All is not well in Cross River government circle as some of Governor Ben Ayade’s aides have been accused of illegally doctoring and infusing into the State 2018 budget extraneous estimates which were not in the original budget that the Governor signed into law few months ago.
The Chairman, Commercial Transport Regulatory Agency (CTRA), Mr. Mfon Bassey, had alleged that the Cross River State Special Adviser, Budget, Mr. Abang Moses Onoh and the Secretary to the State Government, Tina Agbor were involved in the illegality, an accusation which the above officials vehemently denied.
Mr Bassey had, on August 15 petitioned the Commissioner of Police requesting an investigation and prosecution of the Special Adviser, Department of Public Transportation (DOPT), Mr. Emmanuel Mbora and Mr Onoh for an alleged commission of the offences of conspiracy and forgery of budget estimates contained in Cross River state appropriation law, 2018.
Bassey was reacting to an earlier petition dated August 7, 2018, from Mbora through his private counsel, Mr. U. Eyong Eso to the State Commissioner of Police alleging criminal complaint of obstruction of lawful duty and threat to life against the CTRA Chairman, and his cohorts.
The CTRA Boss had alleged that the DOPT 2018 budget as claimed by Mbora was forged by him (Mbora) and the special Adviser Budget, Mr. Moses Onoh as “the Cross River State Appropriation Law, 2018 of which the document forged by Messrs. Mbora and Onoh …, was duly passed by the Cross River State House of Assembly and assented to by the Governor, His Excellency, Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade, on 10th April, 2018.
“It is also pertinent to state that since the passage of the Appropriation Law, 2018, and the presentation of the DOPT estimates to the Committee by thee Permanent Secretary, there has not been amendment of the same by the State House of Assembly either by way of vehement, Supplementary Appropriation Law or howsoever”.
But Onoh denied the allegations against him saying, “if people are stealing government money, they should keep quiet and steal it and go and build skyscrapers and not to talk carelessly…First and foremost the constitution has two sections 120 and 121 for the real budget to be laid before the house of Assembly and the supplementary. So if somebody says you amend the budget, is wrong because there is no amendment of the budget in the constitution. What is contained in the constitution is for a draft budget to be laid before the House of Assembly.
He stated that, “You can veer from one head to another but that will not make you to change the appropriation law or bill. Like in our State, the 2018 budget is N1.3 trillion. You cannot add or subtract. Anything less than N1.3 trillion, it must go to the house and anything above N1.3 trillion it must go to the house. So people get confused…In the final budget you can alter anything inside so long as the final figure does not change and if it is ordered by the governor”.
On the matter of DOPT and CTRA, he said since 2013 CTRA had nothing like sale of ticket, “they had fine and fees, no sale of ticket until 2017 from nowhere sale of ticket came in…They went behind me and pushed it in. But when we did the 2018 budget, I saw it and queried but kept silent since I did not want it to blow out…To surprise you since last year, he (Bassey) has not paid one dime into government coffers. In this office you cannot see any return that he has paid money…From January to date, nothing; they are supposed to pay to the bank and copy us by way of returns”.
The SSG in a phone conversation denied any budget tempering or alteration saying, “what is budget tempering, who told you that… that is not true who is telling you this. Would like to site the document, when I enter the office you can come let me explain to you what it is…I will call you” but she never did.
But Mfon Bassey, the CTRA Boss said monies were being remitted by his agency inot government coffers and denied the accusation from Onoh. Our reporter cited a heap of receipts with code numbers indicating various payments made by the agency to government.
Also lending his voice on activities of DOPT, the Acting Executive Chairman of the State Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Mr. Akpanke Ogar, said he personally wrote to SA DOPT, Mbora, requesting him to withdraw the letters of introduction to members of the public as “no law in the State empowers the DOPT to collect revenue from Daily Operational Toll and Road Infrastructure Maintenance levy”.
He said as a result of the termination of concessionaire’s agreements and the delisting of Department of Public Transportation as a non revenue generating agency by Cross River State House of Assembly Committee, “Road Infrastructure Maintenance Levy, being the revenue head of Internal Revenue Service, and same being provided for in its budget, Internal Revenue Service resumed collection of same since 22nd February, 2018 when the concessionaire’s agreements were terminated (and) it will be illegal, (since the Budget is a Law) to assign the same revenue after signing the budget, to another MDA”.
As the stalemate continues, Cross Riverians are expecting that the State government would come out to tell Cross Riverians whether or not 2018 budget have been illegally doctored by individuals and groups, and until then, the public opinion remains apprehensive, as the said officers continue to release verbal missiles.