By Solomon Okocha
“The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” – Jacob Lew
While we continue to monitor and wait for the outcome of Federal Government’s probe into the unending and embarrassing controversies emanating from the 2016 budget, we must also not forget to beam our intellectual searchlights into the budget proposals of our various states. Since States are the second closest form of a federal government to the people, and because the development of any nation is dependent on the strides of different components of government, it is therefore important for states budgets to be in tandem with the overall vision of the Government at the centre, and truly accessible to citizens and residents.
Welcome to Rivers State. It appears that the issue of budget (2016) in the state is not in the public domain. Many say that it is a ‘secret document, some others tag it as a special preserve of Governor Nyesom Wike. Now, let us be very clear about this; this writer only seeks to arouse the consciousness of Rivers citizens, as well as to challenge the state government, towards the need for public sensitisation on the contents of the budget, and the level of implementation so far; assuming that the existence of a viable budget for the state is not in doubt.
The last time I came into Rivers State, while driving through the dark streets of Port Harcourt, I realised that the state government has little or no plans for drivers at night. Or is there a plan? Did the government budget for street lights? Diesel or PHCN? How much has been expended so far? Why is there total darkness in the streets of Nigeria’s erstwhile Garden City?
Security is another serious menace that is troubling the supposed oil rich state. There is no day that goes by without kidnapping, armed robbery, violence, and so many other antisocial vices. With the amount of mayhem that daily rocks the state, one begins to wonder if the state government has any laid down agenda in terms of protecting lives and properties. Maybe the money allocated for security is not enough? Who knows? But first of all, where is the budget?
The people of Rivers State must take their destiny in their hands, if they must survive Nigeria’s dwindling economy and the criminal fury that is upon their state. They must rise up and ask the government questions and demand answers, and the first in line is this: Wike, where is our budget?
•Okocha writes from Abuja, Nigeria