Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, on Monday, allayed fears of an impending salary cut for civil servants in the state due to the drop in monthly revenue occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor gave the assurance at a public forum tagged “Citizens Budget Participatory Session on Review of the 2020 Consolidation for Prosperity Budget.”
The event, which was transmitted live on the state radio and also streamed online via Zoom and Facebook, was held at the Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye Conference Centre in Yenagoa.
The first-of-its kind virtual meeting on the review of the state’s budget had in attendance Speaker of the State Assembly, Hon. Abraham Ingobere, other legislators, local government chairmen, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, the media and other stakeholders.
The governor, who explained that the public session was held in accordance with the state’s amended Fiscal Responsibility Law of 2009, said the 2020 budget had been revised by 24.3 per cent from N242.187billion to N183.155billion.
He said the anticipated projections of the initial budget had to be re-evaluated to reflect current realities of the global economic downturn occasioned by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 challenge.
He also noted that the sharp drop in the international price of crude oil from $55 per barrel benchmark to $20 crippled the country’s economy that is largely dependent on proceeds from oil.
According to the governor, all the parameters used in the previous budget, which was presented to the state assembly on April 22, had been overtaken by the effects of the health crisis.
He maintained that the state government recognised the need to interface with civil society organisations, traditional rulers, professional bodies youth leaders, women groups, local government chairmen and other key stakeholders in the budget estimate for all to be carried along in its implementation.
His words: “The 2020 Consolidation for Prosperity Budget was passed with certain assumptions that have been negatively altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The effect of the global lockdown has resulted in low demand for crude oil, which is Nigeria’s major earner. The price of oil dropped to as low as $20 per barrel in some months as against the $55 per barrel benchmark.
“Consequently, there is need to revise the budget to face the existing realities. The proposed budget size is now N183.16billion as against N242.19billion that was in the original budget.”
Reacting to questions, Diri stressed that given his administration’s priority on workers welfare, the slashing of the budget would not affect civil servants salaries.
“From the revised budget figure, you can see that nothing affected the personnel cost and salaries. There is no intention to reduce workers salaries. We should even be thinking of increasing the salaries once our resources improve.”
Making clarification on the proposed flyover at Etegwe/Edepie roundabout axis, he explained that the government had to undertake other options before embarking on the flyover project.
“Let me be clear on the proposed flyover at Etegwe/Edepie roundabout. After the ongoing expansion work, we would face the Igbogene-Yenagoa outer ring road and then the Igbogene-Onopa road from the Ecumenical Centre. And if after completing these two roads, there is still traffic at the Edepie roundabout area, we can then immediately face the flyover construction. For now we will be utilising the available funds for other urgent projects.”