By ETIM ETIM
I am quite distressed that I have to return to this matter of lack of transparency and openness in the manner Gov. Udom Emmanuel is managing our finances so soon after my last intervention less than three weeks ago. But with the recent revelations by Gov. Wike, I am compelled to ask a few questions.
Yesterday, Friday, November 18, 2022, Gov. Nyesom Wike commissioned a purpose-built campus of the Nigeria Law School financed by the Rivers State Government in Port Harcourt. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubarkar Malami, represented President Buhari at the event. In his speech, the governor noted that the project was funded by the arrears of derivation funds owed the Niger Delta state governments since 1999 which the Buhari administration had paid to the states.
These are the exact words of Gov. Wike: ‘’The truth is that, and let me say it for the first time, and many people have been asking me, ‘where do you get money for all these projects?’. Let me say it, and I want the Attorney General to thank Mr. President, for monies that were not paid to the Niger Delta States, from 1999, the 13% derivation money that was not paid, Mr President approved and paid all of us in the Niger Delta States. And for me, it would be unfair not to tell the public. It is not money from FAAC. It is money paid to Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State, Edo State, Bayelsa State, Delta State and I thank God. That is why since 2019 till now, we have been commissioning projects in the state. Yesterday, we commissioned the 10th flyover; in December, we will commission the 11th flyover and in February, we will commission the 12th. The other day, we commissioned a cancer center which we named after our leader, Dr. Odili. Julius Berger built it and charged us N25.9 billion; it is equipped by GE (General Electric). We paid, and no one naira is being owed. So, I want to sincerely from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of the government and people of Rivers State, thank the President for this …’’.
It is a big shame and quite unconscionable that Gov. Udom Emmnuel has not disclosed that he had received this derivation arrears from the federal government. It was only a few weeks ago that one of the governorship candidates in the state had hinted that the state government had received a whooping N250 billion as its own payment and pleaded with the governor to inform the people of what he had done with the funds. Instead of making the confirmation, our governor flew into a rage and excoriated the candidate for daring to question him on how he manages our treasury. In my article entitled ‘’Why is Gov. Udom Emmanuel angry’’ and published on November 1, I made the point that the governor should level with our people on their finances instead of throwing tantrums. I commended the governorship candidate for speaking up.
I have written about this matter a lot, and I will say for the umpteenth time that Gov. Udom Emmanuel has a constitutional and moral obligations to inform us of monies he had received from the federal government, including the recent derivation windfall, since he came into office in May 2015. His penchant to appear opaque, secretive and untruthful in the manner he handles our finances gives impressions that he is a dishonest fellow, who treats the people with disrespect, disdain and disregard. That’s the impression the people have of their governor. It is up to him to clear these perceptions by explaining to our people how much he has received from the federal government since 2015 in terms of refunds for federal projects executed by the Akpabio administration, refunds for Paris Club refunds and now payments for arrears of Derivation obligations. He should also lay bare the total receipts from FAAC.
I agree that the apparent weakness of opposition parties in the state, the absence of independent press, the docility of the State House of Assembly and the predilection of our people to look up to the governor for benefaction and favors have given Mr. Udom Emmanuel the latitude to ride rough shod over the state. This can never happen in any of the South West states where the people are politically active, sophisticated and independent-minded. No Akwa Ibom governor, to the best of my recollections, have been this callous, disrespectful and disdainful of the people. Our governor is so secretive about the state’s finances that you’d be forgiven to assume that the state’s funds are his own personal assets. It is no less disconcerting that people are at a loss as to what the key achievements of this governor are. On what has he spent all these monies he’s been receiving?
Let me thank Gov. Wike for bringing this revelation to us. He acted in honour of his Oath of Office. As I told some friends a while ago, this is one of the reasons I admire Wike greatly. He is bold, outspoken and fair-minded. Without Wike, I wonder if Akwa Ibom people would have known that their state had been earning more than they had been made to believe. Whenever Mr. Udom Emmanuel makes a speech or appears on TV for interviews, he blames the COVID pandemic and the recessions of 2016 and 2017 for his lackluster performance. But we now know from Gov. Wike’s disclosures that those excuses are just not tenable. They are a smokescreen to cover up for the governor’s failures and the sleaze in his government. The federal government should also make it a point of duty to make these payments to the states public in the interest of accountability and probity.