N’Assembly Adopts NDDC’s Budget, Lifts Ban on Commission

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By Chuks Okocha

The National Assembly yesterday resolved to lift the ban it earlier placed on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The lawmakers also adopted the 2021 budget proposal of the commission.

These resolutions were reached at the joint budget defence session which had in attendance members of the Committees on Niger Delta and NDDC in the Senate and House of Representatives, where both chambers agreed to work with the NDDC led by a sole administrator.

The meeting had in attendance the Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Peter Nwaboshi, and the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, Hon. Tunji Ojo.

Making his maiden attendance before the committee, the newly appointed interim sole administrator of the commission, Mr. Effiong Akwa, had in a letter addressed to the President of Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, indicated his commitment to transparency, honesty and accountability in the discharge of his duties.

On accountability, Akwa explained in the letter his awareness of the implications of spending funds outside budgetary allocation and appropriation.

In view of the objective of the letter, Senator James Manager moved a motion for the NDDC budget proposal to be adopted by the committee.

The motion was subsequently seconded by the spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, and it was followed by a unanimous resolution by members of both Houses to receive the commission’s budget.

Prior to the resolution, Nwaboshi had in his remark charged Akwa to see the gesture by the committee as a privilege.

He urged the new sole administrator to remain firm in his words and actions, and not to take undue advantage of the privilege given to him by the committee.

According to the Delta State senator, “The motion on the floor moved by Senator Manager and seconded by Hon. Benjamin Kalu is in view of the new administrator’s humble disposition and in line with the letter he wrote telling us that he understands the implication of spending money without it being appropriated.

“I want to thank the Senate president for lifting the ban placed on them for incompetence and some of the infractions the IMC committed.

“Before you take your leave, this is a rare privilege, and I am happy that journalists are here, so let us hope that you will stand and live by your words.

“However, we have lawyers, accountants and auditors here, and we have the power to invite you again in a joint session and in that joint session, you may have to present this budget again.

“We are allowing you to go as a mark of respect to you and because of the humility you have exhibited here.”

In his remarks on the letter, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu, rallied his colleagues to lend their support to the new administrator of the commission.

Kalu said: “Given the letter that distinguished Senator Nwaboshi read, the letter was written to the Senate president, and I think that should give us some hope. We are not in this hall to be fighting every day.

“Let’s give this gentleman the benefit of doubt. He will come again, and we are going to thoroughly scrutinise this budget. Let’s give him the benefit of doubt, and work on the budget.”

On his part Chairman, House Committee on NDDC, Ojo, drew Akwa’s attention to the issues which had bedevilled the commission under the erstwhile Interim Management Committee (IMC).

He urged Akwa to seek alternative means to funding the commission, saying: “It is imperative to draw attention to some of the concerns that we have consistently raised during our interactions for the purpose of reiterating the objective of NDDC which is to drive sustainable development in the Niger Delta region.

“It’s a proposal we would like to propose to you, and advise that the NDDC has to look at alternative means of revenue generation, and hopefully 30 percent for partnerships and joint ventures agreement; 50 percent for capital development projects, and 20 percent for the completion and payment of existing projects.”

The Senate in plenary on July 23, 2020, resolved that the IMC be disbanded and made to refund the sum of N4.923 billion.

However, as a result of the series of petitions against the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, President Muhammadu Buhari on December 12, 2020, appointed a sole administrator to run the affairs of the commission.

Akwa, who has been the acting executive director, finance and administration in the NDDC, “is to assume the headship of the commission till the completion of the forensic audit.”