The 2018 edition of the Calabar Carnival is likely to be far different from others, following a whooping allocation of over N4 billion to the carnival commission by the Cross River State government in this year's budget. The budget, christened budget of kinetic crystalisation, has since been passed by the state house of assembly. The total budget is over N1.3trillion, the highest by a state in the history of Nigeria.
The carnival commission had almost 300 percent increase in allocation, from N1,197,526,502.00 in 2017 to N4, 065,504,643.00. The Christmas Festival on its own was allocated N700m this year.
Record shows that the revised provision for 2017 was N800m, while actual expenditure between January and October 2017 was N214m.
The Miss Africa Beauty Pageant, one of the main features of the Christmas festival, got N250m in this year's budget, same as last year's allocation. Other festivals such as the Leboku New Yam festival in Yakurr and the newly introduced North Fest also got budgetary allocations this year.
Leboku got N240m, while North Fest got N300m. There was no allocation for North Fest in 2017 when the maiden edition was held in Ogoja on 30 September.
The budget details which was obtained by TNN in Calabar also showed that the office of the chief staff to the governor was allocated a huge sum of N102,247,125,792.74.
This is a quantum leap from the 2017 allocation which was N26,675,936,673.51. It was not immediately clear, why the allocation to that office has to be that high, compared to the allocation for the same office in the last two years.
Similarly, in the 2018 approved budget, the Office of the Special Adviser, Governor's Office, got N7,736,017,000.00, while in 2017, it got N4, 438,020,000.00. Out of this amount, N3,470,000,000.00 is for general administration, while N4,151,000,000.00 is for miscellaneous capital items.
Part of the amount allocated to this office is for the payment of utility bills such as water, electricity, telephone as well as transportation, maintenance of vehicles, procurement of office materials and supplies, among others.
Also, the sum of N7,508,600.000.00 was allocated to the office of the special adviser to the governor on welfare.
The State House of Assembly also increased its own allocation in the 2018 budget to N5,284,855,779.57. In the 2017 budget, its allocation was N3, 895,277,556.67.
Critics have however said the budget was too ambitious. They described it as crazy and unrealistic, considering the lean resources of the state, after its 76 oil wells were seized and handed over to neighbouring Akwa Ibom State by the federal government some years ago.
One of the critics and APC governorship aspirant in the state, Prof Eyo Etim Nyong had, in a recent interview described the budget as a joke. “If a state like Lagos is budgeting N1.1 trillion, and a heavily indebted, a poor state like Cross River is budgeting N1.3 trillion, do you think that is a reasonable budget? That is why I can tell you that we don't have a budget. Budget is an estimate but your estimate has to be based on facts,” he said.
However, speaker of the state house of assembly, John Gaul Lebo and some political appointees of the governor do not agree with those in that school of thought. They insist that the budget is quite in order and that those criticizing it are ignorant.
Lebo said in a recent interview with TNN that a budget does not work on the principle of certainty but on the principle of an ambition. According to him, “if you come into classical economic terms, a budget is divided into deficit budgeting and envelop budgeting. Envelop budgeting is that I have N1,000 and so my budget is N1,000.
Deficit budgeting is that I have N1,000 but my budget is that I want to spend N20,000. You already know from the point of passing the budget that you are coming from the blind side of deficit. The federal government had a deficit of N2.9 trillion in last year's budget. How much was the budget?
More than 50 percent of the budget was in deficit. Lagos State had close to N300 billion deficit in last year's budget. The same thing with Cross River. What we are doing at the House Committee is to ascertain the size of the deficit in that budget. And so people must understand the budget from that point of view.”
He further argued that no investor would take the state seriously if it budgeted something smaller, since the state was executing capital intensive projects such as the super high way and the deep seaport.