Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is enmeshed in intrigues and powerplay over the non-presentation of its 2019 budget proposals to the National Assembly for consideration.
The commission’s budget ordinarily ought to have been forwarded to the two chambers of the National Assembly at the expiration of the NDDC 2018 budget in July but that has not been done with about five weeks to the end of 2019.
The commission’s 2019 budget proposal was supposed to have been presented to the National Assembly, processed and approved before July 31st, 2019 when the commission’s 2018 budget expired.
With the expiration of the life span of the 2018 budget of the commission in July, the National Assembly had raised several queries about the resort to extra budgetary expenditure by the NDDC management and board instead of making genuine efforts towards submitting the 2019 budget proposal for the commission.
The committees of the two chambers in charge of the NDDC had in a letter in August drawn the attention of the NDDC management to the provisions of section 80(4) of the Constitution which stipulated that “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund except in a manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”
The committees had in the letter threatened that the National Assembly would not hesitate to invoke its full legislative powers to deal with any infraction of the constitutional provisions.
The letter with reference number NASS/SEN/HR/2019/VOL.1/003 dated August 5, 2019 and titled ‘Extra Budgetary Expenditure’ was jointly signed by the Chairman of the Senate committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Chairman, House Committee on NDDC, Hon. Olubunmi Ojo.
It reads: “The committees on Niger Delta and NDDC of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, wish to call your attention to the expiration of the 2018 NDDC budget which specifically elapsed on 31st July, 2019.
Accordingly, you are directed to stop forthwith any spending except for personal Costs and Overhead. You may note the provision of section 80(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, (as amended) which states that : ‘money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund except in a manner prescribed by the National Assembly’.
“Therefore, any expenditure in contravention of this express provision will amount to an illegality and the National Assembly will not hesitate to invoke its full legislative powers to deal with such infraction of the law.
“In furtherance of the above, you are requested to furnish the committee with the following documents :Summary and comprehensive details of 2018 budget performance showing project description, Allocation, Release, Utilization, Oustanding Balance and other useful information; statement of all commission’s accounts (local and domiciary) from January 2018 till date; information on the procurement processes for all Recurrent Expenditure made by the commission fom January 2018 till date.”
Responding to the letter from the National Assembly, the then NDDC chairman, Professor Ben Brambaifa, acknowledged that the commission was quite aware of the expiration of the 2018 budget in July, 2019 but never took any decisive step to address the matter.
In the expired NDDC 2018 budget of N346. 5 billion, N2.883bn was earmarked for capital expenditure, while N311.371bn was approved for development projects just as N19.521bn was for personnel cost and N12. 737bn was approved for overhead expenditure.
Similarly, in 2017, the NDDC got a total of N364 billion as its annual budget out of which the sum of N329.850 billion was approved for capital projects.
The budget delay is not unconnected with the series of intrigues and wit games playing out in the Niger Delta region over the running of the affairs of the NDDC.
Investigation has revealed that the power play between forces disposed to the continued existence of the current Interim Management Committee of the NDDC and those supporting the inauguration of the 15-man board recently confirmed by the Senate as substantive members of the commission was adversely affecting the quest to produce the 2019 budget for the commission.
Despite the insistence of the Senate that the interim committee should be made to give way to those appointed and confirmed as members of the NDDC management and board few weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to act on the confirmation.
The Senate had on Tuesday, November 5, confirmed 15 nominees for the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with former Deputy Governor of Edo state, Dr Pius Odubu as Chairman and Bernard Okumagba (Delta) as Managing Director
The confirmation of the 16th nominee, Dr Joy Nunieh, who is the current Chairman of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Commission was however declined by the upper chamber due to the nominee’s failure to appear before the Senate committee on Niger Delta Affairs which screened the nominees in October.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan had stated after the confirmation of the new NDDC board that the current interim management of the commission had become voided with the confirmation of the appointment of the commission’s board.
”With the completion of this process now (confirmation), I am sure that any other structure that exists now (in NDDC) is vitiated.
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about because this is one thing that is clearly established by law.” Lawan had stated then.
However, the interim committee set up by the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio currently manages the commission.
The minister said the committee would run the NDDC for six months and oversee the forensic audit of the agency.