Niger Delta: Reps, minister kick over non-release of N35.2bn capital projects fund

• $25bn Green Bond fund domiciled with Federal Ministry of Environment

House of Representatives,

Members of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, frowned against Federal Government’s failure to release the total sum of N35.2 billion approved for the implementation of the capital projects allocated to Niger Delta Affairs 99 days to the end of the 2019 fiscal year.

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio who spoke at the 2019/2020 budget defence, also requested for a total sum of N38.774 billion outside the budgetary allocation, for the implementation of the proposed mega-projects crucial to the development of the oil-producing region.

He also informed the lawmakers that the sum of $25 billion Green Bond grant which was launched in 2018 is domiciled with Federal Ministry of Environment, adding that phase 2 is expected to commence in 2019.

He added that the focus of the Green Bond fund is in the area of afforestation projects such as rehabilitation and reclamation of degraded ecosystems in the Niger Delta region which has received 80% approval of the programme.

On the 2020 budget estimates, Senator Akpabio explained that a sum of N25.911 billion was allocated to the Ministry, N1.143 billion is for personnel, N877.089 million is for Overhead while N23.890 is for capital expenditure which he described as “meagre and inadequate”.

While addressing the House Committee on Niger Delta Affairs chaired by Hon Essien Ayi, the Minister said: “Honourable members, in 2019 the sums of N35.2 billion and N877 million were allocated to the Ministry for capital and overhead expenditures respectively. Out of the capital appropriation of N35.2 billion, as at today, no funds have been received for capital.

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“However, the recent circular by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning for the release of 40% of the Ministry’s capital in the sum of N14.1 billion is being processed, while the sum of N365 million representing five months allocation for Overhead i.e N73 million has been released as at date,” Senator Akpabio told the lawmakers.

“The distinguished members of the committee in the Senate felt there was need for them to see the total content of the proposal of the 2019 budget. And that of course we are going to comply with. And a date has been fixed for us to come back to them on Monday.

“In terms of appropriating fund to some of those projects, it might not be possible. But we will make sure they are reflected for the purpose of continuity.

“As at last year, the total envelop for the Ministry of Niger Delta was 35.2 billion and about 877 million in terms of overhead. And the budget we made for 2019 was predicated on upon 35.2 billion

“But in 2020 budget, the envelop given to the ministry was reduced drastically from 35.2 billion to 23 billion. And we were given circular that we must at least ensure that 60 per cent of the 35.2 billion of 2019 are rolled-over into 2020

“Since 60 per cent were to be rolled over, that means at least 40 per cent of the proposal of 2019 not included in the proposal of 2020. Moreover, the money has reduced from 35.2 billion to 23 billion.

“So it wasn’t as if it was an oversight, it was based on extant circular and also based on the paucity of fund. Let me say sir, that as at today, I don’t know what have happened.

“But as at yesterday, unfortunately, the capital vote for the ministry for 2019, we did not receive N1. And in spite of all the proposals that very distinguished colleagues of mine has said we should roll-over, not N1 was received in terms of cash release to back up up the proposals.

“So we are hoping that the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning will expedite action in the next few days and next few weeks to meet up the expectation. Initially, they promised that they will release 11 billion, later they said they will add 3 billion to it to make it 14 billion, so we are still waiting.

“We have not awarded a single contract. No capital project has been awarded in the ministry for 2019 ,because the proposals were not cashed backed.”

The Minister added that some of the ministry’s mega-projects such as Section I-IV of the East-West Road were moved to the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Fund considering the dwindling budgetary allocation to the Ministry.

In a swift response to the presentation, Hon Ayi promised that the Committee would brief the leadership of the House for upward review of the N23.8 billion envelope for capital projects in the 9 states estimated at about N2.627 billion per state.

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