Abia owing over N107bn, FENRAD says, charges 2023 governorship candidates to declare assets

Posted by News Express | 22 November 2022 | 311 times

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Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD) has demanded for full disclosure in Assets Declaration from governorship candidates of the 18 political parties in Abia State, adding that it was in the interest of accountability and transparency, as the state’s debt stock has hit an all-time high of N107,619,057,499.23 and yet cannot measure up in critical areas like those of infrastructure.

FENRAD, in a statement dated November 20, 2022, referred to its letter to the “Eighteen (18)  political parties Governorship Candidates in Abia state, demanding for full disclosure in their Assets Declaration” titled “Request for Assets Declaration” and signed by its Executive Director, Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor, and Head, Legal Services, Litigation and Enforcement, Barr. Femisi Akande Agboola, listed names and parties of governorship candidates in the state.

“In respect of the subject matter hereinabove mentioned, Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD) a pro-democracy, anti-corruption and human rights advocacy group based in Abia State writes you, the respective Gubernatorial candidates of all the Political parties in Abia State, ask that you avail Abians a copy of your asset declaration form from Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as is consistent with the law of the federation (Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended).

“It is our thinking that it is appropriate for all the gubernatorial candidates under the support of the registered 18 political parties in the state to make this disclosure in the interest of accountability and transparency. This letter was informed by the current economic realities confronting Abia State, which, to us, require that aspirants show that when elected, the resources of the state will be managed effectively and due process followed with mechanism for Accountability,” the statement reads.

FENRAD lamented the harsh economic realities confronting Abia State arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, oil theft, subsidy payment, the state’s inability to up its independent source of revenue to at least ?5 billion monthly, corruption, non-payment of salaries, wages and gratuities and other sundry issues.

The statement continues: “Currently, Abia has fallen on hard times, in a manner not known before. The situation was compounded by the fall in oil price, following the pandemic. Even though oil price had since risen, following the war in Ukraine, Nigeria is not able to rake in revenue due to subsidy payment, oil theft and sundry issues that have made the NNPC (now a limited company) unable to remit to the Federation Account Allocation Committee, (FAAC). Worst is, Abia, in the face of all these, has not upped its independent source of revenue to at least N5 billion monthly, an idea FENRAD thinks is possible should the state expand its tax base (not by introducing new or increasing payable taxes), build infrastructure, integrate informal sector businesses and look more inward. The result is that deficits and shortfalls continue to constrain and hamper budgetary performance.

“According to Debt Management Office (DMO), by end of June, 2022, that is Q2, Abia’s debt stock has hit an all-time high of N107, 619, 057, 499.23 Kobo, yet, Abia cannot measure up in critical areas like those of infrastructure.

“Issues of non-payment of salaries and wages for which some state-run tertiary institutions lost its accreditation. Only few months ago, senior citizens took to the streets to drive home their demands over a 20-year outstanding gratuity arrears. State parastatals and institutions like Abia State University Teaching Hospital and so many others have remained shut down because of poor funding. Most recently, the Nigeria Medical Association threatened strike in solidarity with Residents Doctors in the state due to backlog of unpaid salaries and wages.

“Abia State past administrations since 1999 are still answering cases of corruption with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over issues of misappropriation of public funds and fiscal recklessness.”

The group also requested asset declarations from the candidates; as well as their spouses and children above 18 years of age, adding that “the next administration, from governor to the least office, represents the last hope of Nd? Abia and her future generations.”

“It is our considered opinion that Abia State cannot continue in her old ways. So we call on all Gubernatorial political candidates for the 2023 elections, including you, to do the needful. Even though this exercise (asset declaration) should come upon assumption of office, but is submitted during expression of interest to contest for the position, we wish to remind you that it is needful and will go a long way making a case for your integrity and accountability. It is also the basis on which FENRAD, as an anti-corruption advocacy organization and other civil society groups in Abia, will make informed political decisions going forward.

“While this is the case, we urge that you make available information, also all the assets belonging to your wife, husband (applicable for female candidate), children above the age of 18, as is the requirement of the law. We shall continue to spotlight this issue again and again even after the elections.

“We do this, hoping you understand that the next administration, from governor to the least office, represents the last hope of Nd? Abia and her future generations.

“FENRAD will be ready to enter into full litigation in line with the anti-corruption instruments and will join the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), if the Asset declarations process is not adhered to accordingly in line with the provision in line with the law,” FENRAD stated.

Source: News Express

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