Mixed reactions trail Ambode’s ‘Golden Jubilee’ budget

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    By FUNSO OMODELE

    RESIDENTS of Lagos State have continued to express their expectations, on the estimates of the state fiscal provisions; for this year as passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly, awaiting assent of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The Lagos State House of Assembly last Tuesday passed the state’s 2017 Appropriation Bill with a value of N812.998 billion. The passage followed the adoption of the report and recommendations of the House Committee on Budget and Economic Planning, headed by Hon Rotimi Olowo. The House approved the sum of N305.182 billion as total recurrent expenditure and N507.816 billion as the total capital expenditure for the year ending December 31, 2017.

    Olowo, while presenting the committee report, said ‘Our dear state was able to achieve 71 per cent budget performance in 2016 in spite of the economic recession in the country. In 2017 Lagos state would embark on progressive taxation which would bring more people into the tax net and make the rich pay more.”

    As part of the committee recommendations, the lawmaker said there was a need to comply with the Appropriation (Amendment) (Re-ordering) Law, 2016 to release funds to relevant MDAs; adding that there was a need for the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget to carry out a budget review of the 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, (MTEF), of MDAs before allocating envelopes for Y2018 proposed budget estimate. He said that this would guide against duplication of expenditure (Capital and Recurrent) by MDAs.

    Among the highlights of the approved 2017 budget is the increase in the Capital Expenditure of Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission from N2.5 billion to N3 billion to cater for election matters. On the other hand, overhead for Security/Emergency Interventions was reduced from N500 million to N400 million.

    Among other things, N1 billion was allocated as capital expenditure for the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter governmental Relations.

    The Assembly approved the sum of N20.43 billion for LAMATA as capital expenditure and N2 billion for ferry services. Similarly, the capital vote head for road maintenance rose from N790.10 million to N1.79 billion. The House also approved N10 billion for the State Infrastructure Intervention Fund, while it approved N159.55 million for state electricity board.

    However, overhead cost of Lagos State House of Assembly Service Commission was increased from N210 million to N252 million. The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon Mudashiru Obasa, commended Olowo and members of the committee for its thorough scrutiny of the budget within a short time frame. Obasa has since directed the Acting Clerk, Azeez Sanni, to send a clean copy of the bill to Governor Akinwnmi Ambode for his assent.

    While we await Governor Ambode assent, Moyosore Adesipe a resident of Federal Estate Ipaja said the state government must tackle the hydra headed monster of ‘traffic congestion’ in the state, he lamented that there is still no functional metro line, almost 20 years after the ruling party in the state made the promise to electorates and water transportation is still an unpopular mode of transportation for most residents.

    For Hon Paul Balogun not conducting election into the local governments and local development area authorities is blight on the Governor’s performance in 2016. “The last local government election in the state was held in 2011. For the past two years, Executive Secretaries and now Sole Administrators were appointed by the governor had continued to be at the helm of local government affairs in the state. In 2017 we hope the budget made provision for local council election” Dr Tunde Ogutunberu, “I must admit that in spite of the progress made in the area of security in Lagos State, especially funds committed to the state security architecture by Governor Ambode 2016 was a year of kidnappings for us in Ikorodu and Epe division of the state.

    “From abducting hapless residents, public school pupils, to kidnapping of a traditional ruler, the criminals had a field day across the state. Although over a dozen suspects were arrested and arraigned in different courts, residents are continually on the lookout for the next kidnap victim. I hope provisions of the 2017 budget will address this malaise”

    “Lagos has continued to manifest the paradox of ‘Water, water everywhere but none to drink.’ The year 2016 was no exception. Despite billions sunk into the state-owned water corporation over the years, piping potable water to homes continues to be a herculean task. Ikorodu Mini Water Works need be upgraded to deliver more litres of water to the axis” Oguntunberu concludes.

    Hon Saliu Otomede Adeola the issue of forceful evictions of residents from their homes, should be discouraged. “Governor Ambode is gradually steering himself towards the Babatunde Fashola tradition in this regard; despite a court order that directed the state government to suspend its planned demolition of shanties along creeks and waterways in the state, as well as the House of Assembly appealing to the governor to reconsider its intention; the residents of Otodo Gbame, in the Lekki, were forcefully evicted from their homes. At least half a dozen residents drowned during the process. Although the state government claimed it was not involved in the eviction, I make bold to declare that agents of the state played an active part in the destruction of the homes in Otodo Gbame. I hope Governor Ambode will resettle the evictees this year”

    A next of kin to a deceased pensioner Olajumoke Daniel said Governor Ambode 2017 budget should make provisions for the payment of the next of kins of deceased pensioners; especially those of the who served the state in the local government. “2017 will make it ten years that we have been waiting to be paid, we have since completed the documentation process”

    It was not only tales of compliants there were commendations and plead for sustenance of some of Governor Ambode initiatives

    According to Kingsley Orimolade “Among the major achievements of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in 2016 was the massive road (re)construction his government embarked upon in the year. His ‘114 Roads’ project where each of the 57 local councils in the state got two good roads was commendable; as well as the ‘Light-Up Lagos Project’ with which 365 streets and dark spots were illuminated across the state and the metropolis beautified this has resulted into reduction in crimes. These projects must be sustained in 2017”

    Captain Olufemi Columbus a merchant captain give kudos to Governor Ambode administration “Despite challenges in the area of security, the safety of lives and properties of Lagosians have received to a large extent a boost. I spent my three month leave in Lagos and it was generally peaceful, I noticed a huge investment in security hardware, I hope when I return to Lagos after my seven month sea work, Lagos will continue to be a safe haven.” Evelyn Osakwe one of the applicant to the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund said she is elated that after several postponements, Ambode in December finally began the disbursement of the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund one of the promises he made during his campaign in 2015. The initiative, aimed at artisans and entrepreneurs in the state, will see the disbursement of N6.25 billion annually over the next four years. A huge chunk of that figure is expected to go to carpenters, tailors, hairdressers, vulcanisers, and other players in the informal sectors of the state.

    Mrs Folashade Edu for her Lagos State ‘Lake Rice’ aced it for her; she prayed the Ambode to make it a permanent feature. It will be recalled that one of the high points of the Yuletide period for Lagosians was the launch of the Lagos-Kebbi (LAKE Rice).

    Thousands of residents trooped out to various centres across the three senatorial districts in the state to buy the commodity which sold for N12, 000 (50kg bag); N6, 000 (25kg); and N2, 500 (10kg). It was a much needed respite for a population that had been reeling under the impact of economic recess

    For Funso Afolabi a tax consultant he commended Ambode that “The recession notwithstanding, 2016 was a year Lagos generated a figure ranked among its highest ever internal revenue.

    “As at December 2016, the state had raked in N287 billion in IGR, a whopping N19 billion more than was generated the year before. Except in 2013 when the state generated N384 billion, this year was the highest the state had made since its creation.

    A revamp of the state’s revenue generation agency played a major role in this feat. The state must continue to engage tax professionals to boost the internal revenue”
    As governor of Nigeria’s commercial and industrial capital, Akinwunmi Ambode is faced with the challenge of satisfying the yearnings of the over 15 million residents of Lagos.

    Will the Golden Jubilee budget deliver the expectations of Lagosians time will tell.

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