“My government won’t spend N27billion reserved savings.” This is how Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, who is also the chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF), once puts it. We are not even talking about the N115billion of this same saving. We were told that the money had accrued from the monthly N1billion compulsory saving. He boasted this about during the launching of “Change Rivers State” initiative held at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, months, before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared him winner of the 2011 gubernatorial elections in the state. What made his statement more interesting was his declaration that the state government would not touch the money despite anything. But today, what are we seeing? A state its account is said to be dilapidated. Not even the governor’s conceited statement that the “compulsory” N1 billion monthly saving was backed by law and the saving was for future use of the state.
What we could not understand is whether the state is better with the situation than it was before Amaechi came. Amaechi had told us how he realised that a lot of things had gone wrong and needed to be corrected, on assumption of office in 2007. He formed a lot of “things” he said were to enable his government realise the “dream Port Harcourt”, among which was the “change initiative”. But what are we seeing today? Indeed, a “dreaming Port Harcourt.’ The Deputy Governor, Chairman of the state Investment Committee, we were told, had signed agreement with Skye Financial Services Limited, Stanbic IBTC Bank and First Trustees Limited “to invest the funds on behalf of the state.” Amaechi went further and told us of how the state has a new brand called, “Rivers Brand”.
Not even the inauguration of a seven member State Tenders Board by Amaechi, said was assigned with the duty to assist save more money for government to embark on its “numerous projects”, could save the state’s financial woes. If we still remember, The Tenders Board, reportedly, had Mrs. Mina Benebo, Mrs. Patience Schulze, Rev Gladman Amadi, Mr. David Peter and Mr. Claude Dienye as members, while Mrs. Esther Anucha as Chairman, and Mr. Nicholas Ohochukwu, of the State Ministry of Justice, as Secretary.
While inaugurating this Board, Amaechi told the Rivers masses that it was formed to ensure that the Due Process Principle was followed in his administration. He backed up his statement, saying that the statutory law of Financial Regulation nominated the appointees. He added that with that, the Due Process starts from the Ministries.
What we are not sure today is if the Governor’s swanked effectiveness of the board really reflected the number and value of projects embarked upon in the state. Did the Board really achieve the governor’s set targets? Maybe, the ‘target’ could be a state with no longer finance we are glaring at. We cannot always be told that the realities from market regulations paint a gloomy picture of the future in Rivers State, even when the governor had pointed out and told us that “we need to save money, and one way to do so is to ensure that all those fat costs that we bear from projects will be reduced, not arbitrarily but according to the dictates of market forces in line with the law”.
What is amiss is the rationale in the long queue of projects Amaechi lined up knowing full well that these countless projects required huge funds to actualize them. Is this not a case of treating leprosy with back pain prescription? We are sure that Amaechi who had expressed delight that the funds to be preserved in the process would be used to provide good schools for children, affordable healthcare amongst other social services, would have his blood swelling the veins on his forehead by now, on how the state suddenly ran out of money; not even the hyped “N27bn reserved savings” or the N115billion saving, have redeemed our state.
We could remember that the Tenders Board had not been functional in the state since the early 80s which was why Amaechi exhumed it. Mrs. Anucha, Chairman of the State Tenders Board, who’s also the Head of Service that thanked Governor Amaechi for the reconstitution of the Board, should come out and tell the Rivers masses what the state has achieved with the re-construction of the Board, because she reportedly told the masses that the absence of the Tenders Board resulted in perfumed abuse of Public Procurement Procedure and non adherence to laid down Principles.
With the vanished wealth in the state’s coffer, as reported in the recent report of the 27 bankrupt states in Nigeria, the government and any Board formed for the appropriation of the state funds have not lived up to their promise and have betrayed the confidence they urged the Rivers masses to repose on them. Anybody praising “the prominent role this government is playing” is just being biased, without seeing the restoration of crimes and killings to all parts of the state. How else the vanished money could be better described other than it is the return of recklessness to the state. This shows that the much touted government’s investment in the financial and societal security is a waste.