The Bayelsa Development Initiative (BDI) has described Governor Douye Diri’s 2024 budget as a rehash of similar past documents without any vision and direction to champion the development of the state.
BDI said after studying the document, there was nothing to cheer as it remained a repetition of old budgets with high increase in recurrent expenditure to satisfy the huge appetite of the ruling class at the detriment of the state and the people’s development and empowerment.
Insisting that the 2024 budget was unambitious, drab and watery, BDI in a statement signed at the weekend by its Secretary, Michael Sam-Rodamini, said there was nothing the budget whose recurrent expenditure of N212.7bn was higher than the capital expenditure of N176.6bn could do to break the shackles of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment of the state.
Sam-Rodamini said, “The 2024 Budget is simply a rehash of similar past documents with same sub-heads. The only difference is that old figures were changed and adjusted to higher ones. It is not a product of any deep thinking and serious research to reflect the new realities and challenges of the people,” BDI said.
He insisted that Bayelsa was in dire need of quality capital projects such as roads, bridges, water among others and required a budget that would ambitiously cut the astronomically high cost of running government contained in Diri’s 2024 budget.
Michael Sam-Rodamini said while a whooping N39.4bn was budgeted for the governor’s office and N7bn for Government House, the entire Ministry of Water Resources got only N1.7bn.
“The implication is that while the governor lives in profligacy, buying the best of bottled water to quench his thirst, the masses of Bayelsa will still groan under the affliction of water borne diseases as they keep depending on contaminated water bodies to quench their thirst.
“The implication is that the masses of Bayelsa will continue to buy water from vendors popularly called ‘merua’. With such a paltry sum of money budgeted for the ministry of water resources, it means that the government has no plan to embark on the much needed water reticulation project to connect Bayelsa homes to pipe borne water. This government is not ready to do anything that will benefit the people”.
He wondered about the kind of work the Finance Ministry was expected to do for Bayelsa that a whooping N60bn was allocated to it while the Ministry of Agriculture, which was supposed to be the focus of any serious government, had only N14bn.
“This is evidence that this Diri’s government has no plan to develop the agricultural sector, which is supposed to play a crucial role in addressing hunger to ensure food security, enhance the standard of living and promote the economy. Bayelsa’s agricultural potential will remain untapped in this government”, BDI said.
He observed that while Diri planned to spend N13.3bn on local and foreign trips; N650m on legal services; N108m on telephone calls and N1.6bn on refreshments, he set aside paltry sums of N6.5m for craft development centres; N980m for the University of Africa and N60m for physical planning and development.
“Why in this time and age will a government budget only N6.5m for Craft Development Centre under the Ministry of Local Government? Such area should be critical to deliver skills to youths, create an army of entrepreneurs to reduce unemployment among the youths. Bayelsa needs deliberate efforts to plan its cities, found new cities, and restructure the capital city. With this budget of profligacy, it is clear that BDI said.
“Indeed, our dear Bayelsa has entered into another round of one-chance government, a routine government system run by people, who only think about their selfish interest without any iota of patriotism for the state and her people. Bayelsa’s money is deliberately misappropriated, misapplied and squandered for personal self-aggrandisement.
“A look at the budget shows repetitive sub-heads with huge amount of money allocated to them. Despite the huge sum of money allocated to the Governor’s office, there are also security votes of about N12bn; security services of about N2.6bn; cleaning and fumigation of N2.5bn among other channels designed to funnel our money into private pockets.
“It will surprise you that there is no money voted for the Yenagoa New City Project, which is supposed to expand the capital city, build new homes and crash the high cost of renting accommodation in the state. Just lay your hand on the state budget and you will weep for Bayelsa.”