Niger Delta

What Now Happens To The NDDC And Its 2020 Budget?

By Substance Nature-Udoh


It still remains to be proven how much it really bothers those fighting tooth and nail over advantageous control of the NDDC that the 2019 budget of the redundant Commission is 14 full months behind schedule of implementation.

The last meeting between the House of Representatives and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDC) which was in defiance to the Upper Chamber’s standoff on the illegality of the IMC, may have revealed more about the quagmire which the Commission is in presently.

In the initial heat of the ridiculous remonstration on legality, recall that the House of Representatives had pronounced that it will have nothing to do with the purported Akpabio-inspired 3-man IMC because its creation was in contravention of the law governing the existence of the NDDC.

The Green Chamber, like the Red Chamber, had preferred dealing directly with the already screened and confirmed board of the NDDC, even as the green chair parliamentarians importuned and descended heavily on President Buhari to inaugurate the board, now at the mercy of heavyweights. In that situation, it meant that the 2020 budget for the NDDC could not be presented.

Similarly, on acknowledgement of receipt of request by the Presidency for the confirmation and approval of the 2020 NDDC budget during plenary on Tuesday, November 26, 2019, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, had referred the budget estimates to the Senate Committee on Niger Delta chaired by Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi, but with the imperative caveat that the Committee relate strictly with the nominees on the board of the NDDC screened and confirmed by the Senate since November 5, 2019, than with the IMC. That did not ruffle feathers in the Presidency.

However, in a sudden twist of events, although the President still refused to budge, the House of Reps later rescinded its position when it defied all odds and turned in favour of the Dr. JoiNunieh-led IMC and announced that it was free to present the 2019/2020 budget before it. The chairman of House Committee on NDDC, Mr. OlabunmiTunji-Ojo, rather informed the press that the House shall have nothing to do with the board, but the IMC would be received in the Green Chamber to present the budget.

Disagreeing with the position of the Senate spokesman, GodiyaAkwashiki, that the Senate would not interface with the illegality that the IMC supposedly is, and quoting from the provisions of Section 171 (1) and sub-section 2 (b) of the laws governing the Commission, Tunji-Ojo had contended that “The board doesn’t defend the budget, it is the management that defends the budget”.

Surprisingly, on Tuesday, December 10, when the IMC led by Dr. Nunieh appeared before the House for that purpose, the fallout was that the Committee vowed not to consider the budget proposal until the 2019 budget was presented and considered. Tunji-Ojo accused the Commission of failing to implement the 2019 budget because of alleged manipulations and fraud by the former management.

Therefore, as part of steps towards clearing the mess associated with the 2019 budget, the Commission was asked to first, present the list of all contractors it owed; second, recover the over N1 trillion owed it by various groups to use it in offsetting some of its liabilities, and third, that henceforth payment of claims would be based strictly on verification and approval by the Senate Committee.

That having been done, all ongoing projects in the NDDC 2019 budget would be rolled over to 2020.
Against previous arguments that the NDDC did not have any budget for 2019, Nunieh disclosed that a total sum of N346,513,046,220 was proposed by the NDDC as budget for 2019 on the assumption that there was going to be improved revenue inflow. According to Nunieh, as at December, 2018 the realizable and aggregate inflow of funds was N291.47billion.

The bottomline is that, against all the high hopes it must have given the IMC, the Lower Parliament refused to consider the 2020 Appropriation Bill of the NDDC. Worse still, it suspended all legislative action on the matter till further notice.

Recall that, on a motion of a matter of urgent public importance moved by Nicholas Ossai during its sitting on November 13, 2019, the House of Representatives also resolved to halt all consideration of the 2020 budget of the Ministry of Niger Delta headed by Sen. GodswillAkpabio on grounds of “illegality”. Ossai had spotted anomalies and discrepancies in the sack of the then Acting Managing Director and subsequent appointment of another that was at variance with the agency’s enabling laws. By law, the most senior director supposed to replace the sacked one.

Judged by the intensity of politicking and vested interest in the matter, perhaps further worsened by the tactical silence of the presidency, there can be no easy assurances that the President will soon reduce the tension by inaugurating the screened and confirmed NDDC board, which is exactly what the Senate demands for the NDDC to assume its official roles and expectations. It is therefore now clear who are actually the problem of the Commission in the present circumstances.

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