Senate rejects Niger Delta ministry’s N23b budget

Our Reporter

The Senate Committee on Niger Delta on Monday rejected the 2020 budget of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs for omitting major ongoing projects in its capital appropriation.

Senate Committee on Niger Delta Chairman Senator Peter Nwaoboshi asked that the budget be re-represented.

The Senator representing Delta North said there were abandoned projects in the nine oil producing states.

Other senators said there was a need to increase the ministry’s capital budget.

He said: “There is no state, I dare to say, there is no local government where there are no abandoned projects in the Niger Delta.

“We cannot continue like that. With all the abandoned projects in the Niger Delta, we are talking about new projects; these new projects are designed to fail.

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“Honourable Minister, we need to look at this budget again and we expect you to do your cleanup because the documents we needed were not supplied to us.”

According to him, “proliferation of abandoned projects cannot continue.”

Nwaoboshi said President Muhammadu Buhari had not inaugurated any completed project executed by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in the last four years.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe noted that the Ministry’s budget is an “uncommon budget.”

“When a budget is designed to fail, it is uncommon,” Abaribe said.

He added: “I will suggest that the budget should be taken back for reworking, taking into cognisance all the projects that were pointed out and we give them another day to come and defend the budget.”

Senator Rochas Okorocha noted that the budget was not different from the ministry’s budget of two or three years ago.

“This type of budget doesn’t produce anything feasible,” Okorocha said, adding: “You have to do your projects and complete them so you don’t sound like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

“One of the worst establishments is NDDC known for funny activities because of the way it is set up.”

Senator Sandy Onor Ojang, representing Cross River Central, lamented a situation where capital components of yearly budgets would not be released to ministries.

He said: “We are faced again with the vanity of having a budget and almost through the budget year, there are no capital releases. It calls for concern and deep worry.”

Ojang decried a situation where the capital outlay is even lower than other costs.

“To speak of a situation where nothing is released for capital is a tragedy,” he said.

But, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said the ministry’s budget was not rejected.

Akpabio urged the lawmakers to join him in appealing to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to increase the capital component of the ministry’s budget.

He insisted that the ministry’s capital budget cannot complete a 10kilometre road in the region.

Akpabio lamented that out of the capital appropriation of N35.2billion for 2019, no kobo was released to the ministry.

The Minister noted that the 2020 budget proposal was prepared using the approved zero-based budgeting approach and in line with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

Akpabio told reporters: “The budget was not rejected. The Senators feel that major projects that are already in the Niger Delta ought to be completed.

“I agree with them but unfortunately, we are working under a very tight envelope.

“The ministry was allocated about N23 billion; 60 per cent of it will go to already existing projects in the region and 40 per cent will go to probably new projects.

“So if you look at it very well, it is not possible for you to capture all projects with that amount and it is not even going to be possible to complete even 10 kilometres of road in the region.

“So, I think instead of saying that the budget was rejected, I think that the distinguished Senators should collectively make an appeal to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to improve upon the envelope to expand it a little, so it can capture at least substantially most of the yearnings and aspirations of the good people of the Niger Delta.”

In his presentation, Akpabio said the capital allocation, which is N23,890,350,399.00, is considered inadequate considering the ministry’s mandate.

He said: “An analysis of the 2020 budget estimates reveals that an average sum of N2,626,705,599.00 is allocated to each of the nine states of the region based on the capital ceiling.

“This amount, which is expected to cater for roads, environment, health, social inclusion and provision of water, which are priority needs of the people of the region, in accordance with the ERGP, cannot conveniently pay for a quality 10km road in any part of the states in the region, thus underscoring the inadequacy of the ceiling given to the ministry.

“This gross inadequate funding has led over the years to the following: a plethora of abandoned/uncompleted projects, protracted delay in project delivery, negative perception of the ministry, loss-of-faith in the Federal Government by the people of the region, and difficulty in the realisation of Mr. President’s vision for the region.”

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