December 22, 2020

Senate okays N453.2bn NDDC budget, insists FG must constitute board


…Angry youths block East-West road over Sole Administrator appointment

By Henry Umoru

The Senate, yesterday, approved N453.2 billion as annual budget for Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, for 2021 fiscal year.

This was just as some youths in Niger Delta blocked the busy East-West road in protest over the appointment of a sole administrator for commission.

Before passing the NDDC budget, the upper chamber approved a recommendation by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Niger Delta for an extension of the budget implementation timeline to  March 31, 2021.

The approval followed consideration of a report by the Committee on Niger Delta.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP – Delta North), in his presentation, said of the total sum approved, N27,389,000,000 is for Personnel Costs; N13,937,244,107 for Overhead Expenditure, N2,793,755,893 for Internal Capital Expenditure, and N409,080,000,000 for Development Projects.

On revenue projection of the commission, the lawmaker said the committee adopted N63, 506,151,945 as reflected in the Appropriations Act, 2020.

He added that N100 billion reflected as unpaid arrears by the Federal Government was not considered as part of the commission’s revenue projection by the committee because the amount was not approved in the 2020 Appropriations Act by the National Assembly.

Nwaoboshi stated further that against the backdrop of projection by the NDDC on revenue inflow from oil companies/NLNG and others, the Committee adopted the submission of the commission on Personnel Expenditure of N27,389,000,000; N13,937,244,107 as Overhead Expenditure; N2,793,755,893 Internal Capital; and N409,080,000,000 for Development Projects.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks charged the Niger Delta Committee to ensure the proper utilisation of funds by the commission through strict oversight.

He said: “I want to emphasize here that our Committee on Niger Delta should sit-up and ensure that these funds are properly utilised.

“The committee has done a good job in the past and I’m sure it will continue with that.”

Responding to a request by Senator Seriake Dickson (PDP – Bayelsa West) to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately constitute the board of the NDDC, Lawan said the Senate will continue to engage the executive to ensure that a board is properly constituted for the NDCC.

READ ALSO: Akpabio justifies appointment of sole administrator for NDDC

Lawan noted that the concerns raised by the lawmaker in his suggestion were as valid and potent as a motion considered on the floor, adding that the National Assembly would continue to engage the executive on the need to immediately constitute the Governing Board of the Nigerian Delta Development Commission.

He said: “We have been engaging with the executive arm of government that the nominations into the governing board should be made. We have been making that point and will continue to push until it is made.

“I think we are getting there. So even if we don’t take any motion, I’m sure the explanations you have given will go a long way.

“I don’t think the sole administrator should be there for any long period of time, but it is for us to ensure that between now and when that administrator goes, the funds appropriated are properly utilised.”

Angry youths block East-West road over sole administrator appointment

Meanwhile, angry Ijaw youths, yesterday, blocked the  East-West road in protest over the appointment of a sole administrator instead of a substantive board for the NDDC.

The protesters under the aegis of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC,  worldwide gathered  at the Mbiama-Yenagoa junction as early as 6.30 am using trailer, trucks and other objects to barricade the road leaving thousands of travellers and other road users stranded more than three hours.

Though armed soldiers backed by an Armoured Personnel Carrier and led by a Major were deployed in the area to clear the blockade, the protesters refused to budge.

Not even the plea from former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government and ex Nigerian Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, Dr. Godknows Igali, who was caught in the gridlock, could sway the protesters.

The development led to serious gridlock on the usually busy road spanning more than two kilometres on the Bayelsa and Rivers stretch of the road.

Led by  Ebilade Ekerefe, spokesman, IYC Worldwide; Clever Iniodu, Zonal Chairman Central Zone; Ebi James, Chairman Eastern Zone; Frank Akiefa (Western Zone), the protesters accused Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, of pocketing the region and playing politics with NDDC, thereby undermining the zone’s development for selfish gains.

Ebilade said: “The reason we are here is very simple, of course the development in the Niger Delta has come to a point where we must take some strategic and decisive action. We are calling on the Federal Government to listen to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta.

“Don’t forget that a few days ago, as a result of the Endsars protest that almost crippled the entire economy of this country, the president commissioned the Chief of Staff to go to the various zones and get various report from their challenges and very quite frankly they came to  Niger Delta.

“First, that meeting didn’t hold and we were so angry and aggrieved until eventually that meeting held  and the position of Ijaw people and Niger Delta people is encapsulated in a seven-point demand that the governors of this zone put forward to the Federal Government.

“Till date, we have not heard or seen if the president has even received that report or if he has even started acting upon it, and the appointment of a sole administrator for the NDDC has violated that principle of fair representation in NDDC.”

Vanguard News Nigeria