By Codratus Godson
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) says its 2019 budget of about N300Bn would elapse on May 31, 2020, without executing any single project therein, all due to budget approval delays and other intriques at the National Assembly.
According to the Acting Managing Director (chairman of the Interim Management Committee), Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, the hard copy of the budget was sent in April, 2020, thus, making it impossible to advertise any project as required by law within six weeks at least.
For this reason, the MD lamented, the Commission would hardly touch the budget because there is no time to act and no time to follow due process.
In an interaction with the press on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, the MD said the 2020 budget would start the same rat race and it may be till middle of 2021 before it would be approved and also dumped.
He said the National Assembly (NASS) seems to constitute 50 per cent of obstacle to the NDDC, saying some persons hide in the parliament to commit all manner of havoc, saying if nothing was done, the NDDC could continue to lie waste while individuals would continue to loot the place. He also said the place has been turned to honeycomb by politicians.
He said the NASS stifles the Commission in three ways; one is by delaying the budget and rendering it unimplementable. The second is by bastardizing the budget by cutting amounts on subjects to hand over to others. The thirds, he said, is by massive budget padding.
The MD said in the 2019 budget, almost 400 items were added. “I could not recognize the budget we went when it came back.” He said the rule did not allow the parliament to alter a budget beyond five per cent, but wondered why the NASS writes its own budget and hands down to the Commission to implement. “They adjust the budget by 1000 per cent”.
A case in hand, according to him, is the provision of N1.32Bn sent in the 2019 budget but when it came back, the NASS approved a mere N100m for the counterpart funding of an international partnership in Agric. “How do we go to IFAD and tell them we have only N100m instead of N1.32Bn as agreed. How will they bring their own counterpart fund?”
The worst case scenario, he lamented, is that the lawmakers forced the Commission to pay their contract debts and after that, they ordered stop in paying any further debts. He said only one or two persons have planted themselves in the NASS to make it look like the NASS was killing the Commission whereas he said it is just one or two fellows.
The MD sued for a change of heart so that all hands can be on deck to develop the oil region. For now, he said, no projects are being executed and the President has not come to the Niger Delta to execute any project, all due to intrigues.
Pondei said it is clear that all efforts are being made to stifle the forensic audit ordered by the President and that the NASS wants to start a parallel probe that may disrupt the forensic audit.