*Senate panel summons MDSunday Aborisade in Abuja
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, told the Senate adhoc Committee on the 2021 and 2022 budgets of the Niger Delta Development Commission that the delay in releasing the forensic audit report was the reason the agency operated without budget for two years.
He told the panel that the 2021 budget was actually sent to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval, but the late submission of the forensic investigation ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, delayed its transmission to the National Assembly for approval.
Umana said, “On assumption of office, we forwarded the 2021 budget to the FEC for approval.
“As of that time, they were working to conclude the 2022 estimates drafts. Within two weeks, the 2022 draft was ready. It was then forwarded to the FEC for onward transmission to the National Assembly with a reminder that the 2021 Budget had not been transmitted.
“The NDDC had some problems which necessitated the forensic audit. President was expecting the report of the forensic audit so as to transmit the two budgets to the National Assembly, but the exercise took a longer time.
“While awaiting the outcome of the FEC action, I asked the commission to follow their guidelines and timeline for budget preparation to work on the 2023 budget.
“That was how we ended up having three budgets. The commission had done its work, they had prepared their drafts, just awaiting FEC’s approval.”
The Chairman of the panel, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, noted that the Commission did not follow the constitution while carrying out its expenditure for the two years.
He said, “For 2021 and 2022, the budgets were not passed at all, your expenditure by the constitution and extant financial regulations ought not to have exceeded the expenditure in the previous budget.
“We want to see the memo that was submitted to FEC regarding the 2021 and 2022 budgets.”
He said the Managing Director of the NDDC, Samuel Ogbuku, must appear before the panel today.
“The managing director of the NDDC should also explain what he knows about the 2021 and 2022 budgets,” he added.
The committee chairman told the Minister that there was no time to waste on the matter.
He said, “Our request is that the minister should give directives that all the relevant documents must be presented before us tomorrow, latest by 12pm.
“If we don’t receive them, whatever position the committee decides to take will be irreversible.”
The minister pledged that the NDDC MD would be informed, but he also requested the panel to write him directly.
The Senate last set up a seven-member ad-hoc committee to probe the NNDC for embarking on expenditure amounting to N1.4trn without appropriation.
This followed a motion by Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi) during consideration of a report by the Committee on Niger Delta on NDDC’s 2021, 2022 and 2023 budgets.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, earlier this year, asked the Senate to approve NDDC’s budgets for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
The request for approval came after the interventionist agency had spent the funds for the 2021 and 2022 financial years, totaling N1.4 trillion.