for government to use this money it will be better for all. I support this amendment. The amendment will be suitable for Rivers people”, she said.
Meantime, the Peoples Democratic party, PDP in a statement denounced the action of the lawmakers, saying that the reason given for amending the bill was to deceive the people.
State Chairman of the party, Mr Felix Obuah who spoke through his media aide, Mr Jerry Needam said the lawmakers had confirmed the party’s earlier assertion that the state was broke.
Continuing, the party described the sitting as another act of illegality, stressing that the action of the lawmakers would mortgage the future of the state.
“This is an open admission and confirmation of its earlier position that the State was broke largely due to the unbridled spending of the N1billion monthly savings by Amaechi through the back door and which should be more than the N53billion naira he has admitted.
“It’s most unfortunate that Gov Rotimi Amaechi is in a hurry and hell-bent to kill Rivers State, and mortgage the future of the people he swore on oath to govern with the fear of God “, the party said.