…Says it’s difficult for his administration to pay salaries
By Emma Amaize, Festus Ahon & Akpokona Omafuaire
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, yesterday, lamented that Nigeria’s economy was not in the best of shapes and urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to revive the country’s economy.
Okowa, during his quarterly media briefing in Asaba, disclosed that with the dwindling revenue allocation receipt, his administration had difficulty in paying November salaries.
He x-rayed the 2022 federal budget and expressed concern at Nigeria’s borrowing profile as a poor nation.
The governor, while fielding questions on the proposed fuel subsidy removal, said: “There is a reason to be worried as a nation.
“It is so bad that in November, with the money that came, Delta is unable to pay salaries, and we are negotiating with our banks so that we can pay salaries. It is as bad as that because of the fact that there are many issues, unexplained issues why Delta should receive as low as what it is receiving.”
On subsidy removal
On subsidy removal, he said: “We (governors) cannot give any explanation and no explanation has been given to us. So, we are actually praying that we can get explanation from somewhere. The governors are not in charge of petrol subsidy. I do not think there is a direct stand of the governors on petrol subsidy at the moment.
“It is a decision that has to be taken by the Federal Government; it is a decision that will flow within the laws of the land and it is a decision that has to be made based on the economic situation in our country.
“There is a lot of complexity on the economy of this nation. As at today, the situation is not the best for our nation, Nigeria. Unfortunately, many times, we do not sit back to examine the federal budget, if you examine the federal budget and you also look into the issue of our borrowings and money devaluation within Nigeria, you will begin to get very worried.
“The budget that was presented to the National Assembly, if I remember is about N16.39 trillion. Of that N16.39 trillion, N5.35 trillion is for capital expenditure, and of that N16.39 trillion, N6.26 trillion is supposed to be borrowed, so if you are borrowing N6.23 trillion as a nation and then you are spending about N5.35 trillion on capital expenditure, the implication of that in a sense is that without borrowing, we cannot execute a single capital project.
“And the worst is that of the N16.39 trillion being borrowed, if N5.35 trillion is going into capital expenditure, it means that about N1 trillion is going into recurrent expenditure, that is enough to put fears in us as a nation.
“There is a problem. The economy is not in the best of state, so it is for the Federal Government to be able to take its decision as to what economic plans and path it ought to follow for us as a country.
“It is just for us to understand that we are not a rich nation, we are a poor nation. I do not know about tomorrow but as at today from all the indices, we are not a rich nation, we are just struggling through and there are challenges.”
COVID-19 Omicron variant
On the outbreak of COVID-19 Omicron variant, he said it had become very imperative for Nigerians to embrace vaccines, especially with the Omicron and Delta variants currently ravaging the world.
“Deltans and Nigerians are not accessing the vaccines enough; it is safe and many people are not taking advantage of the free vaccines.
“There has been no single case of death in Nigeria as a result of the vaccine.
“There is a panicky approach to the whole thing and the way countries are placing travel bans on South Africa is not right.”
“I do not think it is the best way to approach this because once you begin to have this level of punishment, when they detect new variants, they may not speak out and that will be worse to handle.
“We have not had strong resistance to vaccines and I want to encourage Deltans and Nigerians to take the vaccines.”