Rivers APC, PDP clash over Assembly’s demand for budget presentation
The recent call by Martin Amaewhule-led Rivers State House of Assembly on Governor Siminalayi Fubara to present the 2024 Appropriation Bill to the House afresh is causing ripples in the crude oil and gas-rich state.
Governor Fubara had presented the budget before four members of the House led by then factional Speaker, Edison Ehie on December 13 amid the heat of the political crisis in the state.
However, the warring parties later signed an eight-point peace agreement during a meeting with President Bola Tinubu which included the re-submission of the 2024 appropriation bill.
Amaewhule, while presiding over a sitting of about 26 lawmakers on January 9, 2024, said the state was presently being run without a budget.
He also called on the Auditor General of the State to make available the state accounts to the Assembly as required by the Constitution.
But the governor, who had pledged his commitment to implementing the presidential proclamation, had not reacted to the request of the lawmakers who said they would write to inform him on their forthcoming recess.
Speaking to our correspondent on the issue, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State, Chief Tony Okocha, said the budget was never presented to a properly constituted house, saying what the governor did was a nullity.
Okocha stated, “It is not that he (Fubara) is presenting the budget afresh. The truth is that he has not presented budget because that which he attempted to do is a total nullity. So, you cannot place something on nothing.
“The budget of a state is the budget that the state should run on, not a budget that is presented in the market place or to market women because it has to be scrutinised by an Assembly.”
He further said the State Assembly has 32 seats save for one of the lawmakers that died recently, pointing out that “The Assembly seats representing the 23 local government areas. And if the governor presented budget to four Assembly members who represent only four segments of our society, it means of course that it is not the budget for the Rivers people.
So it is expedient he presents the budget because I’m sure that it is in recognition of that anomaly that the President also in our resolution mandated the Governor to present the Assembly. “The other people are 27 Assembly members who are still alive. You overlook them and claim you have submitted the budget. “That is not correct. No budget has been submitted. The Assembly has asked for the Appropriation bill, that is the budget. They didn’t say he should represent, they said he should bring it. He has not brought before them.”
On his part, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Syney Gbara, opined that the question of representing a state budget was a constitutional matter and the prerogative of the governor.
Gbara stated, “I think it is purely a constitutional matter and it is up to the governor to decide if he will do that or not. You already have seen that the governor is already complying with most of the presidential resolutions, even going beyond it.
The resignation of Edison Ehie from the state Assembly was not part of the resolution, but that has been done and the Governor has expressly told Rivers people that he is ready to make any sacrifice for peace to reign in the state.
So, the issue of representing the budget is purely a constitutional matter which is left for the Governor to decide whether to do so or not.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, has said that he and his camp have fulfilled their part of the peace deal initiated by President Bola Tinubu on the political crisis in Rivers State.
This was as he stated that all parties involved in the political crisis had endorsed the presidential proclamation.
Wike stated this on Saturday when he visited the Oba of Ogbaland in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers, His Royal Highness Eze Nnam Obi III.
Addressing the monarch, the immediate past state governor said he was interested in the peace and unity of the state and promised not to let him down.
“We accepted whatever decision Mr President has taken and we have on our own part fulfilled every condition given by Mr President because I told you I will not let you down,” he said