Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) yesterday rejected the decision by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to allot N15 billion of the ministry’s N19 billion total capital expenditure for 2021 to the East-West road project.
Akpabio had last Tuesday while presenting his ministry’s 2021 budget proposal to the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Affairs said N15 billion out of the N19 billion meant for capital expenditure will be used to construct the East-West Foad.
However, the Forum in a statement, entitled: ‘We are dissatisfied with your leadership’, signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, said it supported the federal lawmakers in questioning the rationale behind the minister’s decision.
The PANDEF wondered why N15 billion should be allocated to the East-West Road alone when there are several other projects of the ministry that are abandoned and begging for attention across the region.
It thereby called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on the road, and provide ‘special vote’ for the completion of the road instead of allowing the minister to deplete the paltry capital expenditure of the ministry on the road.
The statement read in part: “Was the East-West Road planned to be constructed with the paltry capital allocations of the ministry? We understand the critical importance of that road to our people, and that is why we have continuously called for its completion. We, however, find the minister’s decision to appropriate about 80 percent of the ministry’s capital expenditure to the project bemusing and distasteful.
We are not in support of this plan by the minister. He needs to re-examine his position.
‘’We are dissatisfied with his leadership of the Ministry of Niger Delta-for not paying sufficient attention to the affairs of the region. He has instead been more concerned with gratifying the president, and asserting that he (the president) has so much interest in the completion of East-West Road. But that is not what we see; the goings-on do not in any way reflect the minister’s narrative. PANDEF is becoming increasingly worried at these tendencies of the minister, and needs to be reminded that he is first and foremost, a Niger Deltan before any other thing else. He should, therefore, re-align himself with the shared concerns and yearnings of the people of the Niger Delta region, and stop playing the role of a loyal “APC Minister”, always heralding the president’s imperceptible love for the Niger Delta region.”
The group “recalled that in August 2019, the minister announced the approval of a N20 billion ‘working capital’ by the president for the completion of the East-West Road. What has happened to that money? It was also said at some point that President Muhammadu Buhari transferred the funding and project management of the road to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) along with the second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Abuja-Kano highway for speedy completion. So what happened to that arrangement?”