NDDC ministry yet to transmit 2019, 2020 budget estimates to Presidency, NASS

• NASS may report Ministry, Commission to Presidency

Few weeks into the end of the 2019 financial fiscal year, the Ministry of Niger Delta Development Commission is yet to submit the 2019 and 2020 budget estimates of the Commission to the Presidency for onward transmission to the National Assembly for appropriation and approval in line with the Act that created it.

It was gathered that as at of today, the Commission is still operating its activities based on the 2018 budget approved by the National Assembly.

At the inaugural sitting of the House Committee on NDDC two weeks ago, its Chairman, Hon Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo had raised the alarm that the Management of the Commission had failed to furnish the National Assembly with its 2019 budget proposal as well as that of 2020 as required by the law.

According to him, “as we speak, the Commission is yet to submit its 2019 budget appropriation to the National Assembly for approval in line with the Act that sets it up not to talk of the 2020 budget.

“Section 18(1) of the NDDC Act 2000 states: ‘the Board shall not later than 30th September submit to the National Assembly through President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces an estimate of the expenditure and income of the Commission during the succeeding year for approval.

“As we speak, the Commission is yet to bring to the National Assembly the budget for the 2019 fiscal year not to talk of 2020 of which the Mr. President had already submitted before the Assembly, what has the Commission been operating with?”

Consequently, the Committee demanded for the immediate submission of the budget proposal failure of which it vowed to award zero allocation to the Commission.

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However, a top official of the Commission told the Tribune Online that the Commission had done what is required by law and passed everything to the Ministry for onward transmission to the Presidency and that only the Minister, Senator Godwin Akpabio could explain the delay.

Findings from both chambers of the National Assembly by the Tribune Online revealed that the Presidency was yet to receive the documents not to talk of transmitting to the legislature as required.

Two members of the NDDC Committees at the both chambers, Senate and the House of Representatives confirmed to our correspondent in confidence that the next option now is to report both the Ministry and the Commission to Presidency through the leadership of the National Assembly for appropriation action, saying that the waiting game would no longer be tolerated under the new dispensation.

This came just as there are strong indications that the Presidency has dissolved the newly inaugurated board of the Commission.

An impeccable source close to the Presidency last night hinted that the board was dissolved owing to its lack of spread as the interest of a certain stalwart of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a serving minister was not accommodated as presently constituted.

The serving minister, who was governor in an oil-rich state in the South-South for eight years and was said to have cried out to the presidency on the development.

The source further disclosed that the presidency will soon appoint sole administrators that will run the affairs of the board for the next three years.

It was gathered that since his point man in the NDDC, Festus Keyamo (SAN) has been reployed from being minister of state and member of the NDDC Board to the ministry of Labour, where he maintained same designation, the former minister, who is considered as a major financier of the party has no representation in the board.

Presently, Niger Delta Minister, Godswill Akpabio; APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole; Petroleum minister, Timipre Sylva among others, are said to be among those that enjoyed patronage in the dissolved board.

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It will be recalled that the dissolved 16-man board chaired by Dr. Pius Odubu (Edo State) was approved in August by President Muhammadu Buhari.

A statement signed then by the Permanent Secretary (General Services Office), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adekunle, on behalf of the SGF, however, said that the appointment was subject to the confirmation of the Senate.

The statement said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has, subject to Senate confirmation, approved the composition of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.

“The interim management headed by Prof. Nelson Brambaifa has been directed to hand over to the most senior director in the Commission.

“The chairman and members of the newly composed Governing Board are, by this release, invited to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Monday, September 2, 2019 for proper documentation and briefing.

“They are to come along with their updated CVs and valid identification.”

Among the board members were Bernard Okumagba from Delta State, who was to serve as Managing Director; and Otobong Ndem from Akwa Ibom, who was appointed as the Executive Director, Projects.

Others were Maxwell Okoh from Bayelsa State; Jones Erue from Delta State; Victor Ekhatar from Edo State; Joy Nunieh from Rivers State; Nwogu Nwogu from Abia State; Theodore Allison from Bayelsa State; Victor Antai from Akwa Ibom State; Maurice Effiwatt from Cross River State; Olugbenga Elema from Ondo State; Uchegbu Kyrian from Imo State; and Aisha Muhammed from Kano State representing North-West area on the board.

From Adamawa State, President Buhari appointed Ardo Zubairu to represent the North-East; while Badmus Mutalib was appointed from Lagos State to represent the South-West region on the NDDC board.

A Presidency source revealed yesterday that stoppage of the new board would also allow the smooth operation of the forensic audit of the Commission ordered last week by President Buhari.

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