By Peter Okhiria
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette, said yesterday that the Ministry had not done anything to undermine the execution of the 2009 budget. He said that there was no justification whatsoever for the kind of attacks that the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta unleashed on him and the Ministry last week.
Ekaette said in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Soni Daniel, that he had taken necessary steps towards the implementation of the projects captured in the 2009 budget.
He said: â€œI have not done anything to warrant the kind of attacks and vituperations, which the members of the House Committee on Niger Delta unleashed on me and the Ministry when I honoured their invitation to brief them on the performance of the 2009 budget,â€ Ekaette stated.
â€œThe first step we took was to advertise and select professionals as provided for in the Public Procurement Act, to design our projects and provide costings, which unfortunately, the members did not provide when they allotted the projects for the respective areas,â€ the Minister said.
He said it was wrong for the members to insinuate that he was paying more attention to consultants than award of contracts for the projects earmarked for the year. He said the amount of money which the lawmakers assigned to the capital projects were not based on any professional analysis.
And that on completion of the designs it was discovered that the amount could not mobilize the contractors to site as required by law.
He cited a case in Akwa Ibom where the lawmakers earmarked a paltry sum of N150 million for the design and construction of a 17-kilometre road when in reality the road requires about N6 billion for implementation.
He also cited another case in Abia State where a project that requires more than N4 billion was allotted only N50 million in the budget by the lawmakers.
The truth of the matter is that the projects inserted into the budget of the Ministry were based on mere guesswork and do not have adequate funds for implementation. The amount cannot even pay for the 15 percent mobilization fee required by law.
He said it was wrong for the lawmakers to make unwarranted imputations against him and the Ministry, as he is always driven by the need to work for the interest of Nigeria and its people.
He said: â€œI know what is good for this country, which I have been serving honestly and selflessly for over 40 years.Â I will continue to do only those things that are in the best interest of our people and no amount of insults and intimidation would derail me from the path of integrity and transparency.â€
â€œI stand by my word and by the truth and I will continue to serve with truth and sincerity,â€ Ekaette declared.