Wednesday, 2 March 2011

News Release: Proposed Imo State Budget Virement Is Scandalous

Governor Ikedi Ohakim
The Imo Interest Group hereby joins all well meaning citizens of Imo State to condemn in its entirety the Re-Ordered Estimates (Virement) of the 2010 Appropriation Act of Imo State of Nigeria to the tune of N24,033,479,660 before the Imo State House of Assembly.

For the avoidance of confusion, a virement is a legislative approval that empowers the executive at any level of government to divert funds appropriated in the budget for certain projects to other ones it gives priority. Our grouse with the virement stem from three fundamental  issues, namely:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

(1)It It is both illegal and criminal to seek retroactive endorsement of virement for expenditures which have already been arbitrarily made by the Imo State Government.  (2)The reprehensible administrative culture in which capital budgetary provisions for critical arrears like education, health, agriculture, and socio-economic infrastructure to positively impact on the people and development in Imo State were diverted to recurrent votes where they were easily frittered away is repugnant to the true essence of democratic rule and good governance.

A few examples would buttress our point. The retroactive approval for Re-Ordered Estimates being sort shows that the Government of Imo State had seriously crashed the budgetary provisions for the following capital projects: (i) Supervised Agric Credit Loan Scheme (ii) Urban Water Scheme (iii) Rural Water Scheme (iv) Dam and Irrigation Development Programme (iv) Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta Regional Water Supply Scheme (v) Imo State University (vi) Junior and Senior Secondary Schools (vii) Universal Basic Education (viii) College of Engineering of Imo State University Okigwe Campus (College of Medicine Imo State University Orlu Campus (ix) Bureau of Poverty Alleviation (x) Imo Wonder Lake and Resort Centre, Oguta (xi) Micro Credit Development Fund, etc.

If the sensibilities of Imo citizens were assaulted by the arbitrary crashing of budgetary allocations for these and many other key projects to the tune of N24,033,479,660, we lack words to describe Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s sense of priority and profligacy that saw to the diversion of such funds into non-priority recurrent votes where they were easily frittered away. They include the following:

1.The jacking up of Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s security vote from N3 Billion to N4.256 Billion. This sum translates to over N354 Million monthly. What could Ikedi Ohakim have secured with such a whopping sum in the midst of massive poverty even as kidnappers, armed robbers, etc were having a field day in Imo State in 2010? In fact only last week, gunmen killed the orderly and driver of a high court judge in Owerri and successfully abducted him. 2. Cost of maintenance of the Government House and Lodge was
increased from the approved N200 Million to N1.5 Billion. 3. Expense for the Government House Media and Public Relations was unilaterally raised from the N100 Million approved in the 2010 budget                                                                                   
to N850 Million. Little wonder they could afford to buy ten newspaper pages to abuse both real and imagined “enemies” of government who attempted to question the misrule in Imo State.
4. Budget for Donation also rose from N100 Million to N600 Million, while Maintenance of Motor  Vehicles increased from N150 Million to N300 Million. The Government also spent N150 Million instead of the approved N70 Million on “Hospitality” and another N300 Million instead of an approved N100 Million on “Gift” to Government Guests Little wonder the Governor could, as reported by Champion Newspaper of Wednesday February 6 2011 afford to attempt bribing Catholic priests and Reverend Sisters with a whooping $50,000. Lord have mercy!

It is also instructive that despite frittering away funds voted for the Agricultural Credit Loan Scheme, Governor Ohakim stretched his political gimmick further by launching the Scheme on Tuesday February
22 2011. According to the retroactive virement request before the State Assembly, while N1 Billion was approved for the take off of the Scheme, the Government had, with its characteristic impunity narrowed
it down to N800 Million out of which N600 Million had been spent even when the Scheme had not taken off, leaving it with a paltry N200Million.

In view of these, we wish to state categorically that the wave of mass protests that would engulf the nooks and crannies of Imo State should the Imo State House of Assembly which is packed with Ikedi Ohakim’s cronies as much as touches the request for a retroactive virement with a 100 metre pole will reduce the prevailing situations in the Arab world to a child’s play.

We totally support the position of the overwhelming majority of Imo citizens that Governor Ikedi  Ohakim’s cup is full and running over. We are appalled therefore that the State House of Assembly is yet to respond to the popular demands by visiting this heinous illegality, profligacy, and impunity that cries to the high heavens with the requisite actions if they still call themselves the representatives of the people.
We further call on all anti-graft agencies to immediately rise to the occasion by investigating the matter with a view to immediately prosecute everyone found culpable in this budget scandal.

Barrister Uchendu Nwachukwu
Director of Media and Mobilization

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