By Peter Egwuatu
The Bayelsa State Government, weekend, said its revenue earnings from the Federation Account has declined by over 50 per cent in the last one year from N10 billion to N4bn, a development attributed to the consequence of militants’ activities in the Niger Delta region.
The state government has also set up a stakeholdersâ€™ committee to work out the arrangement and necessary modalities for it to float a multi-billion bond from the Nigerian capital market given its dwindling earnings to tackle the infrastructural facilities that will boost economic development in the state.
The Bayelsans, at the Stakeholders’ Town Meeting, tagged ”Empowering Bayelsansâ€ at the stateâ€™s Banquet Hall on Saturday, endorsed proposed plan by the government to float the bond that will enable it complete some of its ongoing projects and also create new ones.
Speaking at the meeting, Governor Timipre Sylva said, â€œ My administration is set to diversify the stateâ€™s revenue base from oil dependance to agriculture as the stateâ€™s allocation from the federation account has since in the last one year dropped by over 50 per cent.
“Specifically, when we assumed office, the revenue earnings of the state from the Federation Account nosedived to about N4 billion.
“This is a direct consequence of militancy since our derivation revenue is calculated on the basis of our oil production.
â€œIt is a serious situation,” he added.
For example, from a production rate of about 400,000 per day by Shell Petroleum Production Company, it fell to below 40,000 barrels per day. To continue to tolerate this kind of ugly situation would mean passing a death sentence on our development plans.â€
He disclosed his administrationâ€™s readiness to open its financial books for public scrutiny to enable relevant authorities in the Nigerian capital give approvals for the proposed Bond Issue.
While answering question on the amount that the state proposed to raise through the Bond, he said, â€œ We donâ€™t know the exact amount that will execute all the projects that will be tied to the Bond. The committee that has been set up will work with the state government to determine how much we would raise, which will definitely amount to billions of naira.â€
He said that his administration was ready to open up its books for the regulatory authorities to assess, as its government runs a transparent governance.
According to him, â€œ To increase confidence in the system, the state government has pursued a governance reform initiative aimed at promoting transparency and accountability in governance. This has involved the establishment of the Bayelsa Expenditure and Income Transparency Initiative. The government is also facilitating legislation on Public Procurement and Fiscal Responsibility.â€
To purse a transparent governance, Governor Sylva said, â€œ On 13 August, 2009, Government of Bayelsa State and Government of the United States of America signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), outlining a crucial capacity development for officials in the executive and legislative arms.
Under the programme in which the U.S government is represented by the United State Agency for International Development/Nigeria (USAID/Nigeria) in Abuja, and the Due Process and e-Governance Bureau is the Bayelsa State Governmentâ€™s coordinating agency, USAID, working through the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), will train key officials of the Bayelsa State Government under the project tagged , Strengthening Transparency, Research, Independence and Development.â€
On plans to diversity its revenue base, he said, â€œ We have set out to prioritise agriculture, the easier to expand our economy, create more jobs and start the first steps in our match to post oil economy. Two, we are working on the Central Business District (CBD) as a major platform to facilitate our economic diversification and prosperity.â€
He further disclosed that his government would put all efforts to complete the Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua International Airport at Okordia/Zarma by 2011, while it expect a counterpart funding of four billion from the Federal Government.
To this end, he called on all Bayelsans to join hand with the government to fast track the development of the state.