Mr. Nyesom Woke, Governor of Rivers State.

By Abasifreke Effiong

Policy Alert, a civil society organisation working on fiscal governance and environmental justice in the Niger Delta, has launched a campaign #PublishRiversBudget, demanding accountability and fiscal transparency from Rivers state government .

#PublishRiversBudget was one of the two campaigns launched by the CSO on Tuesday, 22nd February. The other campaign is #OurBudgetOurMoney.

The organisation said at the unveiling of the campaigns in Uyo that Rivers State Government has refused to publish her 2021 budget implementation report and her 2022 approved budget and has rebuffed freedom of information requests on its fiscal operations.

At a press conference jointly addressed by Mr. Mfon Gabriel, the Lead, Extractives sector, and Mrs. Nneka Luke-Ndumere, Head, Media and Communications at Policy Alert, the organisation said Rivers State has ranked the least among South-South states on budget transparency index.

READ : Policy Alert asks Akwa Ibom Gov’t to explain source of N171.2bn, N12.18bn received in 2021

The CSO emphasised that Rivers State has been found wanting on issues of accountability and fiscal transparency.

“We have found that one state has been found wanting on the issue of transparency of budgets and other fiscal documents. That state is Rivers State. While we commend Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Bayelsa, Ondo, Abia, Imo and Delta States for publishing both their 2022 approved budgets and 2021 full-year budget implementation report, we are disturbed to note these two important financial documents are yet to be published by Rivers State government.

“The state ranked the least among the South-South States in the Subnational Budget Transparency Index 2020. It has also tailed behind other Niger Delta states in all the annual performance assessments for the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability program-for-results (SFTAS) implemented by the federal government and the World Bank.”

“We use this opportunity to call on the government of Rivers State to publish its 2022 approved budget and budget implementation report (BIR) for 2021. They should emulate the other eight states of Niger Delta that have made their documents public.”

“Greater financial openness ensures that citizens and accountability institutions can follow government programmes and actions and have access to vital information needed to hold government at all levels accountable. When these documents are published, citizens are enlightened on what plans the government has for them and how it intends to execute these plans. It will also help the citizens to understand how their resources were managed during the previous fiscal year and as a result, reinforce their trust in the government.”

While calling on Rivers State to make effort to change the narrative by publishing her fiscal documents, Policy Alert called on CSOs to join the campaign in demanding accountability and fiscal transparency from Rivers state government.