Okowa and N71 billion 2023 Supplementary Budget
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
It is now secondary information that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State on Tuesday presented a N71 billion 2023 supplementary budget to the State House of Assembly for approval via a letter read during plenary presided over by the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Christopher Ochor, in Asaba.
For a better understanding of the piece, the budget is made up of N5.6 billion in recurrent expenditure and N65.5 billion in capital expenditure. While noting that the supplementary budget has become necessary for appropriation to pay for some critical projects and activities of the government as well as fund ongoing projects across the state in the year 2023, the Governor stated that there had been actual and projected increase in some fiscal receipts.
“In the light of the foregoing, it would be greatly appreciated if the draft 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Bill is placed before the House at its earliest convenience for consideration and passing into law,” he said.
Without a doubt, the controversy and worries so far raised by the development have made it a moral duty for all to collectively and objectively take a disciplined look at it in order to –adjust, adapt, incorporate or otherwise.
To some, it is not only noble but ‘a man-made code that squares with moral laws, noting that the presented supplementary budget is laced with the capacity to uplift human personalities in the state. To others, it is a direct opposite. According to this group, it is an unjust attempt that is out of harmony with moral laws, and if allowed to fly, it will fail the present developmental needs of Deltans, as well as compromise the ability of future generations in the state to meet their own needs.” The rest insisted that Governor Okowa, by this thoughtless decision on supplementary budget presentation, is in the process of quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a disastrously mistaken decision on the issue that affects the state.
For me, whereas I have, through previous opinion articles, commentaries, and interventions, favoured or supported policies and decisions of the Delta State government, it will, however, for reasons considered very logical, rational and practical, say that the same state government will definitely feel hesitant as to why they should read this present piece. Or accept the content of the solution it proffers as beneficial and helpful to the real issue at hand, as the piece stoutly opposes the state government’s inconsiderate decision of asking for a supplementary budget at a time when other governors are preparing their handover notes.
Before proceeding to the inherent defects domiciled in the present ‘budget’’, there is of course one distinction to make; infrastructure- wise, the oil-rich Delta state under Governor Okowa’s 8years administration recorded appreciable improvements. Equally commendable in the interim is the Governor’s claim in the referenced letter to the house that the budget is needed to ensure payment for some critical projects.
The above feat notwithstanding, the truth must be told to the effect that there exists a set of inherent reasons why the fears expressed above by well-meaning Deltans must not be described as groundless but reinforces consideration as to why the Governor should contemplate dropping the present move and in its place, allow the incoming administration to present, implement and monitor the budget performance.
First and very fundamental is that Delta, going by reports, is already among the states, about seventeen of them, that their incoming governors will have a difficult time boosting the economies of their individual states because they will take over at least N2.1 trillion in domestic debt and $1.9 billion in foreign debt from their predecessors. These first-term governors-elects, the report added, will face many months of unpaid workers’ salaries and mounting pension liabilities, as well as agitation for the implementation of the nationally agreed minimum wage, rising inflation, escalating prices of goods and services, and dwindling purchasing power.
Now, considering the above fact coupled with the crushing weight of the debt burden that the state under Governor Okowa is grasping, if the supplementary is approved and as envisaged disbursed by the present government in the state,
Secondly, aside from the timing of the supplementary budget (less than two weeks to vacate the office), which this author considers as too short, another very cogent reason to drop the proposed budget is that covertly, the majority of the Delta State House of Assembly members, like the generality of well-meaning Deltans are not in support of the ‘’eleventh-hour move but can hardly disagree in an overt manner. They are silent because they feel that what they say on the floor of the House no longer matters that much-not to talk of other members of the House who are almost never present when issues of such magnitude are being discussed because they know the outcome is already determined.
Without doubt, while there is already among Deltans, apprehension that in the state, once a direction is chosen by an average Nigerian leader, instead of examining the process meticulously and setting the right course, many obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance, this piece on its part holds the opinion that Governor Okowa must not fail to remember that there are many people in both political parties in the state (Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Party (APC) who worry that there is something deeply troubling about the present government in the state disdain for a fact, and lack of curiosity for new information that might produce a deeper understanding of the problems and policies that it is supposed to wrestle with on behalf of Deltans.
Viewed broadly, I recall very vividly when Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State a while ago made an open declaration that the money he used to construct flyovers across Port Harcourt was part of the funds from the 13 per cent derivation arrears due to Niger Delta states and paid by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government, Deltans raised the question as to how Governor Okowa spent their money?
In response to that poser, Governor Okowa, through the state Commissioner for Finance, admitted that The federal government owed the state and has agreed to an instalment payment over five years.
According to the Commissioner, “With the agreed amounts settled, some states like Rivers approached commercial banks and discounted theirs in full and collected, but Senator Ifeanyi Okowa said he would not want to leave the next administration with a huge debt burden. He resorted to discounting only N150 billion out of the N240 billion expected receivables but later pruned it down to N100 billion.
Even as this piece does not have to vet the validity of the above claim by the governor as part of its mandate, the statement, however, elicits the question as to; what has suddenly changed. Why is it that the same Okowa who declared some months ago that he would not want to leave the next administration with a huge debt burden is now in a hurry to ‘’empty the treasury’’ and leave the state financially naked?
Finally, even if the answer(s) is provided to the above questions, it will not in my view erase what has been on the minds of Deltans.
This is a point that Governor Okowa must not fail to remember.
Utomi is the Program Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via email@example.com or 08032725374
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Hullabaloo of Nigeria’s Democratic Transitions
By Prince Charles Dickson PhD
By 1983, the army had struck and aborted the second republic, but here we are, the 10th Assembly will soon resume, and it’s been 24 years of a hullabaloo democracy; many are not happy, but we are making some form of progress, there’s been no martial music.
Despite the heated controversies in Lagos and other places, the death toll as a result of gun-throttling ballot snatchers reduced, and the magic figures of the Kardashian states also have reduced. However, we still have a marathon on our hands, but sadly we are building on some shenanigan principles that don’t spell well for us.
I recall in our recent democratic journey, a governor that had won a second term, after being sworn in, blamed his predecessor for huge debts and unpaid salaries…and more. Someone had to tap him, reminding him that he was the predecessor.
In this dispensation, another governor simply refused to sit on the seat of his predecessor, and others would embark on a sacking galore, after all, only weeks to the end of the last man on the helm, there were loads of hiring, firing is then in order. I know that it is a lie that the Zamfara state governor declared N9 trillion in assets, but not to worry, many would declare outrageous sums (forgetting that we know their real worth), while others would dance the musical chairs, refusing to declare.
The block and freeze accounts group would be at it, accounts that would be elapsed after the initial gra-gra, where there are democracies, in many parts the governor would make statements banning payments of one levy, tax or union dues, but trust me, these payments would come back.
Most of the new governors have dissolved state councils, boards and parastatals. Some governors will demolish, either immediately or later, the new kids on the block must chop, new Heads of Service, and all those new commissioners etc.
This new administration has taken off with subsidy removal. A most contentious issue, one that every energy moron and fuel expert has an opinion on.
What exactly is deregulation? How exactly does this subsidy work? I have talked to government officials, petroleum marketers, a few ‘big boys’ in NNPC, and a couple of eggheads. The truth is that they do not know, or better still, they know but cannot explain what these terms mean.
All the grammar boils down to an inability of a system to solve a problem because a strong group of persons are benefiting from that problem. It also is an indictment reflective of the faulty planning by those in charge, that’s if they plan at all.
The government tells us that it cannot influence the price of the product since deregulation is the in-thing, but in common sense, no one has been able to tell us how fellow oil-producing nations have successfully dealt with their petroleum needs.
A friend suggested why don’t we go to Angola, Venezuela, or Brazil and just steal their blueprint? It’s working for them, let’s just stop these subsidies and deregulation grammar and deceit of subsidies and duplicate their success, localize it for the collective good of Nigerians, but of course, the term ‘collective good’ is an alien term to us. Insecurity won’t allow our newly old train systems to work, blue and green rails at cutthroat costs have not reduced the cost of transportation or eased people’s burden, our waterways are wasting, you are riding bicycles, car drivers would knock you down.
It is a sad picture of a society that has lost balance; the ruling class needs to be taught a bitter lesson; they need to be made to bleed, Nigeria’s live at less than a dollar a day while a few flaunt a nation’s collective wealth, so if the current administration is scraping subsidies, it should be supported, but it can’t get that wholesale support because of trust deficit.
No number of essays or commentaries can explain the impact of fuel, cooking oil and diesel on the economy; it’s like explaining the impact of constant electricity on national life. These are terms those in power do not seem to grasp; the reasons are way simple, too…one, they have big power-generating plants in their homes and offices. Two, some of them cannot really recall when last they were in a fuel queue and with millions of naira in remuneration and salaries, what do they care?
The NLC died a long time ago courtesy of an Obasanjo-inspired poisoning, aided by the greed of those put at the helm of its activities, its only panacea being strike and strikes.
Over two dozen fuel price increases since 1978, five times it was reduced minimally but hiked back almost immediately. From N8.45 in 1978 to N65 in 2009, representing an increase of almost 60,000%, the trend has simply continued. In 1978 when the first increase was announced, one of the reasons given was that a majority of petroleum users were using it for pleasure, and there was a need to bring discipline into society. Strange thinking, another reason was that N95 million was being spent a year on subsidies.
As of this year, we are talking in trillions; where is this money coming from, how does this subsidy thing work, how can you deregulate when your refineries are not working? How do you pay subsidy cash and still do crude oil swaps? Who can really explain the fraud called Direct Sales, Direct Purchase DSDP? I have not touched all the loops like bridging costs, demurrage, and forex fluctuations that marketers play with, minus selling at international prices to neighbouring countries. Even the commissioned Dangote refinery has not started working and is not starting anytime soon. You will see that wahala dey!
The top echelon of society cannot explain to Nigerians exactly the reason why we cannot buy fuel at an affordable price for three years in a stretch without scarcity. Not every Nigerian is a novice to the political, economic or social implications of oil pricing. However, the ordinary Nigerian suffers this failure and complacency of leadership.
Subsidies and deregulation mean the price will ultimately fall, and money will be channelled to other areas of the economy; in local parlance…’our leaders like to mumu us’. When the broadcast industry deregulated, we saw the instant benefits, the same applies to telecoms (although we pay some of the highest tariffs in the world); we saw and are still seeing the benefits. But once you hear these terms in the petroleum sector, it’s like it stands for the disappearance of the commodity, and when it reappears, its price increases.
Who are those responsible for the billions and trillions that disappear in subsidies, who are the few that want to punish the majority? All the best explanations of the government, until it is seen to be done, are more of hullabaloo.
Why is it that this policy to a large population of Nigerians is simply a tightening of the screw of poverty, no massive improvement of our colonial rail system, no free education or healthcare, no social security, or unemployment benefits?
Legislators neither here nor there, governors supporting with both sides of their mouth at variance, everyone on top supports, and every person underneath suffers it; in all the noise, the product disappears. Transportation fare increases, food prices skyrocket…a nation that has a disconnect between the ruled and its rulers.
The subsidy has become part of our transitions; if this government gets it right and can pull this off with a humane face, it will get a lot of things right, but the citizens need to play their part, the Yorubas say Ẹni tó tan ara-a rẹ̀ lòrìṣà òkè ńtàn: àpọń tí ò láya nílé, tó ní kí òrìṣà ó bùn un lọ́mọ. This means it is the person who deceives himself that the gods above deceive: a bachelor who has no wife at home but implores the gods to grant him, children. (It is self-deceit to expect the gods to do everything for one when one has not lifted a finger on one’s behalf). I can only say—May Nigeria win!
Mitigating Unemployment and Labour Migration in Nigeria
Nigeria has seen a sharp increase in unemployment over time, with a current estimate of 33%. All age categories in Nigeria are affected by a serious unemployment problem, with young people bearing a disproportionately high share of the burden. When people don’t have work, it makes life difficult for them and their households. Note that this causes labour migration, as people leave the country in quest of better opportunities and income sources abroad. Unemployment is one of the key reasons why its citizens migrate their labour to other countries.
Nigeria’s economy has struggled to produce enough jobs to accommodate this expanding workforce due to the country’s high population growth rate, which causes a large number of job seekers to enter the labour market each year. SMEs could be essential in reversing this trend and creating jobs, but they face challenges such as restricted access to capital, inadequate business support services, and a challenging business climate. Additionally, highly qualified individuals leave Nigeria in quest of better opportunities abroad, depleting the country’s talent pool and widening the skills gap in critical industries.
It is important to emphasize that because of the interdependence of these factors, a multidimensional and all-encompassing approach is required to address labour migration and unemployment. To mitigate unemployment and labour migration in Nigeria, a variety of actions can be taken. A few of these include:
➢ Job Creation and Economic Diversification: Nigeria is extremely vulnerable to variations in the price of oil because of its dependency on fuel. Through the promotion of companies and sectors other than oil, economic diversification can boost job chances and reduce dependency on a single industry. In Nigeria, it is crucial to increase the variety of employment options. The establishment and growth of various businesses and sectors can also encourage the emergence of new occupations and positions. There is a higher chance of employment for people when there are more businesses.
➢ Provision of Adequate Infrastructure: Infrastructure improvements have the potential to boost economic growth and draw in industries that can employ workers. For businesses to invest in and create jobs, they need a strong infrastructure that includes a dependable power supply, efficient transportation systems, and digital connections.
➢ Support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs): Encouragement of entrepreneurship and assistance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can promote innovation, generate job opportunities, and boost economic growth. Agriculture is a sector with a lot of SMEs. It has a great deal of potential to boost food security, minimize rural-urban migration, and create jobs. By giving farmers access to funding, cutting-edge farming techniques, and market connections, production can be increased and jobs created throughout the value chain of agriculture. Programs for training, mentoring, and access to financing and business development services also support these businesses.
➢ Changes in Business Policy: The development of many successful firms, especially SMEs, has been hampered by culpable policies and deregulation laws. Business owners, producers, and other market participants take advantage of policy gaps to perform arbitrary functions. Therefore, reviewing and updating corporate policies, regulatory frameworks, and labour laws can help to foster a climate that encourages investment and job growth. In addition, employment prospects may increase as a result of streamlining administrative procedures, lowering corruption, and guaranteeing fair competition for all enterprises.
Although it is a difficult problem to solve, mitigating unemployment and labour migration is crucial for Nigeria’s economic progress. Another strategy for this development is to strengthen the institutions of the labour market, lower company costs by streamlining regulations and lowering taxes, improve the business environment, and improve education, safety, job accountability, and security. By doing this, employment opportunities will be generated, and the general public’s professional development will be encouraged. Lastly, the government’s main priorities for sustainable solutions should address societal issues, attract investment, enhancing skill development and business climate.
Emmanuel Otori has over 10 years of experience working with 100 start-ups and SMEs across Nigeria. He has worked on the Growth and Employment (GEM) Project of the World Bank, GiZ, and Consulted for businesses at the Abuja Enterprise Agency, Novustack, Splitspot and NITDA. He is the Chief Executive Officer at Abuja Data School.
Improving Business Growth With Data Analytics: Why it’s a Priority
By Kehinde Ogundare
Running a business in Nigeria can be an arduous task. Business owners face fierce competition as they strive to secure market share, acquire new customers, and enhance their productivity and profitability.
The business environment is getting more competitive. According to World Bank data, 97,988 new businesses were registered in Nigeria in 2020 (the last year for which numbers are available). The country’s rapidly accelerating tech sector provides further evidence of that increased competitiveness.
A report from McKinsey found that the number of startups in Nigeria and other African companies grew threefold between 2020 and 2021.
The growth of a business, whether it offers a product or service, is closely linked to its customer base. In order to remain competitive and retain these customers, it is crucial to use data-driven insights to inform business decisions and facilitate a successful customer experience.
Understanding data analytics
In the simplest terms, data analytics is about making sense of all the data that a business gathers and using it to help the business improve its decision-making or to gain insights into a particular subject or problem.
It enables entrepreneurs to make profitable decisions, drive innovation, anticipate market trends, and manage budgets. However, a report by KPMG that analyzed the usage of data and analytics in Nigeria’s business environment reveals that 56% of organizations in Nigeria base their decision-making on intuition rather than data. This shows that businesses are yet to grasp the true potential that data can bring to decision-making.
Another report highlights that, on average, organizations plan to spend at least N50 million annually to develop data and analytics capabilities, indicating the potential for businesses seeking to integrate these practices. However, just 16% of organizations have a defined role for their Chief Data Officer, and many merge data analytics responsibilities with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), highlighting a talent gap.
Finding the right solution
A strong BI platform can gather data from across different software used by different departments, such as sales, marketing, finance, and inventory, to help the user make sense of the data through simple-to-understand charts, graphs, and other visual tools. This, in turn, facilitates strategic decision-making.
Zoho, for example, provides a robust BI solution that comes with self-service data preparation and augmented analytics. It has strong AI/ML capabilities, enabling users to use natural language commands such as “show me our revenue growth last quarter” to get charts showing just that. Zoho Analytics can also be embedded in any third-party software, so users do not have to log into a new app just to view reports.
In today’s world, where there is high competition for customer attention among businesses along with organizational operations driven by technology, data analytics enables a business to optimize performance and make data-driven decisions. Having real-time insights into how their business is performing and the current market trends can help business owners adapt to the fast-changing landscape and stay relevant.
Kehinde Ogundare is the Country Manager for Zoho Nigeria
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