When a king is out of touch with his kingdom, the people are often treated to sumptuous promises of an El Dorado solely build on quicksand. This aptly and undeservedly typifies the prevailing scenario playing out in Cross River State at this time. The ensuing twisted epithets of bogus castles being built in the air since 29th May, 2015 got elevated to an Olympian height when on 30th November, 2017 Governor Benedict Ayade stood at the hollowed precincts of the State House of Assembly and presented a mindboggling budget of N1.3Trillion for the 2018 fiscal year tagged “Budget of Kinetic Crystallization”. As expected, the John Gaul led State House of Assembly which has clearly acquitted itself as an appendage of the Governor’s Office or a mere extension of the Peregrino House quickly did the “needful” by passing the budget estimates with all the impracticable line items into law wholesale.
Blighted by sustained, unrestrained and egregious excess budgetary estimates, Senator Benedict Ayade has demonstrated an inordinate affection for expansive figures just for the fun of it. The man has not hidden his uncanny desire to inflate numbers and he is a genius in showcasing unimplementable budgets. You would recall that Ayade’s first full blown budget was for the 2016 fiscal year with an estimated N350Bliilion; he backtracked a bit to N305Billion in the subsequent fiscal year of 2017. Unfortunately, the governor has never presented a scorecard of the percentage implementation of his previous budgets to the people and the State House Assembly that has the statutory obligation to oversight the executive with respect to budgetary performance, evaluation and appraisal has since lulled itself to slumber.
There is no question in any discerning mind that the governor and the members of the state parliament are in a league of laggardly pace socioeconomic development agenda for the state. Otherwise, why is there such consistency by the governor in presenting appropriation estimates that are completely out of sync with the absorptive capacity of the state at this time, yet the members of parliament would pass these proposed estimates into law without raising an eyebrow and due recourse to the dire financial strait of the state?
In presenting his scandalous 2018 budget in late November, 2017, Governor Ben Ayade took an exultant pleasure in revealing to his audience made up of a combination of members of the State House of Assembly and a pathetic coterie of his appointees that he needed the expansive budget to enable the state warehouse investors’ funds for his “Signature Projects”. Really! Since when did a state budget become a gauge or repository for investors’ funds? This is a measure of the depth of crass naivety or unbridled deception in the process of public sector budgeting that has greeted the state under the watch of Senator Benedict Ayade. It is a strange and outrageous invention unknown to economics, public finance and accounting. The sad narrative is that Senator Benedict Ayade has etched himself in history as the governor who subjected Cross River State to a fulsome contempt against global best practices in budgeting, standard procedure in public financial management and known theoretical underpinnings.
The state does not exist in isolation; therefore the strenuous attempt by the governor to reinvent the wheel by setting up a budget template that is not only ridiculous but also unknown anywhere in the world is akin to making Cross River State a laughing stock in the comity of states in Nigeria. The state is fast achieving the notoriety of putting up overbloated annual budgetary figures with no meaningful impact on the local economy. The budget is the most potent short term economic planning document that sets the stage for a robust long term progress. A well articulated and faithfully implemented budget is the necessary corollary to building a viable economy. Serious leaders know that the starting point for actualizing their economic blueprint is budgeting. Apparently, in the last three years, Senator Ayade has shown that he is either unwilling to learn the ropes or he is avowedly incorrigible and allergic to sound reasoning on the economic front.
It was quite amusing to watch the governor reel out his achievements after three years on the occasion of the signing of the 2018 budget into law. Senator Ayade’s speech was laced with half-truths and some very spurious “milestones”. Among the achievements was the fact that he got his EIA approved by the Federal Ministry of Environment for the construction of his much touted Super Highway. But the governor did not tell his audience that the provisional approval he got for the EIA was predicated on 23 stringent conditions with timelines attached to some of them.
(To be concluded in next edition)
* Oyama , a public affairs analyst, sent this from Calabar.