FULL TEXT OF HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR OF CROSS RIVER STATE AT THE CROSS RIVER STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY DURING THE PRESENTATION OF THE 2024 APPROPRIATION BILL
Mr. Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly. Distinguished and Honorable Members of the House. Fellow Citizens of the State. Ladies and Gentlemen.
I stand before you with a great sense of commitment and determination to the development of our State to present to you, the 2024 proposed Budget that places priority on the people first among other contending variables.
This is so because when human beings form the centerpiece of policy formulation and implementation, the outcomes will be holistic, integrated, and sustainable development.
The projection in the estimates for the 2024 fiscal year is aligned with some Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Primary among them are:
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Goal 3: Good Health and well-being
Goal 4: Quality Education
Goal 5: Gender Equality
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
We are however mindful of the world’s economic downturn; which Cross River State is not spared either. We shall therefore remain focused on expenditure prudence and prioritizing resource allocation to meet the goals.
As a newly elected government, I wish to state that this administration sees governance as a continuum; hence our resolve to review the Action Plans of our predecessors by completing some priority projects already started and adding our innovative ones towards achieving an all-inclusive development for our dear State.
With your support, we have received more impetus to serve our people. We shall be making new inroads to fast-track our economic growth.
Our renewed resolve remains uncompromised as we continue to direct our efforts toward sources that have remained untapped and unexplored as we seek to consolidate our revenue base and maintain the tempo of our development.
Performance Of The 2023 Budget
Let me, therefore, Mr. Speaker, as a basis for the presentation of the 2024 budget estimates, first review the 2023 Budget.
The 2023 Budget of Quantum Infinitum my Administration inherited which we later revised sought to transform as well as empower economically the citizens through the following: Creation of wealth and employment generation. Improvement of our educational standards. Expansion of access to healthcare;
Transformation of our rural areas to uplift the plight of our rural dwellers;
Continuation of infrastructural development and urban renewal program to sustain our position as the leading tourist destination in Nigeria.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable members, in 2024, we intend to consolidate on the gains made by my predecessors as we strive to deliver quality service to our people.
We have prioritized a higher capital expenditure over recurrent expenditure in our public expenditure structure. As a deliberate principle, we have maintained a higher capital–recurrent expenditure of 61.6% to 38.4%. This not only emphasizes the importance of structural development but also a demonstration of the State’s commitment to the provision of the much-needed infrastructural facilities in our rural and urban centers.
For the 2024 fiscal year, we have proposed a total budget size of N250,000,000,000 (Two Hundred and Fifty Billion Naira). Capital expenditure will gulp N154,000,000,000 (One Hundred and Fifty-four Billion Naira) only; while the sum of N96,000,000,000 (Ninety-six Billion Naira) only is proposed for Recurrent expenditure.
Mr. Speaker, fellow Cross Riverians to actualize the proposed development agenda based on the expenditure profile, we need to collectively make sacrifices in terms of payment of taxes and levies when due.
The State Internal Revenue Service has been repositioned to ensure that every taxable adult is brought into the tax net. Presently, the State IRS through its renewed revenue drive has increased the state’s internally generated revenue profile by 21%. This is a commendable feat. We, therefore, charge the agency to double the 4 percent in 2024.
We are therefore poised to intensify our efforts in arresting revenue leakages. Moreover, the State Ministry of Lands is expected to step up its revenue-generating machinery through the automated Geographical Information System (GIS).
The State Ministry of International Donor Coordination is also expected to attract grants, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), fund transfers from the diaspora, and other incentives to catalyze development in the State. Other revenue-generating MDAs are also put on the same pedestal of shoring up revenue for the State.
There shall be measurable indices to ascertain performance. For the 2024 fiscal year, the State Government is expecting the sum of One Hundred and Thirty-Three Billion Three Hundred Million Naira (N133,300,000,000) from the federation account, FAAC while independent revenue is estimated at Thirty-Five Billion Three Hundred and Twenty-Two Million Seven Hundred and Forty-Seven Thousand Five Hundred and Ninety-Four Naira (NGN35,322,747,594).
In the proposed 2024 budget, we shall prioritize the following:
Agriculture: we shall continue to leverage the comparative advantage we enjoy in agriculture to create job opportunities in the Agric value chain.
This will reduce youth restiveness and create a harmonious society.
The youth population if not fully engaged is a time bomb waiting to detonate. Mechanized agriculture shall be pursued vigorously to ensure food sufficiency and zero hunger according to the Sustainable Development Goal 2 of the United Nations. The government shall continue to assist farmers with improved 5 seedlings, hybrid livestock, soft loans, and other incentives to encourage farmers and improve yield.
Education: This administration lays much emphasis on the educational needs of its citizens bearing in mind its social-cultural, economic, and political benefits to the State and citizens alike.
The State government had already commenced the tuition-free education program for the Primary and Primary Students. The government has also undertaken the payment of WAEC fees for all SS3 Students, as a way of removing financial impediments from the indigent students amongst us.
Accreditation and re-accreditation of the State Tertiary Institutions shall be given priority attention. The State Scholarship Board shall be well-funded to cater to the academic needs of our citizens. Building and renovation of schools shall be a continuous activity of the State Ministry of Education and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
There is also provision for the training and re-training of manpower in the Educational Sector to enhance teaching and learning.
Health: Healthcare delivery will form an integral part of the State development agenda. To this end, all primary health centers are to be given relevant facelifts and equipped to meet the health needs of our people. Access to quality health service in all the 18 Local Government Areas of the State shall be pursued with renewed vigor.
Collaboration in the provision of rural health care with international donor agencies shall be given due attention. Our community health officers and caregivers shall be given adequate training as a means of empowering them towards qualitative service 6 delivery. There is also provision for the upgrade of facilities in the State General Hospitals across the state: as well as the Schools of Nursing in the State.
These incentives are aimed at giving our people enhanced quality of life and increased life expectancy which translate to economic assets for the State Government.
Environment: Sustainable exploitation of our abundant natural resources and nurture of the eco-system shall be the pre-occupation of the State government through its relevant agencies. Unrestricted forest exploitation and other forms of land degradation shall no longer be tolerated.
The carbon sink with which our forest canopy is reputed to provide shall be protected at all costs. Already the State Forestry Commission has been empowered to check the unwholesome activities of illegal wood loggers. The clean and green toga which the State was known for shall be brought back.
The State Government in the 2024 budget has made adequate provisions for the renovation and establishment of new green areas across the State. The monthly environmental sanitation exercise shall be brought back and enforced accordingly.
Infrastructure: There is no gainsaying the fact that the provision of infrastructural facilities is the bedrock of any meaningful development. Roads, bridges, electricity, public transportation, etc. are therefore given sufficient resource allocation in the 2024 budget to bridge the existing deficit in these utilities.
Portable water had been a common utility in the state for ages gone; but in this present administration, water and sanitation shall be given the pride of place in the State social agenda. Rural and urban roads shall also be rehabilitated to ensure unimpeded vehicular and pedestrian movement.
The State Electrification Agency (SEA) shall be empowered to provide power to our rural dwellers and semi-urban areas. The foregoing informed the allocation of a whopping sum of One Hundred and Fifty-Four Billion Naira (N154,000,000,000) for capital expenditure. This is a clear departure from the norm in recent times where recurrent expenditure exceeds capital expenditure.
Undoubtedly, we are in a hurry to better the lot of our people.
Youth and Sports Development: The youths are regarded as the superstructure on which any development in society stands. This assertion is premised on their strength, ingenuity, hard work, etc. To this end, youth development programs aim at empowering the younger generation towards their participation in the socio-economic and political development of the state. A well-trained and educated youth is a development agent for society. The government shall place accent on the training of the mind and body of the youths through sporting activities.
The development of talents in football, field, and track events shall be given due attention in the 2024 appropriation. Our athletes who excel in national and international competitions shall be adequately rewarded. Raw talents abound in our rural areas; hence I urge the State Sports Council in conjunction with schools and colleges to organize sports competitions in our schools with the aim of discovering these talents.
These MDAs are assured adequate funding to achieve desired results.
Security: In recent times, the state has been in the national limelight for violent crimes, cybercrime, and other anti-social behavior. But through the concerted effort of relevant security agencies and the state government, this ugly situation has been brought under control.
In the 2024 budget, adequate provision has been made for the procurement of 21st-century security gadgets, equipment, motor vehicles, and other materials needed to combat crime in the state. We therefore give a marching order to criminals presently hiding in our creeks, forests, and other locations to exit the state without further delay or they risk arrest and prosecution. Those who are ready to turn a new leave, they are enjoined to turn in their weapons to relevant security agencies and embrace peace. From henceforth, the state shall no longer be a haven for these criminals to operate.
This is our resolve, and we shall be resolute in implementing the same to the latter.
Tourism: The natural endowment of the state in climatic conditions forest ecosystem, undulating topography, and the warm hospitality of the people contribute to making the state a destination of choice for tourists. For eco-tourism which the state ranks first among equals, there is a need to upgrade our tourist sites to enhance the tourist experience.
The upgrade of the facilities at the Obudu Ranch Resort shall be given utmost attention by the State Government in the 2024 budget. The state carnival Calabar and Festival which is adjudged as the biggest street party in Africa is currently undergoing re-structuring in terms of scope to embrace contemporary ideas in tourism. In the 2024 budget, the aggressive marketing of the state’s diverse tourism offering shall equally be given priority attention.
The carnival Calabar and festival shall in no distant time, become self-funding as obtained in other climes.
General Administration: The State Civil Service is unarguably the engine room for the implementation of government policies, programs, and projects.
Accordingly, with the swearing-in of the new Head of Service in the State, productivity, efficiency, and sincerity shall form the cornerstone of service delivery. To achieve the goal set for civil servants, the government shall implement in-service courses, training, and re-training of staff. Special awards for excellence shall be reintroduced as a means of motivation.
Payment of salaries shall continue to be among the first line charges of monthly expenditure to give civil servants a sense of belonging. For the retirees, this administration for the first time in the history of the state must pay pensioners first before regular civil servants; taking cognizance of the immense contribution they had made to the socio-economic development of the state while they were in the service.
In the 2024 Budget, the State Government has made provision for the staggered payment of gratuity to all retired civil and public servants in the state. We, therefore, implore our retirees to exhibit patience and cooperate with the State government as the good times are around the corner. Government offices shall be renovated, and necessary office furniture and materials provided to create a decent work environment. The social security and gender parity of our people most especially the less privileged, shall continue to be at the front burner of the State Social Welfare activities. The monthly conditional cash transfer to the most vulnerable in society shall continue in the 2024 budget.
Conclusion: Mr. Speaker, taking cognizance of the onerous task ahead of us, may I now sue for the cooperation of all members of this hallowed Chambers in the areas of the expeditious passage of people-centered laws, ratification and approvals sought by the Executive arm of government and exercise of diligent oversight over budget implementation.
From the few months this 10th Assembly has been in office, I have reposed absolute confidence in the Legislature as indeed a veritable development ally of the Executive arm of government. May this synergy therefore continue.
From the analysis of our proposed program of action in the 2024 fiscal year, it is discernible that what we need is the convergence of ideas, opinions, and efforts toward achieving the desired results. We also need prayers for God’s wisdom, guidance, and direction to have the new Cross River State we envisage in 2024.
All hands must be on deck! On that note, I stand before you and other Honorable members of the Cross River State House of Assembly as well as fellow citizens of the state present here as witnesses to present to us the 2024 Cross River State budget christened “The People First Budget”.
I so present… Thank you and God bless Cross River State.
Sen. Prince Bassey Edet Otu
Cross River State