By Henry Umoru
STRONG indications have emerged that intrigues and gameplay within and outside the Niger Delta region as regards the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC may have contributed to the delay in the presentation of the agency’s 2019 Budget Proposal to the National Assembly.
According to a source, the delay in the presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari may not be unconnected with the power play between forces behind the current Interim Management Committee of the NDDC and those supporting the inauguration of persons already appointed and confirmed as substantive members of the Commission.
The development is rearing its head, a month to the end of the year.
Though the budget proposals of the Commission usually come late, the 2019 budget ought to have been presented to the National Assembly, processed and approved before July 31st, 2019 when the Commission’s 2018 budget expired.
The expired 2018 budget of N346. 5 billion of the NDDC provided N2.883bn for Capital Expenditure, while N311.371bn was approved for development projects, just as N19.521bn was for Personnel Cost, while N12. 737bn was for Overhead Expenditure.
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.
It would be recalled that last week Tuesday, the House of Representatives invited the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC for an explanation on the non-availability of the Commission’s 2019 budget.
Also recall that In spite of the order by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan some weeks ago that the interim committee should immediately give way to those appointed and confirmed as members of the NDDC management and board.
Also recall that even with the tall order from the Senate that after the screening and subsequent confirmation of the Nominees, the Interim board dies immediately, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to act on the confirmation.
Lawan had said after the confirmation of Dr Pius Odubu as Chairman of NDDC board and his team that “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.”
The quagmire has, however, continued to generate serious concerns among stakeholders in the Oil Producing region.
Recall that the interim Committee was set up by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio and he currently manages the commission.
Also, recall that Akpabio had said that the three-man committee will oversee the management of the commission to create an “enabling environment” for the audit.
He said Buhari approved the appointment of Dr Gbene Joi Nunieh as the Acting Managing Director; Cairo Ojougboh, as acting executive director, projects; and Ibanga Bassey, as acting executive director, finance and administration.
Akpabio had asked the interim committee to discharge their duties ”without fear or favour”.
He said the outcome of the committee’s work will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of the people of the Niger Delta region.
According to the Minister, the Committee will run the NDDC for six months and oversee the forensic audit of the agency.
Following the expiration of the life span of the 2018 budget of the commission last 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 August in a letter, 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 also threatened that the National Assembly would not hesitate to invoke its full legislative powers to deal with any infraction of the Constitutional provisions.
Responding to the letter from the joint committee, the then NDDC chairman, Professor Ben Brambaifa had acknowledged that the Commission was quite aware of the expiration of the 2018 budget.