ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, YENAGOA
Bayelsa State Government has lamented falling revenue allocations to the state from the Federation Accounts amidst rising oil prices at the international market.
The Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, made this known while receiving a report at his office in Yenagoa from the 12-member committee inaugurated last week by the state government to look into claims made by former councilors over unpaid allowances.
In a statement on Thursday by his media aide, Mr Doubara Atasi, the Deputy Governor also bemoaned the worsening inflation rate in the country that had escalated cost of living to an unbearable level for the majority of the citizens.
Ewhrudjakpo queried the parameters currently being used by the Federal Government to determine allocations, maintaining that revenues accruing to local councils and the state government had been on the decline in the face of increasing oil prices.
He noted that the downward trend was making it difficult for both tiers of government in the state to carry out some of their obligations as and when due.
On the report, he commended the chairperson and members of the committee for carrying out their assignment thoroughly within the stipulated time frame.
While promising to look into the report, he however, said that the government might not be able to implement the committee’s recommendations hook, line and sinker, in view of the current financial realities facing the various councils.
Ewhrudjakpo said: “I want to thank you all for doing a good job within the one week that was given to you. We are going to peruse and comb through it with a final comb. If there are recommendations we need to make to the Governor, we will do so and possibly get back to you.
“But part of your recommendations says the sum of N500,000 should be paid to each of the former councilors monthly beginning from August this year. This is going to be a little bit hard for the councils.
“For instance, Southern Ijaw has about 17 councilors, and so, if you multiply N500,000 by 17, that will amount to about N8.5m for that council. The Sagbama council that has been in the red will have to cough up about N7m and so on.
“We will call for a meeting with the chairmen to discuss possible ways of implementing your recommendations because the load is not actually that of the state government.
“While we will like to give a helping hand, we will not do so to our detriment because as we speak, the state government is even supporting some of the councils to pay salaries due to falling allocations.
“We have been experiencing a downward trend for reasons we don’t understand. Our crude oil prices are higher now but our allocation is getting smaller by the day. I don’t know the parameter they are using now.
“Clearly, what they are using is not in tandem with international standards. Our economy is continually nose-diving, our naira continues to depreciate and there is high inflation that is making things extremely difficult for Nigerians.”
Presenting the report, Chairperson of the committee, Mrs. Ebiere Igodo-Adeh, said the various councils were owing about N2.5 million to each of the former councilors that served from 2013 to 2016.
According to her, the committee made two recommendations to government, one of which, was the monthly payment of half a million to each of the former councilors by the eight councils for the entire backlog of allowances to be cleared in four months.
Mrs. Igodo-Adeh, who is also the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Community Development, expressed gratitude to the government for giving them the opportunity to serve the state.