Rivers lawmakers pass 2014 budget in Government House

The political crisis rocking Rivers State took another dimension on Tuesday when members of the State House of Assembly passed the state 2014 Appropriation Bill into law in the Government House, Port Harcourt.

The action of the lawmakers, according to sources, was to prevent the police from stopping them from sitting.

It will be recalled that 32 members of the House loyal to Governor Rotimi Amaechi had tried to hold plenary in the past in the assembly complex on Moscow Road but were barred by the state Police Command, which said they were relying on the law.

Presenting the budget, Amaechi told 23 lawmakers present that he proposed to spend N485.5bn this fiscal year.

He explained that the budget was 0.98 per cent lower than the N490.32bn he presented in 2013.

The governor added that the focus of the budget was the completion of ongoing projects in the health, education, roads, transport, power, water, agriculture and other critical sectors.

Amaechi also put the capital and recurrent expenditures at N247.573bn and N237.950bn respectively.

According to him, capital to recurrent ratio is 76.24 for the 2014 as against 70.30 achieved as of September 2013.

The governor said, “In the light of the 2014 budget, we will not accommodate new projects. This is in the light of current realities and out of a resolve to guarantee efficient service delivery.

“The economic realities arising from already dwindling resources since mid 2013 suggest a need for prudence and good sense this year.

“Government will continue to demonstrate good sense of management by making more money available to complete projects this year. In the process of formulating this budget, we kept our tradition of consulting widely with all relevant stakeholders in the state.”
Reviewing the budget, Amaechi said the state expected to get N241.243bn from the Federation Account; N92.420bn from internal sources; N33.5bn from the sales of assets; N100bn from proposed loans; N6.983bn from the World Bank and N0.660bn as grant from the European Union.

He also told the legislators that the state could not meet the 2013 fiscal year target due to the shortfalls from federal allocations.

Earlier, the Speaker, Mr. Otelemaba Dan-Amachree, had said the assembly took the decision to carry out its legislative functions in a “makeshift chamber” in the Government House.

The Deputy House Leader, Mr. Nname Ewor, had moved a motion to designate the place as the chamber of the assembly. The Deputy House Whip, Irene Inimgba, seconded the motion.

Dan-Amachree, who adopted the motion, explained that the decision was based on the insecurity in the state, especially the latest attacks on two high courts in the Ahoada and Etche Local Government Areas.

He also said that the assembly complex was still undergoing renovation, adding that the development made it impossible for the lawmakers to use it to perform their legislative functions.

But the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party described the presentation and passage of the budget into law on the same day as illegal and criminal.

“The presentation and passage of the 2014 budget outside the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly is criminal. This illegality cannot be allowed to stand, ” Mr. Felix Obuah, the state PDP chairman said.
Obuah, who added that he had earlier drawn the attention of the people of the state to the governor’s plan to relocate the assembly to the Government House, said he had been vindicated by the recent development.

He claimed that Amaechi was bent on causing confusion in the state, maintaining that the presentation of the budget outside the Assembly complex was unconstitutional.

Credit: Chukwudi Akasike/Punch News