The Acting ManagingÂ Director of NDDC, MrÂ Power Aginighan, on Monday in Abuja solicited the support of the Senate to ensure continued survival of the commission.Defending the commissionâ€™â€™s 2009 budget of N96.62 billion before the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Aginighan appealed to the committee to ensure that the 50 per cent due to the commission from the Ecological Fund for 2009 was given to it.
He said on April 17, the dissolved board handed over N176 billion commitment on infrastructure to the commission, adding that the NDDC currently had a commitment worth N478 billion.â€œWith the profile of our revenue in the next four or five years, NDDC will be battling with paying for commitments even if no new contracts are awarded,â€™â€™ he said.
Aginighan said the 2009 budget was tagged, â€œBudget of Continuityâ€™â€™ because projects in the 2008 budget was â€œrolled-overâ€™â€™ to 2009 to allow for full implementation of the previously agreed projects and programmes
.He explained that the late approval of the 2008 budget ham-strung the full implementation of the planned projects and programmes as agreed upon by the stakeholders.
The acting managing director, however, said in spite of the challenges in implementing the 2008 budget, the commission made appreciable progress in its execution.He said new projects in the 2009 budget accounted for only 10 per cent as the emphasis was on the completion of all ongoing projects.
â€œTo this effect, more than N6.5 billion, representing about 6.8 per cent of the 2009 estimated revenue has been earmarked for the completion of all outstanding classroom blocks, hospital buildings and community centres,â€™â€™ he said. He said an increase of 8.31 per cent over the 2008 approved revenue of N89.204 billion was largely due to the 2008 excess crude oil arrears appropriated for the commission in the Federal Governmentâ€™â€™s 2009 budget.
On personnel expenditure, he said the number of staff at the end of 2008 was 1,167 as against 1139 in 2007, adding that the 2009 personnel budget was put at N4.398 billion as against N3.313 billion in 2008. He, however, said the commission was not likely to embark on any significant recruitment exercise this year.Earlier, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Sen. James Manager, noted that the commissionâ€™â€™s budget for 2009 was arriving late. He advised that the budget should always reach the National Assembly at least three months before the beginning of the year.Manager said the dissolution of the board and the crisis in the Niger Delta must have contributed to the delay in presenting the budget to the National Assembly. The chairman noted that the commission was set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to address issues of under-development in the region, adding that the budget was critical to its development.