Ten days to the end of the year, the Senate on Monday approved the 2020 budget of N453.2 billion for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The approval comes despite the Senate’s vow not to approve a budget for the commission until its board is constituted.
The lawmakers also approved the budget despite the failure of the dissolved Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC to reconcile differences and discrepancies in the commission’s 2019 budget performance.
The lawmakers observed the anomalies and other allegations of fraud and embezzlement of funds by the IMC during the 2020 budget defence in July.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in November 2019 transmitted the NDDC’s 2019 and 2020 budget estimates to the Senate for consideration and passage.
But some senators had kicked against the budgetary allocations, citing administrative illegalities in the commission.
Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate Minority Leader, said if the budget was approved by the Senate, it would set a bad precedent because President Buhari is yet to appoint a board to manage the affairs of the NDDC.
“This August body, having confirmed the board of NDDC, will not countenance any illegal contraption coming in front of us to say they are representing the NDDC,” he had said.
The NDDC, created by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration as an interventionist agency in response to decades of complaints of neglect by the oil-rich region, has little to show for the billions of naira it has received in the 19 years of its existence.
Although the Senate had confirmed 15 nominees led by Edo politician, Pius Odubu, in October 2019, the president refused to inaugurate the board.
This allowed the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, to name an IMC with Joy Nunieh as the Acting Managing Director. This set up was changed months later when the president appointed Kemebradikumo Pondei as Acting Managing Director.
Past heads of the commission were dismissed over one allegation of fraud or another.
The most recent was in July, when the National Assembly set up a panel to investigate the financial recklessness of the IMC.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the commission used about N1.5 billion as COVID-19 relief, paid officials N85 million to attend graduation in the UK during a lockdown and how it was asked by the Senate to refund all the monies spent.
These and more led to a delay in the consideration of the NDDC’s appropriation.
Components of the approved budget were the same as the proposed appropriation as sent by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The approval followed a presentation of the report of the Senate committee on Niger Delta.
The Vice Chairman of the committee, Amos Bulus, who presented the report, said, on the commission’s revenue projection, the panel adopted N63.5 billion as reflected in the Appropriations Act, 2020 and a total of N81 billion was earmarked as statutory contribution by the Federal Government to the NDDC.
He further explained that N100 billion naira, which reflected as unpaid arrears by the federal government, was not considered as part of the commission’s revenue projection by the committee “because the amount was not approved in the 2020 Appropriations Act by the National Assembly.”
More details of the budget
Personnel Expenditure – N27,389,000,000 billion
Overhead expenditure – N13,937,244,107 billion
Internal capital expenditure – N2,793,755,893 billion
Development projects – N409,080,000,000.
Total expenditure – 453,200,000,000
a. Revenue Brought Forward – 12,000,000,000
b. Federal Government contribution – 63,506,151,945
c. Federal Government contribution (ie Unpaid arrears by Federal Government) – 0
d. Oil companies contributions and Nigeria Liquefied Naturall Gas Ltd (NLNG) and others – 317,493,848,055
e. Ecological Funds – 60,000,000,000.
f. Other Internally Realized Income – 200,000,000
Total revenue – 453,200,000,000
Mr Bulus said the commission disclosed that its revenue inflow from oil companies/NLNG and others exceeded what was projected, prompting an increase in the revenue projection for that sector, from N200 billion to N317 billion.
The committee also recommended that the lifespan of the budget be extended to enable the commission achieve full implementation. Accordingly, the 2019 NDDC Budget was recommended to elapse on May 31, 2020.
All the recommendations were adopted by the Senate.
Prior to the budget passage, Bayelsa senator, Seriake Dickson, raised concerns about passing a budget for the commission that is being run by a sole administrator.
He was referring to Effiong Akwa who was recently appointed by President Buhari as the sole administrator of the NDDC. This was after he dissolved the Interim Management Committee of the commission.
Mr Dickson asked that a motion to be considered to prevail on President Buhari to immediately constitute the board of the NDDC.
“What I am rising to propose, Mr. President, that this Senate at this point, having now agreed to pass the budget, can we take a motion to the effect that the President be called upon to constitute the board in accordance with the Act without further delay; and that this budget be passed for the sake and development of the well-being and welfare of the people,” he said.
In his response, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, promised that the National Assembly would continue to engage the Executive on the need to immediately constitute the Governing Board of the Nigerian Delta Development Commission.
“I think you have made the point. Even without a motion, you have stated this and it is recorded. And, I have stated this, too. We have been engaging with the Executive arm of government that the nominations into the Governing Board should be made. We have been making that point and will continue to push until it is made.
“I think we are getting there, so even if we don’t take any motion, I’m sure the explanations you have given will go a long way.
“I don’t think the Sole Administrator should be there for any long period of time, but it is for us to ensure that between now and when that administrator goes, the funds appropriated are properly utilised.”
Mr Lawan, also charged the Niger Delta committee to ensure the proper use of funds by the commission through strict oversight.
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