A Portharcourt based transparency group, Niger Delta Citizens Budget Network has declared the Rivers State 2016/17 budgets wanted.
In a strong worded statement signed by the group’s communications officer, Philip Akah, the group said that all attempt by their personnel to have access to the state’s 2016/17 budget has hit a brick wall.
The group also placed a 500 000 Naira bounty on the budgets for anyone who would come up the budget documents.
It frowned at the attitude of the state officials as regards the budget. It said that the state government’s inability to make public the appropriation acts of 2016/2017 amounts to a coup against the indigenes and those resident in Rivers State.
The statement read: “That is what we advocate at Niger Delta Citizens Budget Network (NDCBN). NDCBN is composed of a network of Civil Society Organizations, individuals and experts working in the areas of good governance, open budget, transparency and accountability in States within the Niger Delta Region, known for their rich oil mineral deposits, environmental challenges and the resultant community conflicts.
“On this Network, we carry out Budget Analysis and Advocacy, Project Monitoring and Evaluation; and build the capacity of communities in States within the Niger Delta Region through Town Halls and Round Tables, to participate in the budgeting and policy formation processes. We have been doing the above for a decade now on an annual basis.
“Sadly, our work has been hampered since 2016 by the authoritarian refusal of the Rivers State Government to allow anyone access to a copy of the River State Budget/Appropriation Acts of 2016 and 2017. All entreaties from our members in an attempt to get a copy of both Budget documents for two consecutive years have been rebuffed repeatedly in the most undemocratic manner. This is most unfortunate and totally unacceptable.
“Let us make it abundantly clear that the Budget of a state government, otherwise called the Appropriation Act is an Act of Parliament. Hence, it is a public document that must not only be readily available but published promptly.
“As a Citizens Group, we frown at this terrible development and consider it a coup against the good citizens and people who reside in Rivers State. This is a blatant rape of our democracy and should not be allowed to continue. It is the sacred duty of all citizens to demand accountability from all governments, officials, and agencies that purport to serve them, and this they must do to advance the cause of democracy. It is a patriotic duty that is beyond partisan political considerations.
“Consequently, we declare the 2016 and 2017 Budget documents of Rivers State wanted and hereby place a bounty of five hundred thousand Nairas on them to go to anyone who makes both copies available to our Secretariat at 6, Stadium Road, Rumuomasi, Port Harcourt. We call on all citizens and residents of Rivers State to join us in this historic hunt for these apparently missing Rivers State Budget documents.”