Date Published: 02/22/10
PATRIOTIC FRONT OF BAYELSA STATE (P FBS)
10 Mgbi Road, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State
A Rejoinder on that Press Release By The Niger Delta Development Monitoring And Corporate Watch (NIDDEMCOW)
The Patriotic Front of Bayelsa State (PFBS) is a pressure group, which seeks to promote good governance in Bayelsa State. In doing so, we believe that government functionaries do their optimum when they are encouraged to do the right thing through dialogue, consultation and pro-active engagement. We believe that peaceful change is possible in any society, especially when democratic structures are nurtured with tolerance, wisdom and the fear of God. We also believe in the potency of dialogue as a means of change rather than confrontation.
Our attention has been drawn to a publication of the 18/02/2010 in the pointblanknews.comand The NationNewspaper about the activities of a Civil Society Group, which goes by the name the Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch (NIDDEMCOW). The group according to the publication demands accountability from Governor Sylva and the calls on the Commissioner of Finance and Budget Dr. Opuala-Charles Silva to make public the financial position of the State. The Group through its Executive Director further asserted that ''the people of Bayelsa are being kept in the dark on the allocations and revenues accruing to the state government vis-à-vis loans and government expenditure. This scenario has bred suspicion and contempt by a cross section of the people''. Other issues thrown up by the Group include the indebtedness of the State, the monetization of the Opolo Housing Estate and the use of consultants by the Ministry of Finance and Budget, the Capital City Development among others parastatals.
We are delighted that one of the ingredients of democracy is the freedom of expression and the Press. However, it amounts to naivety on the part of the Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch to display ignorance on some of the issues raised. Some of these misconceptions need to be clarified, in order that government’s intention may not be misconstrued.
The issue of calling on Governor Timipre Sylva to deliver on his promises in the form of quarterly briefing is a welcome idea, but there is no gainsaying the fact that the Governor has since created a Forum known as “Relax with Governor Sylva”. This forum provides a platform for concerned people of Bayelsa State to interact with the Governor on a huge range of issues. Besides, there is an official website, which serves as a means of communication between the people and government functionaries. This avenue can be exploited. Beyond this, any reasonable organization could engage the leadership of the State in a pro-active manner for purposes of curiosity and clarification of public policies.
With respect to the financial allocations to States, every Nigerian knows that the Federal Executive Council publishes such financial allocations are published on monthly basis. To put the records straight, because of the drastic reduction in the quota of oil production occasioned by militant activities, and the low Internally Generated Revenue profile of the State, the State was in deep financial distress, as monthly allocations in some months could not cover even the recurrent component of expenditure. These were the circumstances that made the State to resort to taking loans and this was approved by the State House of Assembly.
On whether the Honourable Commissioner of Finance and Budget Dr. Opuala-Charles should make public the present financial position of the State, we believe that this has already been accomplished. The Bond Committee not also examined the financial position of the State but also recommended that the N50 Billion Bond was necessary to re-position the economy of Bayelsa State. These facts are on the Bayelsa Official Website for everybody to see. No patriotic Bayelsan would feign ignorance of the Bond Committee Report, which was made available to the public. Anyone who claims ignorance of the aforementioned facts can only be a paid agent to malign the personalities involved or blackmail the Government of Bayelsa State.
It is cheer ignorance for any the person or group of persons to assert that the Opolo Housing Estate was privatized or Commercialized. It is a conventional practice for top Government functionaries, including Commissioners to live in official residences. However, as a matter of official policy, government decided to monetize the houses to the Commissioners at a very high market value. This is also the practice at the national level. The essence was for government to use the monies to build other housing estates in line with the housing policy of government and to spread the dividends of democracy. It is therefore a misnomer for anyone to say the Opolo Housing Estate was privatized or Commercialized; the Houses were only monetized in the interest of the State. The on-going privatization and commercialization Bill being debated in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly has no relationship whatsoever and howsoever with the monetization policy of government.
The allegation that ministries like Finance and Budget, Capital City Development Authority (CCDA) and others are allegedly engaging the services of private consultants in carrying out their activities is uncalled for. In international best practice, consultants are believed to be more efficient in matters that require expertise, where the Ministry, Department or Agency in question cannot provide the requisite in-house manpower to execute a job. For example, the CCDA is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the Yenagoa City Development Master Plan and that involves the development of Geographical Information System Infrastructure – which only expert consultants can provide outside of the Authority or the Ministry of Transport and Urban Development. Even transnational corporations and the Federal government of Nigeria hire consultants to carry out highly specialized services.
It is most unpatriotic for the Executive Director of the group, Mr. Nengi James, to claim that nothing like privatization and commercialization was taking place in the oil and gas rich State, when we all know that the existing legal regime such as the Land Use Act and the Petroleum Act forbids the States from managing their oil and gas resources. This is the crux of the struggle for equitable fiscal federalism or resource control.
We of the Patriotic Front of Bayelsa State believe that, in the present circumstances, government needs encouragement to cope with the expanding responsibilities amidst dwindling resources. Even when criticism are made, people expect responsible Civil Society Organizations to proffer solutions to the development challenges facing the State. Moreso, Developmental journalism requires that criticisms are done in such a manner as to contribute positively to policy formulation and implementation. Already, government is coming up with a stimulus package to address some of the problems created by the biometric exercises that precipitated job loses in the State. We expect the Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch to think of more pro-active ways of engaging government to bring about the desired development of the State. In a democratic dispensation, everyone has a constructive role to play to develop society and the Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch is not an exception.
The Sylva administration places premium on transparency and accountability as pre-requisites of good governance. This was why the institutional mechanisms such as the Bayelsa Expenditure Income and Transparency Initiative (BEITI) and the Due Process Bureau were established. We therefore, enjoin the Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch, their sponsorsand other well-meaning pressure Groups to embrace the people-oriented policies and programmes of the Sylva administration and lay more emphasis on what they can contribute to good governance. The Sylva administration is determined to fast-track the development of Bayelsa State, and government cannot afford the luxury of any distractions.
Comrade James Ofoni Oweifa Thaddaeus
For And On behalf Of The Patriotic Front Of Bayelsa State