For the current peace to be sustained in the Niger Delta region, there is a need for better funding for the Niger Delta ministry, the Senate has said.
The Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs noted this during the ministry’s 2022 budget defence session on Thursday.
The Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, had appeared before the panel to give details of the ministry’s spendings for 2021 and also to defend the 2022 budget proposal.
A member of the committee, James Manager (PDP, Delta South), complained that the budget allocated to the ministry in 2021 and 2022 was “too meagre to achieve anything meaningful in the region.”
Anything humanly possible to sustain the current peace being enjoyed in the region must be encouraged, he said.
The senator made the plea despite a history of misappropriation of funds in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) – a key agency under the ministry.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how top NDDC officials misused funds for the commission amounting to billions – which led to the dissolution of the board by President Muhammadu Buhari and an order for a forensic audit.
Mr manager was reacting to the minister’s submission – who complained that the annual budgetary allocation for the ministry is hardly enough.
Mr Akpabio told the panel that a total budgetary proposal of N28.1 billion was allocated to the Ministry for 2022 comprising Personnel Cost of N1.7 billion, Overhead Cost of N877 million and Capital N25.5 billion.
He said the budget is, however, considered meagre and significantly inadequate in the face of the mandate and goals of the ministry to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
Mr Akpabio said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic further necessitated the intervention of the ministry to ameliorate the infrastructure and Human Capital Development of the people of the region.
The minister further explained that the ministry sought to allocate its scarce resources in accordance with government priorities.
“…Arising from the dwindling budgetary allocation and the increasing level of outstanding liabilities, we wish to solicit additional funding and your support to enable the ministry deliver on the president and the administration’s mandate for the Niger Delta region,” he said.
On his part, another member of the panel, George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers), wondered why some federal roads “with no economic relevance” were being constructed and prioritised over the East-West road “which carries the economic burden of the nation.”
“Let us address the issue of the East-West road squarely, as we do to other roads. We are not being fair to the region.
“We know you as a former governor and former Minority Leader of the Senate and we believe you are capable of handling this East-West road. We cannot blame you for the present state of that road, but we have to do something about the budget of the Ministry,” Mr Sekibo said.
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