Home Uncategorized Cross River Finances Wobbling, Records N2.380 billion Fiscal Deficit In Two Months

Cross River Finances Wobbling, Records N2.380 billion Fiscal Deficit In Two Months

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Gov. Bassey Otu

Cross River state government financial status is desperate as it recorded a fiscal deficit of N2.380 billion within first two months in office.

This deficit is associated with the state’s huge debt that is deducted monthly from the Federation Account, homungous wage bill due to huge workforce and ghost workers, internal revenue leakages and many others.

Previous government of Senator Ben Ayade had stated that the state earned about  N2.222 billion on the average as gross statutory allocation from the Federation Account and about N2.187 billion is deducted at source to service debts thus leaving the state with about N34 million.

The Debt Management Office (DMO) had put the state domestic debt at N196.3 billion as at March 2022 while the external debt was put at $209.5 million as at December 2022.

Despite the wobbling financial status of the state, Legit, an organization checking financial performance of governments in Nigeria, ranked Cross River as the 19th poorest state in the country with poverty percentage of 36.3 percent as at September 1, 2023.

This performance is said to be achieved through deliberate government policies on agriculture encouraging farmers in the state plus other tangible programmes of government to fulfill it’s “people’s first” mantra.

Fielding questions recently from newsmen in the state while marking his 100 days in office, the State Governor, Senator Bassey Otu expressed concerns with the low finances of the state saying huge debt was a major factor as the state recorded deficit allocation from the Federation Account in his first two months in office.

“We have succeeded in restructuring our debt because that was the first issue that confronted us as a government which almost threw us to the ground and that was judgement debts, and the one that was most threatening was the (Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) debt. 

“By the time we finished discussions with the federal government, it became clear that we are not going to have anything for a very long time and suffice to say that ever since I came to this office in May, in June when we had the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting , we had a negative ₦1.9 billion deficit after allocation and in the second month we had about ₦480 million deficit. When it is negative like that, it means we even have to look for money to balance up, not to talk of Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO), talk less of salaries and other responsibilities but God has been helping us, we have been managing and we will come out of it very soon”, Otu said.

Regarding civil servants and huge wage bill, he said, “we discovered that a whole lots are retiring but the salary bill keeps on increasing. There is need to do a proper audit to ascertain the exact number so that part of the politicians who have the qualifications, can be taken as civil servants, and the rest can be appointed, I think it is only there and then that we would be able to strike a balance and we have gone very far with that”. 

The governor raised the alarm that, “the number of ghost workers we have (in the state) is outrageous but I believe not too long from now, we would be taking that particular exercise to a very logical conclusion”.

Recall that Otu while presenting his 35 page manifesto to newsmen in Calabar at the Ernest Etim Bassey Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) last year as the governorship candidate of his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state, said current exclusive list and the derivation formula does not  in any way favour Cross River state and there was need for a review.

 “We shall seek to ensure a sustainable and efficient management of our mineral resources. We shall seek political solutions  to the reposting of our state as an oil producing state, we shall follow all legal procedures in pursing and ensuring the return of our 76 oil wells as well as the review of the exclusive list and derivative sharing formula for the benefit of our state”, he said.

Commenting on what the governor said concerning the state workforce, huge wage bill, ghost workers and low income from the Federation Account, the State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Monday Ogbodum  told Pillar Today that the “total workforce for the state is 12,955, then for pensioners we have 10, 854 while that of all the 18 local government councils we have a total of 29,787”.

So on the alarming number of ghost workers in the state, he said “we are not the ones conducting the exercise, that is the personnel audit in the state but we are there to make sure that the consultant or people handling the verification do not shortchange our workers in the name of ghost workers. So the final report from the consultant is not yet out and we cannot say how many ghost workers we have”.

On huge wage bill and low income from the Federation Account vis-a-vis the expectations or demands of labour, Ogbodum said, “it is the issue of governance and when they were campaigning, we asked if he can cope with the poor finances of the state, he gave us the assurance that he was capable. 

“So the state should cut it’s cloth according to the material it has. Now as he has said he wants to do rail from Calabar to Obudu, a gigiantic  project when he is complaining of resources, how do you reconcile the two?”.

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