Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Akwa Ibom State government is to review its 2020 budget in line with the current economic realities occasioned by the dwindling crude oil prices triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State House of Assembly had on December 5, 2019, passed a fiscal bill of N597.735 billion for the year 2020, made up of N111.250 billion for recurrent expenditure, N369.577 billion for capital expenditure and N116.934 billion for consolidated revenue fund charges, which Governor Udom Emmanuel assented to on December 18, 2019, with a promise of the budgeting taking effect as from January 1, 2020.
But addressing the press Monday evening, Governor Emmanuel said he would go back to the state House of Assembly for the budget to be reviewed downward as a result of the expected reduced federal allocation.
He said the COVID-19 crisis had exerted so much pressure on the state’s resources, with about N1 billion having been spent so far in managing the pandemic in the state.
He said the state had received only N100 million from the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) as a federal agency and 1800 costume-bonded bags of rice which, the governor suggested, is not good for human consumption until a lab test proves otherwise.
“For the relief materials from the Federal Government, we got 1800 bags of custom bonded warehouse rice. That gift is not good for me to distribute to my citizens. We have sent it for test, but it doesn’t look good enough for consumption,” Mr Emanuel said.
Remarking that, although the coronavirus pandemic is a new health challenge all over the world, it did not meet the state unprepared, as Akwa Ibom had made heavy investments in its health sector.
“We are experiencing what the entire world has never experienced before, so no one can truly boast of experience. COVID-19 has never happened before, so everyone is learning to manage it.
“But despite this, COVID-19 met us prepared – as if we knew. A hundred per cent of the equipment at Ibom Specialist Hospital, including the 13 ventilators, were bought before COVID-19. We have set up an additional isolation centre in Ibom Specialist Hospital, with oxygen and everything. We also bought an additional 1500KVA generating set for Ibom Specialist Hospital.
“We have a modern digital, functional situation room for every single test analysis and close to 50 medical experts who are manning these. As of today, everyone in Akwa Ibom who has met the criteria of case management in accordance with NCDC guidelines has been tested. I challenge anyone who has experienced COVID-19 symptoms and has been refused testing to come out and say so,” the governor said.
While praising health workers in the state as heroes in the COVID-19 campaign, for exposing themselves to risk to ensure that they work during this critical season in order to make sure they manage this cases well, the governor said the state now has 407 doctors and almost 2000 nurses in its employ.