Minister of Niger Delta Ministry, Godswill Akpabio, has said the National Assembly which has the power to alter with the budgetary allocation should do the needful if it is not comfortable with the budgetary provision of the ministry’s capital budget.
Akpabio said it is within the purview of the lawmakers to make the adjustment they believe was appropriate to their budget envelope especially the limited capital project allocation which has been wiped out by the ongoing project.
The minister of Niger Delta ministry said this while fielding questions from journalists after appearing the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs.
“What we are working with is the extant circulars and all that. The only people who have the right to tamper with the budget remains the National Assembly, not the minister who submitted after the President has signed off on it and submitted it to the National Assembly, only the National Assembly has the power to do so and they will do it within a certain threshold so that the budget will not be distorted,” Akpabio stated.
The Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs had last Monday rejected the ministry’s budget over uncompleted project valued at over N21bn, whilst its 2020 budget stands at N23bn and new projects in the budget are over N4bn.
Relying on the President’s speech, while presenting the budget to the joint session, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi said President Muhammadu Buhari had said the 2020 budget will prioritise on the project to completion so the people can have its full benefits.
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Weighing the budget envelope and its capital expenditure in relation to the new projects, the Senate decided to task the minster comply with the presidential directive.
Nwaoboshi said on Monday at the budget defence, that the Committee aligns itself with the thinking of the president as enunciated in his speech and would rather prioritise completion of the existing budget to meet the purpose of their construction and aspiration of the people.
He cited the speech of the President to buttress the Committee’s position: “We have rolled over capital projects that are not likely to be fully funded at the end of 2019 into the 2020 budget.
“We are aware that the National Assembly shares our view that if projects should be prioritised and given adequate funding in the 2020 appropriation act we share the views of the President completely.
“That is the president and Commander in chief of the armed forces of Nigeria talking if that is the position and I want to be contradicted the total number of projects you represent 57.1%, not 40%. That 57.1% we had gone further to break it down state by state, percentage by percentage but the most important thing is that we have about N23bn.
“New projects stand at N19.3bn, that is the ones that have not been handled. Then the new ones stand at N4.4b so if you add both, percentage of old projects to the 2020 project is 57.1%.”
He insisted that they will have to carry out their constitutional mandate of looking at the budget to meet the expectation of the policy of the government.