After nearly six months of legislative impasse and following an Abuja Federal High Court ruling which nullified a resolution by the National Assembly to usurp the functions of the Rivers state legislature since July 2013, members of the state House of Assembly loyal to Governor Chibuike Amaechi, have received the 2014 Rivers State Appropriation Bill of N485Billion and subsequently passed it into law.
The 23 out of 32 members present, led by the Speaker, Hon. Otelemaba Amachree, on Tuesday sat at the old auditorium of Government House, Port Harcourt, the state capital, and received the 2014 Appropriation Bill from the governor. The budget proposal of N485.524 was however deliberated on and immediately passed by the House.
Recall that attempts by factions at the Rivers Assembly loyal to both the Presidency and the embattled Governor Amaechi, to reconvene in the state have been unsuccessful and resulted in violence that led to the sealing off of the Assembly complex by the police.
Also recall that the Chairman of the Rivers State state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Felix Obuah had alleged that Amaechi’s loyalists planned to reconvene at the Government House, Port Harcourt, to pass the state’s 2014 Appropriation Bill, but the deputy speaker, Hon Leyii Kwanee had rebuffed the claim, alleging PDP’s ploy to overheat the polity and described the statement as ‘mischievous’ and a calculated attempt to induce another crisis in the House.
Presenting the budget proposal, Amaechi said the N485.524 billion budget was N4.797 billion (0.98 per cent) lower than the N490.32 billion Appropriation Act of 2013.
According to Amaechi, “The focus of the budget will be on completing on-going projects in health, education, roads, transport, power, water and agriculture and other critical infrastructure,” adding that capital and recurrent provisions for the fiscal year 2014 were N247.573 billion and N237.950 billion, respectively.
“The proposed 2014 budget of N485.524 billion will be funded by: FAAC Allocation of N241.243 billion; IGR of N92.420 billion; prior year balance of N10.717 billion; proposed loans, N100 billion; credit from World Bank, N6.983 billion; EU grant of N0.660 billion; and sale of assets of N33.5 billion.
“In the light of the 2014 budget, we will not accommodate new projects. This is in the light of current realities and our resolve to guarantee efficient service delivery.
“The economic realities arising from already dwindling resources since mid-2013 suggests a need for prudence and good sense this year. Government will continue to demonstrate good sense of management by making more money available to finance the completion of projects next year,” he said.
The governor put the overall revenue performance of the 2013 budget at 82.5 per cent, stating that internally generated revenue and FAAC put together amounted to N268.133 billion as at September 2013 against N325 billion estimated for the year.
Amaechi thanked Amachree and members of the assembly for their support and encouragement and urged them to sustain the tempo in the interest of Rivers people.
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Otelema Amachree said the House passed the budget after members voted in favour of the Budget of the state.
Prior to the receipt of the budget proposal, Deputy Leader of the assembly, Robinson Ewoh, moved the motion for the temporary use of the old auditorium of the Government House for the assembly members and presentation of the 2014 budget.
Ewoh said given the incident of July 9, 2013, which led to the vandalism of equipment by aggrieved lawmakers, and the recent barricade of the assembly complex by the police, the lawmakers found it necessary to use the old auditorium as a temporary legislative chamber to carry out their legislative functions, pending when the executive arm of government would carry out the repair of the complex.
The motion was seconded by the lawmaker representing Port Harcourt Constituency II, Mrs Irene Inimgba.
Adopting the motion, the speaker said, going by the insecurity in the state, especially the bombing of two high courts in Ahoada and Okehi in Etche Local Government Areas, respectively, there was the need to adopt the use of the old auditorium for the temporary legislative sitting until the assembly complex was fully renovated for use.
Meanwhile, the sitting of the lawmakers at Government House and passage of the budget have drawn reactions from the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the state Chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah, described the presentation and passage of the 2014 budget of the state as illegal, criminal and of no effect.
He recalled that he had on Sunday raised the alarm that Amaechi was plotting with the lawmakers loyal to him to have the 2014 budget presented at the Government House.
He also noted that officials of the state government had gone on air to deny the plot, adding that with the incident of yesterday, he had been vindicated.
“The presentation and passage of the 2014 budget of the Rivers State Government outside the hallowed chamber of the Rivers State House of Assembly is criminal.
“This illegality cannot be allowed to stand. The so-called budget cannot stand the test of time. Governor Amaechi wants to cause confusion in Rivers State and the PDP will not allow him to do that.
“The PDP will explore all legal means to stop the implementation of the controversial budget. We are law-abiding people so we will use the law to stop this act of monumental illegality and criminality.”
One of the anti-Amaechi lawmakers, Mr. Martins Amewhule, in his reaction, described his pro-Amaechi colleagues as jokers, insisting that the receipt and passage of the budget outside the chamber of the state House of Assembly was a nullity.
“It is impossible for anybody to go anywhere outside the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly to pass the budget. We have laws and there are Supreme Court judgments on matters like this.
“Rivers people should disregard everything they have done today because it is null and void. The actions of the governor and those members who went there, they just went there for a club meeting.
“It is not the Rivers State House of Assembly. When the Rivers State House of Assembly wants to reconvene, we will go to the hallowed chambers and deliberate on matters that affect Rivers State.
The Deputy Speaker, Hon Leyii Kwanee has also challenged those who have moved against the budget presentation to go to court, adding that the State cannot remain remain static due to the selfish political interest of a common few.