Worried by widespread controversy trailing the Akwa Ibom State Government’s decision to obtain a N10 billion loan from the Federal Government’s Excess Crude Account (ECA), the Finance Commissioner, Mr. Akan Okon, has cleared the air on the matter.
Speaking in Uyo, the State capital, Okon, who flayed reports by a section of the State-based newspapers that Governor Udom Emmanuel was resorting to financial recklessness, explained that the decision became necessary for the government to have the deep pocket to shore-up the economic base of the State and expand infrastructure.
The Finance Commissioner explained that, “like every other State in the Federation, the State Government sought to access the loan , taking advantage of that window offered by the Federal Government to get funds to finance the many developmental projects embarked upon by the government of Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
Okon maintained that Akwa Ibom would gain nothing by watching from the sidelines while other States benefited from the Excess Crude Account facility, which, according to him, earned its proceeds more from the resources of the State in the first instance.
He denied reports that the State is unable to meet its obligations, stressing that “taking the loan is a good idea as the conditions are not stringent to endanger the interests of the State”.
He further revealed that the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly was approached to approve the loan which is a precondition for any state to access the facility and sued for proper understanding of the government’s good intentions for the common good of the State and its people.
On the uproar caused by the new tax regime in the state, Okon explained that, it is not a new development orchestrated by the State Government, but rather an implementation of a new tax law by the Federal Government on Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) of 2011.
The Finance Commissioner disclosed that the governor merely ordered the implementation of the law, without retroactive effect, adding that rather than being vilified as an ‘armed robber’ as a local tabloid in the State has labeled him, Governor Emmanuel should be commended for directing that, in implementing the PITA, a 50 percent rebate should be ensured to cushion the effect on civil servants and that all deductions were done in conformity with the basic table used for taxation in the state to ensure fairness.
Okon called on journalists, especially the local ones, to cross-check their facts before going to press and charged them to demonstrate integrity in their profession so as not to misinform the gullible public.
He revealed that the new tax regime is not a secret as Government had communicated the policy through a circular from the Secretary to the State Government to all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Also speaking at the briefing was the Information and Communications commissioner, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, who frowned at the excesses of some media outfits which, he argued, have thrown caution to the wind in their reportage of issues.
The Government spokesman observed that, given the sheer quantum of projects including hundreds of kilometres of roads the State Government has already undertaken in the last three months , the option of the loan is justifiable as the State Governor was committed to delivering the goods in keeping with his campaign promise to consolidate on the achievements of the immediate past era.
It will be recalled that, the Akwa Ibom State Government had through a circular MF/S/126/S.I/VOL.II/23 from the Finance Ministry dated 9th September, 2015 under the subject, ” IMPLEMENTATION OF APPROVED PERSONAL INCOME TAX ACT (PITA) of 2011 IN THE CIVIL / PUBLIC SERVICE OF AKWA IBOM STATE ” intimated that, Sequel to the approval of the Governor for the implementation of Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) of 2011, it is imperative for all Ministries / Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) to effect the tax deduction as per the attached tax table applicable to them”.
The circular however added that, In order to cushion the effect of its implementation, that the Governor has graciously approved a rebate of 50 percent across board to workers in the State civil service with exception of those on political appointment and therefore, directed the MDAs to comply with the circular effect from last month.
– Iniobong Ekponta, Uyo