Cross River Traditional Rulers Demand Clarity and Inclusion in 2024 Budget Preparation

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Traditional rulers led by HRH Etim Okon Edet, the paramount ruler of Bakassi LGA and chair of Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council, have voiced their concerns about the state’s budget planning process NEGROIDHAVEN can report authoritatively.

During the One Day Consultative Forum for 2024 Budget Preparation, HRH Edet spoke out, emphasising the need for clarity and inclusivity in the budget planning process. He stressed that the state should not continue in a manner that neglects input from the people, referring to past projects like the superhighway, Tinapa and deep-sea port that lacked comprehensive planning and consideration of local variables.

He further urged that budget planning should be more bottom-up, with local governments and communities having a say in what projects are undertaken. HRH Edet underlined the importance of addressing issues collectively as a people’s government and not just relying on individual initiatives.

His words, ‘I have sat here for almost one hour or so. And I want to say my mind. We cannot continue in sin for grace to abound. The picture is not very clear to me where we are going. And so I will not at the end of the day be able to tell my colleagues who are not here what happened here today.

‘SSG, I was thinking that this was a budget forum, preparing ourselves for the budget of 2024. I expected you to start from the bottom. Now, I had thought ministry of housing will come here with a proposal, with something saying for 2024, we have proposed that looking at raising certain housing estate at central, north, this will be this. I expected to see that. I had expected to see Yala LGA, we see Obubra, all of them coming with a budget from that bottom to up. So that there will be no duplication. State government is doing borehole, local government is doing borehole, SUBEB is doing borehole… no, I wanted it to come from there, up.

‘Every time, we allow the leadership to bring programme to us without us giving it to them. We are supposed to give Gov Otu, from Yala to Bakassi, this is what we want. We want rural road at so so and so place, we want water supply at so so place… and not someone telling us, we will do super highway, by himself all by himself, and every body will clap. Somebody will say Tinapa all by himself, without looking at other variables.

‘A lot of things need to be straightened out. This is the people’s govt. Prince otu requires the truth from the people. He is a good man but a good leader can be turned to a bad one by the followership. Let sweet Prince be in our heart not from our lips. As for me and my Traditional Rulers in the State, Sweet Prince is in our heart not on our lips. If you passed through the State Traditional Rulers Council, you will see a new phase of life just in two months of his reign and the owners of the place are happy with him. Let’s adopt bottom up approach in our 2024 budget, do away with those projects that are not feasible, continue or complete those that are, so that at the end, Sweet Prince would be even sweeter.’

In response, Otu Otu Ita, the Special Adviser to the Cross River state governor on Budget, Monitoring, and Evaluation, highlighted the government’s commitment to addressing these concerns. He pointed out that Cross River currently lacks a state development plan, making it essential to develop a clear framework for budget planning.

He also mentioned that the governor had directed the State Planning Commission to create both short-term and long-term plans for the state. The consultative forum is part of this initiative to establish guidelines for the 2024 budget.

The traditional rulers’ input and concerns are pivotal in the state’s development, emphasising the need for transparency, community involvement, and clarity in Cross River’s budget planning process. As the state moves towards a more comprehensive development plan, the goal is to ensure the welfare and progress of all its people.

Ita’s words, ‘The concern that the traditional rulers council expressed is very valid. But, it is important that we established that Cross River state as it stands does not have a state development plan and if we don’t have a state development plan you cannot build on anything, so on the directive of the governor of Cross River state, Sen. Bassey Edet Otu, he has directed the State Planning Commission to do a short term and long term plan for the Cross River state, and in the same vein, the governor has also directed budget office to develop a medium term expenditure framework.

‘And the reason why we are gathered here is to discuss the medium term expenditure framework which will now set the guidelines that will follow in the course of the preparation of the 2024 budget. We have tagged it the budget consultative forum because we know that most of the ministry that have been created are new, and it is important that our people know and understand the mandate of each of these Ministries’.