The Peoples Democratic Party, has described the budget of Governor Hyacinth Alia as deceptive saying it has exposed the governor’s ignorance of economic management.
In a statement by State Publicity Secretary, of the party, Bemgba Iortyom, said it is economically unwise to lump together the total project cost in a single year budget circle when the implementation is to take two or more years.
The statement reads: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State observes the maiden budgetary proposals presented by Governor Hyacinth Alia to the State Assembly outlining the fiscal plan for his administration in the 2024 financial year as unrealistic and based on questionable assumptions which do not tally with the approved national projections by the federal government of Nigeria within the same period envisaged.
“This has given rise to the suspicions that either the governor and his team lack proper grasp of micro and macro economic fundamentals in budget and economic management, or they have deliberately set out to hoodwink the people with a false hope by a rendition of inaccurate figures and statistics as well as basing of revenue projections on unrealisable sources.
“Once again, Governor Alia could not resist the overmastering temptation to turn an otherwise serious occasion into a stage to run down his immediate predecessor, Chief Samuel Ortom, whose administration the governor dedicated a sizeable portion of his address before the Assembly to paint in ugly colours.
“Tagged “Budget of Infrastructure Development, Job Creation, And Poverty Alleviation,” with a total outlay of ₦225.73 billion, it is distributed across a number of sectors, with Education getting ₦33.86 billion representing 15%; Healthcare ₦33.88 billion (15.01%); Agriculture ₦28.26 billion (12.52%); Justice ₦12.93 billion (5.73%); Security ₦10.81 billion (4.79% of the budget); Infrastructural Development ₦80.73 billion (35.77%) of the budget) Social Welfare Initiatives ₦7.77 billion (3.44%) of the budget); Commerce ₦4.15 billion (1.84%) and ₦13.33 billion (5.90%) listed broadly as apportioned to other sectors.
“As the budget proposals are set to undergo scrutiny under deliberations by the elected representatives of the people at the Benue State House of Assembly, it is pertinent to point out the stark contractions which make it a source of suspicion and worry rather than the hope it should stimulate in the state.
“Firstly, Governor Alia in revision of the 2023 budget handed to him by Chief Ortom blasted it’s performance rate of 21.7 % in the first quarter of 2023 as poor, even as by extrapolation, it was on track to achieve 86.8 % performance over the course of the year 2023, and by doing so PDP notes that he has naturally set for his 2024 budget a performance benchmark higher than that, and this is left to be judged, if at all he gets that far in office.
“We put it to the governor that as a result of the unprecedented revenue windfall from the removal of petroleum subsidy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, capital inflow available to him is many times higher than in the previous administration, resulting in huge finances available to him, but which from all indications he is spending without accountability or transparency, neither is he paying heed to institutional safeguards ingrained in due process as provided under public financial management regulations.
“It is, therefore, the suspicion that his harsh revision of Ortom’s 2023 budget, which he deployed the use of percentages without stating specific figures, was insincere and aimed to retroactively cover the irregularities from the expenditures he has severally been accused of making, which documentary evidence from some quarters put at over N46 billion between June and September 2023 only out of an estimated N60 billion his administration is projected to receive from June to December, 2023, far more than what was received in the last half of 2022.
“Secondly, the macroeconomic projections by Governor Alia in his 2024 budget proposals are at variance with those of the Federal Government such as oil prices at $65 per barrel and oil production at 1.6m barrels per day when the Federal Government projects $78 per barrel and 1.78m barrels a day; inflation at 20% and GDP growth at 3.2 percent when the Federal Government projects inflation at 21.4 percent and GDP at 3.76 percent, and this naturally inflicts a credibility problem on a budget premised on such faulty assumptions.
“He also exhibited insincerity or ignorance, or both in his attempt to raise issues with what he termed as undervalued capital projects under the 2023 Ortom budget, whereas by the tenets of the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), funding for capital projects is based on the number of years it will take to complete the project, since it is economically unwise to lump together the total project cost in a single year budget circle when the implementation is to take two or more years.
Thirdly, PDP notes that Governor Alia has elevated Chief Ortom above him and become extremely reactionary in his attempts to rubbish even the very obvious gains made by his predecessor, which the people appreciate, even as they also understand the challenges it faced, which are not exclusive to it, but are to be found with governments the world over.
“The people appreciate the fact that the Ortom administration constructed more kilometers of roads across Benue than any other administration, including the longest urban roads ever in the state capital, and those are roads which were built to high standards and at more cost effective rates on a per capita investment ratio than the short streets so far undertaken by Governor Alia.
“The Ortom roads include the Tse- Poor to Apir Road named Major Gideon Orkar Road (9.7 km @ N1.2 billion); the Yaikyór to Tse- Poor Road named Chief Sule Abenga Road (7.7 km @ N1.4 billion); the George Akume to NKST Yina Road named Sen. JKN Waku Road (2.0 km @ N560.4 million); the Kaanga – Akaya – Lucy Aluor – Otukpo Road named Nyesom Wike Road (2.10 km @ N809.088 million); the Low Cost Housing Estate – Bambam Road named Chief JC Obande Road (1.3 km @ N379.399 million); the Vandeikya town to the Palace of Tor Jechira Road in Vandeikya; the Armstrong Avenue in Otukpo; the Isaac Shaahu Road and the Aper Aku Road both in Gboko, are a few to mention in this statement which rank higher on utility delivery in terms of cost effectiveness than Gov. Alia’s 16 short streets totalling 15.3 kms to built at an estimated close to N10 billion.
The Ortom administration also delivered thousands of school infrastructure projects, dozens of health infrastructure and equipment projects, including a first-of-its-kind Infectious Diseases Centre and a first-of-its-kind UNICEF-approved cold room for the vaccine cold chain, dozens of rural electrification projects, over 1000 rural water projects, a first-of-its-kind N6.5billion Benue Geospatial Information System (BENGIS) land digitisation project that has been fully completed, furnished and equipped with high-tech state of the art facilities, with aerial survey and mapping of the entire state with high resolution orthophotos, conversion of analog map plans and files to digital systems.
“The administration also built magnificent palaces built for the Tor Tiv and Och’Idoma in Gboko and Otukpo respectively, the fully digitalized Benue Television, remodeling of Government lodges to 3 Star standards, procurement and distribution of tractors and other agricultural inputs, funding of infrastructural support and facilities at the airport in Makurdi for resumption of commercial flights in and out of the state.
“The enforcement of the Prohibition of Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law using the Livestock Guards and the Community Volunteer Guards as a security counter-measure against herdsmen terrorists who killed thousands and displaced millions into IDPs camps, with the federal government unwilling to protect the people of the state, was achieved together with the other milestones recorded by the Ortom administration without ever getting even close to half of N225 billion to spend in a single year, and the little that was available could barely cover recurrent expenditure.
“PDP challenges Governor Alia to shred the veil off his policy of concealment and declare publicly how much he has received from external and internal revenue sources since he assumed office, if he truly has nothing to hide, and he should also redress the false assumptions replete in his budget proposals he tagged as “Budget of Infrastructure Development, Job Creation, And Poverty Alleviation”, but which sounds more like a mere campaign speech crafted to entertain an uncritical audience, with nothing serious intended to follow afterwards.”