The Senate on Monday took a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari, describing his appointment of a Sole Administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC as illegal and alien to the Act establishing the Commission.
Speaking on Monday, in Abuja prior to the passage of the NDDC 2020 Budget Estimates during plenary, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan noted that though the role of the Sole Administrator is unknown to the law just like the Interim Management Committee, but the Senate opposed the IMC’s dealings with Senate committees, because it was indicted in the embezzlement of four billion, nine million naira under the guise of COVID relief.
According to him the Senate is “caught in between the devil and the deep blue” sea because the budget needed to be passed to save the people of the Niger Delta who are faced with so many challenges.
The President of the Senate who noted that the people of the Niger Delta should be the priority and be of paramount as failure on the part of the Senate to Pass the budget because of the existence of a Sole Administrator, however urged the Executive to as a matter of urgency, forward to the Senate, the 2021 Budget estimates of the NDDC.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Monday, passed into law, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC’s N453,200,000,000 budget of 2020.
The approved budget for the Commission covers the capital, personnel expenditure, Overhead Expenditure, Internal Capital Expenditure and Development Projects for the period ending on March 31, 2021.
The passage of the budget was sequel to the consideration of the report of the Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Delta North led Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs.
Presenting the report, Vice Chairman of the Committee, Senator Amos Bulus, APC, Gombe South that the Senate do receive and consider the report of the Committee on the 2020 Budget estimates at the Committee of Supply.
Recall that the Senate suspended the budget presentation of the NDDC after the now dissolved Interim Management Committee set up by President Buhari to oversee the affairs of the NDDC was indicted of financial misappropriation by the Senate.
Laying the report before the plenary, the Chairman of the Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Nwaoboshi said that the Committee carried out a holistic oversight of the Commission and noted that the developmental aspect of the budget is basically a roll over of the 2019 Budget which is in furtherance of the drive to ensure completion of ongoing Projects.
He said: “That the Senate do consider the report of the Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on the issue from the Statutory Revenue Fund of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Total Sum of N453,200,000,000.00 only.
Of the sum, N27,389,000,000 is for personnel expenditure; N13,937,244,107 is for overhead expenditure; N2,793,755,893, internal capital, and N409,080,000,000 for development projects for the period ending March 31, 2021.”
According to the report, sources of revenue for the budget are as follows: Revenue brought forward, N12,000,000,000; Federal Government contribution, N81,000,0000,000; Federal Government contribution based on paid arrears, N100,000,000,000; Oil Companies Contributions
and others, N200,000,000,000; Ecological Funds N60,000,000,000 and other internally Realised Income, N200,000,000,000.
Also recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had last week, approved the appointment of an interim administrator to oversee NDDC.
The appointment of Effiong Okon Akwa as the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Commission as the Sole Administrator was contained in a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina.
Lawan who was responding to remarks by Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Bayelsa West said, ” we have the people of the Niger Delta who are suffering and we have a sole administrator who is unknown to the law, but my opinion is that people themselves at this point should be the priority. I don’t think it will serve the people any good if we disallow the implementation of the capital.
“The capital is what is channeled to the people. The recurrent goes to the headquarters and the civil servants. I believe that we need to balance the situation, we pass the budget and task our committee on NDDC to ensure that every kobo is prudently and economically applied.
“We have been engaging with the executives arm of government that the names for nominees into the governing board should be made forwarded to the Senate and we shall continue to push for that.
“Personally, I don’t think the Sole administration should remain for a long period of time but it’s for us to ensure that between now and till the departure of the sole administrator that the funds appropriated are properly utilised.
“The situation might not be the best, but we just have to make the best of it. So the budget 2020 for NDDC should be presented to us as soon as possible we want to streamline the implementation of all the budgets. That is starting from January 2021, budget implementation for that year should begin. We urge the executives to present the budget for 2021.
Earlier, Senator Dickson who described the appointment of a Sole Administrator for NDDC as unconstitutional, illegal and unknown, said that the budget should not approve the Capital Budget to disallow the Sole Administrator from executing it.
Dickson commended the actions taken by the National Assembly in the recent past in dissolving the IMC of the NDDC, which he described as patriotic.
He however expressed his dissatisfaction over the non composure of an NDDC board as stipulated by the law to oversee the completion of the forensic audit of the commission.
According to him, despite the situation, the budget still need to be passed in the interest of the Niger Delta people.
Senator Dickson said, ” While passing this budget in the interest of the Niger Delta people, we need to add a caveat, that this budget when passed shouldn’t be implemented beyond the recurrent normal running expenses until the NDDC act is complied with.
“So that we don’t have a situation that after the budget has been passed and then one sole administrator unknown to the laws or the Senate does not implement the budget.”
Vanguard News Nigeria