by Stanley Azuakola
Something is no longer right in Rivers state. The state seems to be experiencing a cash crunch making it difficult for the government to meet its responsibilities to the people including payment of salaries and pensions.
Now, monies that the state government has been saving for several months are likely to be expended, as the state assembly has passed a bill mandating the state government to withdraw N30bn from the N53bn in the government’s reserve fund. That’s over 57 per cent of the savings in one withdrawal.
The Rivers government is mandated by state law to save N1bn every month in reserve to meet emergency needs and somehow in this political season, it is the thinking of the state’s politicians that an emergency has arrived.
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Otelemaba Dan-Amachree, said the mandate given to the executive arm of government to withdraw the fund was to enable the state governor to address the challenges facing the government. He claimed that this became necessary because of the ceding of the state’s oil well to Bayelsa and Abia states.
“You recall that the Federal Government has ceded our oil wells in Soku to Bayelsa State. It has ceded our oil wells to Abia and we have been losing close to N7bn or more every month for the past one year now,” he said.
Dan-Amachree, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Leyii Kwanee, recalled that government needed to pay the salaries of 13,000 teachers employed some months ago, as well as that of contractors many of whom had already left their construction sites because of the non-payment of their dues.
The Speaker said, “The Rivers State Reserve Fund Law (Amendment) Bill of 2014 has just been passed, mandating the executive arm of government to access N30bn from the reserve fund. It is only effective only if this amendment has been assented to.
“Of course, we are not going to pass this resolution on to them until the bill has been assented to and made to become law. So, I want this clarification for record purpose so that we will not be misquoted.
“You can see that over 13,000 teachers have not been paid for quite some time. You can see that virtually all the contractors seem to have pulled out of the sites. The governor intends to inject some of these funds into all of these sites that the contractors have pulled out from.”
Dan-Amachree pointed out that the governor was expected to sign the bill into law, adding that the House would resume sitting in the next two weeks.
Leader of the House and Chairman, Ad hoc Committee on the State Reserve Fund Law (Amendment) Bill of 2014, Mr. Chidi Lloyd, had earlier proposed that some sections of the law prohibiting the House from investigating how the fund was managed be repealed.