We will open-up industrial parks. We have already started up with farms in every local government. The fish ponds in Yenagoa are set. You have a hatchery there that will produce the fingerlings that we will give to them. They just need to have the interest and we will train them. We will give you the pond, the feed, the fingerlings and you are good to go and we will give them subsistence allowance. We will buy up all that they produce. I have for the purpose of aggressive pursuit of agriculture set up a state company, the Bayelsa Agric Development Company. I want to use this opportunity again after thanking God to thank the good people of our state for the mandate, the support, the encouragement, the prayers that you have encouraged us with. No doubt we have gone through a trying year, even politically but we won through it all. It is our expectation that 2017 will be a better year of greater peace, stability
Admin l Wednesday, December 14, 2016
YENEGOA, Nigeria – His Excellency Henry Seriake Dickson, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State spoke with journalists in Yenegoa on his 2017 budget and measures he has put in place to place Bayelsa State on the path of self-sustainability. Excerpts.
All manner of rumours are trending with regards to the N14.5b given back to the state by the Federal Government. What is the nature of this payment?
First let me use this opportunity to welcome all of you to our brand new office, commissioned 20 years in the life of our state. With the support of the good people of the state, and the great work members of my team and I have been doing, our state now has a befitting office that will serve it for a very long time. The N14.5b is a refund from excess deductions on account of World Bank and Paris Club and other loans that the federal government took and repaid. Our federation is a very wonderful one where as state governors you just wait and at the end of the month they come up with whatever figures and throw them at you at the FAAC.
It was discovered that most of what they did at that time was not proper, they repaid with states and Local Government funds and governors came together to fight for what rightly belonged to their states.
This N14.5b was not given to Bayelsa only but to almost all states of the federation. We have put out the figure as a result of our transparency policy. The money belongs to the state and we are only privileged to manage the resources. The civil servants have been very understanding in the last one year when we had to manage a very tough situation concerning our revenues.
In January we almost didn’t receive anything because of a combination of so many factors at the national level. For February, March, we were having between N1.5b to N2b for a state that has a wage bill of almost N5b not to talk of the Local Government level. The Local Government situation is very bad and Bayelsa is one state that since we took over we have not made any deduction from Local Government funds.
We only receive it on their behalf from the joint account and sit in the JAAC with them and the following day it is released. Local Government has financial autonomy, it is left for the leaders and the people to hold them accountable. I am leading by example and that is why I directed that the outstanding salaries (i.e 50% of salaries for February and March) be paid before we step into next year since we do not know what next year will offer.
We do not want to step into next year with the backlog of these bills. Workers will have full salaries for two months (i.e 50% for November and December and the outstanding 50% for February and March). Details and other clarifications will be made by the finance team.
Why is the 2017 budget christened ” Repositioning for Consolidation” and how do you intend to implement it in full?
It is christened ‘budget for repositioning for consolidation’ firstly because in the last five years or so, we have embarked upon an aggressive and ambitious programme of infrastructural development, a programme of deliberate expansion of the economy of the state. Now we are repositioning to consolidate because in this budget year, so much will be done and so many of these projects and ideas that were started will come to fruition. Thus, if we faithfully implement the policies and the principles behind this budget, at the end of the next budget year being 2017, there will be fundamental, almost irreversible paradigm shift in a lot of things in this state. In this budget for 2017, so much will be done.
Already so many projects are completed for example in the health care sector, the diagnostics centre and the government house hospital with the public and executive wing. We also have the referral hospitals in the local government areas. So much is happening in education, we have the boarding schools that will start soon and the constituency boarding schools that we will complete. So much is happening in the field of agriculture, we can see the massive cassava farms that will kick start in this budget year. That is why we say the aim of this budget is to finish up all of these. Also we will position the state sector by sector in such a way that Bayelsa will be ready to take off. Take for example the issues that I raised in the budget, the fundamental principles in the budget, the issue of increased revenue drive in the state, is critical. In this new year, Bayelsa will be brought to speed in terms of the IGR drive and the methodology that will be applied.
In all sectors, education, agriculture, housing you are going to see a lot of estates; in sports tourism you will see the golf course and estate, the polo field coming up, sports academy opened and a lot more. I also raised other fundamental issues in this budget. In this year, Bayelsans are going to make a giant leap forward by way of breaking this attitude of not engaging in business. That is critical to the economic future of the state and so in this budget we have provided for a N10b entrepreneurship development fund. We aim to provide N5b in state government direct contribution to that fund. Then we will work with our partners, the bank of industry, bank of agriculture and other commercial banks that are already indicating interest to work with us to contribute to that fund so that Bayelsa business men and women will be trained and educated in the businesses and enterprises that they want to be engaged in. We will train them and put them in the industrial park, we will create a farm settlement where they will reside and do business. That fund will be utilised so that we can now settle them in those businesses. They will be mentored and supervised. And it is our hope that from this intervention fund alone so many young people who are currently unemployed will not just employ themselves but will be employers of labour.
The policy of subvention to tertiary institution is also being re-worked. Because of the way the state came into existence and the political upheavals with no governor completing two terms and staying for eight years to follow through with any real programme of development or policy or reorganizing the government, we have had a situation where state -owned universities and other tertiary institutions behave as if they are entities that can only be there to be cost centres . We want them to look within, generate revenue, supporting government in a more strategic sense beyond paying salaries because the current system is such that every month we pay about N500m as salaries of NDU lecturers for example. We have said as a government that every tertiary institution will only be entitled to subvention. So lecturers and university administrators should begin from now to put on their thinking caps. But we are also giving them a soft landing in this budget year with a special intervention fund for tertiary education support which is fund beyond payment of salaries that is kept aside so that we can build many facilities and the institutions can be modernised. So for NDU, College of Education, the College of Health Technology Otuogidi, and BYCAS, there is good news in this budget year for them.
I have up a committee to look at the issues of development and we have received the preliminary report. Even before we received it, the executive council awarded contract for the construction of a senate building. And we will meet soon to know the departments that need support and how we can inject funds to increase their capacity and improve on the physical facilities on ground. They will receive strategic support by way of capacity building but that comes with a responsibility. They themselves must be ready to do the serious job and provide leadership in those schools. If there are too many staff, they should know what to do about it. They generate about N1.5b and do not account to anybody yet government must pay their salary wage bill of about N500m. All of this are part of the principles of this budget. This budget will take Bayelsa away from some of these things that have stayed with us and inhibited us for so long and free this state and set it on a new path of sustained development.
Considering the scope of the ongoing development projects in the state, do you think the amount appropriated to the ministry of works and infrastructure will be enough to sustain the tempo?
We have major infrastructural deficit and challenges. We have tried in the last couple of years to see what we can do but because the funding situation became so harsh on account of the recession you can see that a number of these projects have stalled for some time. For example the dualization of Isaac Boro road which is our flagship road almost cutting through the entire length of Yenagoa. It is very easy to forget how that road was before we came into office because human memory is very short. This budget is about completion of projects. The amount we have appropriated for infrastructural development is not as robust as we will like for it to be but a budget is a product of what you expect . For example last year, we expected we will get so much but we ended up with only about 46% of the anticipated revenue. So if you look at it from that perspective you can understand why not much could have been achieved.
For example you see the Igbogene bypass. That road has been in existence for over 20 years but you have seen the beautiful dualized roads we have made like the Opolo-Elebele road. That is why we gave them to Dantata and Sowee, CCECC and Julius Berger and the like. I wish we have more resources for infrastructure but given the economic environment this is the best we can do.
In 2016 the government proposed N191b and in 2017 the proposal is N221b. Given the current economic realities, what informed this increase and would you let Bayelsans know the level of performance in terms of implementation of the 2016 budget?
The sectoral performance report will be given by the commissioners and the media and finance team. They will begin to analyze the budget performance. But I have already said that we received only 46% of the budgeted revenue for the outgoing year and that should let you have an idea. But if we did not receive the money we anticipated then it goes without saying that government didn’t have enough money to do quite a number of things. That is why I am talking about the delay in the critical projects like the dualization of the Isaac Boro road and the stopping of work at Oporoma and so on. But all of these we intend to kick off. To your next question of why our expected revenue is slightly higher this year, I talked about the fundamental principles underlying this year’s budget which we must all understand properly and collaborate to achieve. The first one is the increased revenue drive. There are states that get over N10b to N20b IGR some approaching N30b. In those states, if you own a property, you pay tenement rate, property tax. You pay for permit to build a house.
This is how modern states and economies are run. We have assessed our possibilities and worked with the other arms of government to collaborate on redesigning the mechanism that will deliver on increased IGR for the state. For example a lot of legislations that were not there to create a legal framework under which people will now go and then do most of this services. The judiciary is setting up a revenue court; we already have the tribunal that will handle cases from urban and regional planning board. These are all mechanisms that will increase IGR. We have blocked leakages, and will continue to do so concerning the collecting and management of tax revenue in the state now and with effect from next year. Already, all revenues generated are channelled to a single account and we see it on the platform. All my key officials have the details and I monitor it too. So with a combination of all of these and with the cooperation of the people we intend to be able to raise money. We have the capacity. This state is very well endowed. This is one of the most blessed states in the country and anywhere in the world.
It is just a question of laying the right foundation. We are trying to redesign the foundations. In this state, in the public sector, we have 40 to 45 thousand people on payroll of both the state and local government. You know that this is a massive fraud, massive welfare scheme that we call salaries for civil servants. Yes we know there are diligent hard working civil servants doing very well. But because of the weak foundation upon which the state has rested for so long a lot of money that should have gone for development, building of schools, hospitals, roads and agriculture, investment in tourism etc ends up in the wrong pockets. If you look at the salary wage bill of N4b, multiply it in 10 months you will get N40b; in 12 months you will get N48b. Now if you add what the Local Government spends, which is about N1.5b you are getting close to N80b. Now if you are able to work together to do something, assuming you save only N10b of that money and you put it into infrastructure and back it with prudence, discipline, focus and commitment, which is the bedrock of performance, the state will witness more development and that is one thing that Bayelsans have seen in the past 5 years.
We have actually received less money in this period but right now you are sitting in the governor’s new office which is a master piece. Commitment, prudence, presence of mind and dedication and above all a vision and competent dedicated team working together are what you are seeing now. I seek for understanding. A lot of decisions that we will implement this year may initially appear tough but in the end they will turn around the state for the benefit of all of us.
What are the plans for rural development in your budget especially in the Biseni axis that has been neglected for over a decade, and the road linking the proposed new Government house through Igbogene.
Your question on community development is very important. When in the course of electioneering campaigns, I went round this state. I did so not just because I was soliciting for votes but that opened my eyes to the realities of rural life and the challenges and the potentials and so, in this current year, the Ministry of community development which we have created just to address these issues will be very active. Almost all communities will be touched. Teams will go round to assess the real needs of the communities, starting from the small ones to the big ones. For Azika, we will have you and other rural dwellers in our mind. We will give you attention. Concerning the Biseni road that you talked about; there are two roads that are critical that we want to do. My predecessor started the road that will link to Onopa, but that road has a lot of stories including people who ran away with billions of Naira. But as our resources permit, we will address all of those roads.
With the free education policy in the state, where is the place of vocational and technical education, particularly technical colleges. And there have been reported cases of cattle destroying crops belonging to local farmers in parts of Bayelsa state. What measures have you put in place to check this menace and prevent clashes between farmers and herdsmen?
Ans: We have been taking a lot of measures to prevent clashes from occurring. Let me say we condemn the attitude of herdsmen who come into this state and carry their cattle to people’s farms and destroy them and attack farmers and villagers. But part of what we have been doing quietly is to work with the security officials and the leaders of some of these elements and a lot of progress is being made. I am aware of those instances and I want to say that people should not take the law into their hands. We will not allow herdsmen to intimidate Bayelsa people. That will not happen under my watch, you can be sure of that. And any herdsman who is armed with any dangerous weapon will be promptly dealt with according to the law. We have decided that we will open up ranches where people will be engaged in animal husbandry. But in the interim we have directed that no cattle should be seen roaming around Yenagoa again, it is a very dangerous trend. We have given them a temporary place, i.e the Bayelsa palm. On your second question, we have already designated a school as a technical school, the science school here at Okaka now that BDGS has been relocated. But if we have resources, the Polytechnic will also serve a lot of purpose. The issue of technical and vocational training is key, we are not forgetting that.
We kindly appeal to you to establish a coast guard group at the Okunbiri axis of the Akassa area to checkmate the activities of sea pirates who attack deep sea fishermen. We are helpless. Trolleys and ICO’s also disrupt fishing activities. Please intervene.
I agree with you that the security situation in those coastal areas particularly Akassa area is not so good. The situation in Nembe area is much better since the area became passable by road except the
Oluasiri side. But the Brass area, Akassa, Koluama from the report I get on a daily basis is still a challenge. I know that the military and security forces are working very hard. We have also set up the water ways security outfit which we hope to fully activate in collaboration with the federal Government and their agencies when more funds are made available. But before then, report whatever you see to your chairman, the officials and security personnel in that area. But in the forthcoming year 2017, we may establish more presence. There will be increased investment in security. I am aware that even in Yenagoa, there is some increase in petty crimes and so on. We are concerned and I know the security forces are working hard and we urge them to do more. Doo Akpor will be re-kitted again. I have started investing in upgrading the communication system and we intend to take delivery of new vehicles very soon. I want to call on all of you to be more security conscious and report any unusual activity to the security agencies.
What successes have been recorded in the area of sports for the year and what are the plans for the future?
Ans: You are already aware of what is going on in the Samson Siasia sports stadium and they will finish work latest January. In 2017, there will be a lot of talent hunting. I have just appointed a renowned UK based sports development expert to work with us on developing young sporting talents. We will be making more investments in the sports academy and I will be making appointments concerning the administration of the sports academy. That place can take students now. The aim is to put in world class facilities and the consultant we have appointed has the capacity to identify talent, get sponsorships bring coaches to work with our local coaches. In the next Olympics in four years, our dream is to have Bayelsans win medals. The sports academy will admit its first set of students in January hopefully. A lot of facilities are set. So the future for sports development is bright. By the way, our sporting teams are doing very well, I want to use this opportunity to congratulate our female team that narrowly missed the gold medal. I will be hosting them very soon.
Talking about the plans you have for the entrepreneurship scheme, how do you intend to ensure that ordinary Bayelsan youth come together and make something of themselves?
Ans: At the completion of the re-organisation of the civil service, we will employ several qualified, trainable young people with relevant skills and qualifications in relevant areas. The studies we have conducted and the data we have developed in the last 5 years is this; with all this bloated public service roll we have, there is critical lack of qualified manpower in sensitive areas. I have been employing and approving employment of doctors, more health care facilities are coming on stream. Bayelsa by our dream is going to be a centre of medical excellence and research. A lot of vacancies will be created for pharmacists; we have very few pharmacists in this state, few lab technicians and other medical professionals.
Bayelsans should get ready for more employment that is those who want a career in the civil service not those who want to be employed and stay at home expecting to collect money. This second term consolidation mandate is a duty I owe this state. I will sanitize this state in all the critical areas so that anyone who comes after me will meet a saner system, a more disciplined system. We need teachers who would be in the class room. In the area of entrepreneurship development, the youths are the main targets of this policy. We will open-up industrial parks. We have already started up with farms in every local government. The fish ponds in Yenagoa are set. You have a hatchery there that will produce the fingerlings that we will give to them. They just need to have the interest and we will train them. We will give you the pond, the feed, the fingerlings and you are good to go and we will give them subsistence allowance. We will buy up all that they produce.
I have for the purpose of aggressive pursuit of agriculture set up a state company, the Bayelsa Agric Development Company. I want to use this opportunity again after thanking God to thank the good people of our state for the mandate, the support, the encouragement, the prayers that you have encouraged us with. No doubt we have gone through a trying year, even politically but we won through it all. It is our expectation that 2017 will be a better year of greater peace, stability. I just want to add that for us, elections are over and we should all work as members of one Bayelsa Ijaw family, support and encourage one another. I hope and pray that 2017 will bring greater blessings. I wish you all compliments of the season!