The House of Representatives has mandated the Committee on Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the financial activities of the commission in the last three years.
This was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion of Urgent Matter of Public Importance by Benjamin Kalu (APC-Abia) at plenary on Tuesday.
The House resolved to invite the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the Board of NDDC to explain why the commission had been spending monies which were not appropriated for, by the National Assembly.
The Senate’s Public Accounts Committee had last month vowed to investigate alleged over-spending by the NDDC.
The same day, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from 2001 to 2019.
Moving the motion earlier, Mr Kalu said spending monies not appropriated for, was in violation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Mr Kalu said it also contravened the Niger-Delta Development Commission Act of 2000 (As Amended).
The lawmaker explained that the NDDC was established with a clear mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
He said the NDDC is charged with the responsibility among others to conceive and formulate policies, guidelines and comprehensive master plan.
Mr Kalu said the NDDC had lived up to its responsibility in developing a plan covering key sectors ranging from Agriculture, Health and Environment to Energy, Telecommunications and Transport among others.
He said this had resulted into substantial expenditures including the awards of huge contracts.
Quoting Section 80(3) and (4) of the Constitution, Mr Kalu said “no money shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, unless the issue of those money have been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.
“Money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly,” he said.
He said it makes it explicitly mandatory for the National Assembly to authorise any and all manner of expenditures from all public funds of the Federation, including the funds of the NDDC.
The lawmaker said the Board of the commission was mandated to submit to the National Assembly, an estimate of the expenditure and income of the commission during the next succeeding year for approval not later than September 30, each year.
He said Section 82 of the Constitution empowers the President to authorise withdrawal of moneys from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation for a period not exceeding six months.
He explained that the amount should not exceed the amount authorised by the National Assembly for the same corresponding period in the previous year.
“As at today, more than 13 months after the time required by law, the commission is yet to submit an estimate of its expenditure and income for the year 2019.
“Thereby grossly failing to comply with the aforementioned statutory provision by which the budget estimates should have been presented to the House before Sept. 30, 2018.
“In spite of their failure to submit the 2019 budget estimates to the House, the commission has for a whole year, been operating, making expenses and awarding contracts further to its master plan, with certain awarded contracts worth up to N10 billion without an approved budget as required by law,” he said.
Mr Kalu said that incurring expenditure far beyond six months as required; the NDDC had spent monies in excess of half the amount approved by the National Assembly in its 2018 budget.
Mr Kalu recalled that an ad hoc Committee on the NDDC had earlier uncovered a total of 250 contracts awarded to phony companies in May, 2019 without appropriation or due process.
The lawmaker said in spite of series of invitation by National Assembly upon the expiration of the 2018 budget of the commission, NDDC refused to honour the invitations regarding its 2019 budget estimates.
“The failure and refusal of NDDC to submit its budget estimates for 2019 has created opaqueness in the operations of the commission which has encouraged corruption, mismanagement and embezzlement of funds.
“The delay in the submission and passage of the NDDC budget as well as the continued expenditure of the commission beyond the constitutional threshold amounts to fiscal indiscipline, engenders corruption and provides the platform for arbitrariness,” he said.
In his ruling, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, mandated the House Committee on Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to conduct a comprehensive investigation and report to the House in four weeks.