By Levinus Nwabughiogu
National Assembly Committee yesterday uncovered the appropriation of over N4 billion for non-existing projects in transportation and maritime sector of the economy.
This covered the period of 3 fiscal years, precisely from 2017 to 2019.
Purchases made by the sector in the period under review included the acquisition of vessels and barges; the procurement of dredgers and other related equipment for which N6 billion were earmarked for National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA).
Investigations, however, revealed that the purchases were made.
Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Inland Waterways, Land Transport, Ports and Harbour, and Marine Safety and Education made the discoveries during the 2020 budget defence of Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIWA.
Further investigations also revealed some controversial projects which NIWA claimed it had embarked on.
They were the National Freight Office in Idi-Iroko, Ogun State for which total sums of N40.500 million was appropriated in 2017; N166 million in 2018; N99 million in 2019 while the sum of N400 million was proposed in the 2020 budget estimates of Federal Ministry of Transportation budget line item: ERGP 27102753.
Others included the procurement of Dredgers and other related equipment/vessels which had the sum of N1.5 billion proposed in the 2020 NIWA’s 2020 budget.
The lawmakers discovered with dismay that the total sum of N2. 2 billion was appropriated for the project in 2018 Appropriation Act, while the additional sum of N1 billion was appropriated for the same project in the 2019 Appropriation Acts respectively.
The Committee had queried the existing of those projects in Idi-Iroko, saying they were non-existent.
Following an ensued disagreement on the existing of the projects, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Waterways, Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, frowned at various infractions noticed in the successive Appropriation Acts, suggesting a thorough investigation on the projects and the utilization of funds.
He said: “The facts on this matter are on the budget proposal for 2020 and previous budgetary provisions. For instance, there was a line item that has to do with the construction of the National Freight Office in Idi-Iroko, Ogun State. In 2017, it appeared in the Appropriation Act in the sum of N40 million was pencilled down for that project. In 2018, N166 million was captured for that project an increment of over 400%.
“In 2019, it was repeated again the same budget line item it was N99 million and in 2020, it’s N400 million for the same budget line item, which makes it a total sum of N705 million, from N40 million to N400 million.
“The astronomical increment on the project is unimaginable. There are other items on that budget, like NIWA, there is an item there, for instance in 2019 there was a provision of about N1 billion for the acquisition of Dredgers and other related equipment/vessels and in 2020 there is a proposal of N2.7 billion. Meanwhile, the project appeared in 2018 at the sum of N2.2 billion.appropriated for that project.
“These show a lot of inconsistencies. When you look at the budgets it looks as if someone somewhere is just fixing figures and at the budget defence today. I have to raise some of those issues and I also think these issues need proper clarifications before this budget is passed.”
The lawmaker, however, said it would be premature to term the projects fraudulent until the outcome of the investigation.
Following, the controversial discoveries, the joint Committee resolved to closely scrutinize the budgets of various agencies under the Federal Ministry of Transportation separately before approval of their 2020 budget.