The Cross River State government and the House of Assembly are heading for collusion following alleged alteration of the state’s 2018 budget of some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) without recourse to the lawmakers.
Chairman, Commercial Transport Regulatory Agency (CTRA), Mfon Bassey, had on August 15, 2018 petitioned the Commissioner of Police (CP) requesting for investigation and prosecution of the Special Adviser, Department of Public Transportation (DOPT), Emmanuel Mbora.
He also demanded investigation of the Special Adviser on Budget, Abang Moses Onoh, for alleged conspiracy and forgery of budget estimates in the state’s 2018 appropriation law, with the backing of Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Tina Agbor.
The executive in a communiqué signed by the SSG, Onoh and three others after a meeting with heads of the MDAs responsible for daily ticketing commercial vehicles on August 16, altered and transferred some revenue heads as regards the collection of tolls in Calabar Municipal and Calabar South by CTRA as captured in DOPT’s budget.
“The resolution takes immediate effect until Onoh communicates the amendment in the budget document to the MDAs,” Agbor said.But in its reaction, the House in a letter dated August 27 and signed by Director, Legislative Matters/Head of Chamber, Akabisong A. Adie on behalf of the Clerk said: “The house considers the allegations grievous and capable of causing crisis in the transport sector.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the House has not amended, reviewed or transferred any provision or revenue heads in the 2018 appropriation law in favour of any MDA, especially the DOPT.“The SSG, Chairman, Internal Revenue Service, Special Adviser, Budget Monitoring and Evaluation, Bassey and Mbora should suspend actions on the transfer of revenue heads and implementation of the communiqué pending the outcome of the House investigation.”
Consequently, Speaker of the House, Oniofiok Luke, set up a committee to investigate the matter and recommend measures to restore confidence and sanity in the state’s transport sector.Spokesman of the House, Mathew Olory, told The Guardian on the telephone that it was wrong for anybody or MDA to temper with the budget without the legislators knowledge.
“The Assembly is in the process of inviting the MDAs to interface with the lawmakers on the alleged padding. However, there could be an adjustment based on responses to questions that may be asked for the purpose of clarity,” he said.But Onoh, Agbor and Mbora have denied altering the state’s 2018 budget. Onoh said: “You can veer from one head to another but you cannot change the appropriation law. Our state’s 2018 budget is N1.3 trillion. You cannot add or subtract from it.”